Scoot, scoot, scooter!

Part I (of Three Installments)

I have become a big promoter (well, in my small world) of mobility scooters. I’ve used a few different ones and have some opinions and experiences I’ll share, in case you are thinking about using or buying one yourself or know someone you think might need one.

I used to wear myself out with my post-polio fatigue at large venues. I didn’t want to admit how handicapped I was, especially when I was in my forties (decades ago!). I would see that most of the people using scooters were obese, many seriously, and I associated that scooter riding with laziness. However, some people are obese because they have been handicapped and it is hard to exercise, and some people become handicapped because they gain so much weight. There’s a difference. Diet is important, of course. So, I must admit that I have hoped that people would not think I am using a scooter because I’m lazy, or because I’m about fifteen pounds overweight, or that I don’t take care of myself, which could not be further from the truth. I eventually needed to use two crutches for longer walks of more than a block’s equivalent, and at that point, it just seemed so much more sensible to use a scooter and get up and walk around when I got where I wanted to be.

I started renting them at big resorts, when I’d go with my husband on business conferences or if we went to Hawaii. Many resorts rent them on site, and in popular tourist destinations, there’s usually a rental agency (in Hawaii, I recommend Gammie). I also rent at Yosemite when we stay at the valley lodge while our friends camp. This enables me to go to the campground daily without driving the car, and also to experience nature more closely (including a big bear in one instance!).

I have rented the small collapsible scooters, partly to see if I could actually take one apart by myself, given the arthritis in my hands and back and that I am small-framed. The smallest Pride Go-Go’s heaviest part comprises the back wheels and battery and weighs about 35 lbs. (I can’t take the battery out by myself; it’s heavy all alone, and with its Velcro attaching style, it may as well be glued in there.) It’s very difficult for me to get that heavy section in and out of any car alone (even with a station wagon with a low back door opening). It would have been easier for me when I was younger, even in my forties. When I get to my destination, I have to take the parts out, assemble them, then disassemble and re-load it afterward, assuming I don’t have someone with me to help. My hybrid SUV has a higher back end, so that exacerbated the awkwardness when I tried renting one locally. I also found that getting some of the parts to click together without damaging them was tricky, but once I learned, the sequence was fairly obvous. The Go-Go is a great little scooter if you are strong or always have someone available to do the lifting and assembly.

I took one to a museum in Arizona while my husband was in a conference, and several strong people walked by and did not offer to assist me when I was fumbling with the scooter, but I also did not ask. A friend pointed out later that people don’t like to intrude. I guess I have “intrusive” in the genes I inherited from my dad, as I generally offer, if someone seems to need a hand. (He was a milkman and always stopped in his route to help people plant fruit trees or whatever was going on during his morning deliveries.) My natural assumption is that people don’t want to be asked or don’t want to help, or they’d offer, but now I realize they may think they’d embarrass me. Two sides of a problematic coin.

If I had a van with a ramp or hydraulic lift for getting a scooter of this weight into the car, a Go-Go might be a good option for local use, but not as much for taking it on air trips and then needing to put it in a rental car. A mobility supply owner told me he “didn’t see me as the van type,” and he’s right. I like the zippiness of my smaller SUV.

To be continued!