Making my way back to the movie theatre, putting my phone away, a woman catches my eye. I nod hello and she said, “Excuse me, could you help?” She’s in a wheelchair, stopped near the restrooms. I maneuver her chair around the corner in the direction of the ladies’ room. “No.” She says, and I understand she wants to go through the exit doors, a dozen or so feet away. I open one of the heavy doors and wait for her. Oddly, there’s no button to automatically open the doors and there’s a metal frame between each door, so the exit remains narrow for a chair. Also not the best design for an emergency situation, I ponder.
Her name is Mrs. W. and she strains to move the chair forward a few inches along the carpet. A thin film of perspiration gives a sheen to her beautifully made up face and a shawl is draped artistically over her coordinating outfit. She doesn’t ask for help moving forward and my impression is that she doesn’t want any. So, I stay at the door propping it open.
“That’s quite a workout,” I say.
“I’m not allowed a power chair,” she says. “My building banned them.”
“Making too much trouble?”
She laughs, or begins to, but catches her breath from exertion.
“Are you ok?”
“You’re doing great,” I say. “Look how far you’ve come.” She’s rolled the chair forward a couple of feet already.
She smiles. “I’m on the wait list for an operation. My doctor says I could walk again.”
“It’s a good thing you’re forced to use a manual chair then. It’s keeping you strong.”
She nods. “My name’s coming up soon.” She tells me more about her condition.
Eventually, I notice she’s struggling to bring the chair over the little metal track at the threshold of the door. The chair rolls up, almost over it, then rolls back down. She rests between each attempt and continues telling me about herself. If I had to guess I’d place her age somewhere around late sixties or early seventies.
“Look at me telling all this to a complete stranger,” she says.
“I’m glad you did, and I know you’ll be walking again soon.”
“Sorry I’ve taken up so much of your time.”
“Not at all.”
Mrs. W. is over the metal track and off across the polished floor toward the elevators.
I check the time. Maybe I’d end up watching a different movie.
Stay strong. Plan for the best. Keep moving forward. You’ll get to where you need to go.