Wheelin’ in the rain

Jan. 28, 2019, 6:15 a.m.

I’m wheelin’ in the rain, just wheelin’ in the rain. What a horrible feeling, I’m unhappy again.

I found myself humming this as I made my way to my human biology section, feeling like I was zooming through one of those mist machines at an amusement park on a hot summer’s day — except I was on my way to class, and it was a cold winter’s afternoon.

In all seriousness, no one likes the rainy weather — unless you’re from a place where it never rains, and even then, I’d bet you’ll end up sick of it in about a week. I’m from Chicago, where there is ample precipitation of various types, so this is not just me complaining about the rare couple of weeks in California where water falls from the sky. Whenever I check the forecast on my weather app and see a greater than 30 percent chance of rain for the following day, an inevitable groan escapes my lips. However, I have reasons to hate the rain beyond it being a mere inconvenience and making me want to curl up in bed and stay under the covers all day — as if it’s not hard enough motivating myself to go to my 9:30 class.

I dislike the rain because it makes it much harder to go about my day in an electric wheelchair.

Born with a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy, I require an electric wheelchair to move around — and the key word electric means my wheelchair cannot (or at the very least, should not) get wet. I’ve received many well-intended suggestions to solve this issue. Besides the fact that I would look quite ridiculous, one of those silly umbrella hats isn’t ideal as it would prevent my body from getting wet but not my chair and its controls, which is really the most crucial part. I’ve tried a rain poncho large enough to cover myself and my chair, but an issue with this is that the hood of the poncho often limits my peripheral vision, which is especially problematic since I cannot turn my head from side to side. I’m sure there is some device out there that could mount an umbrella to my chair, yet this still would not allow me to be fully independent as I’d need assistance attaching and removing the umbrella from the device anyway. In short, I’ve discovered no practical solution to this problem thus far.

So, here’s what I do on a rainy day: I wake up, look out the window, groan, have an internal battle with the voice inside my head telling me to ditch all my responsibilities and stay inside, defeat that voice (usually), and then head out, giving myself 10 extra minutes to get places, as I know I will have to zoom at three mph as opposed to my normal six mph, since I have a caregiver walking beside me holding an umbrella. Shout out to my awesome caregivers.

As I trudge through the rain, grumpy about not being able to be at my optimal speed, I can’t help but be thankful for the fact that there are only a few days at Stanford that I have to put up with the rain. I laugh at how every other street experiences a small flood as even the roads on campus aren’t prepared to deal with the rain. I chat with my caregiver, having the chance to get to know them better as we walk together. I relive my childhood by zooming through some puddles on purpose. I admire the differently colored umbrellas that the people around me carry, which contrast with the gray skies. I think that maybe rain isn’t as bad as I make it out to be. Then, a biker accelerates through a puddle, splashing me a little bit, and I realize: nah, it is.


Contact Angie Lee at angielee ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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