The recent heat wave has been difficult for my husband, Ralph. He is often bedridden, and because he can’t move or perspire properly, he is prone to overheating. Ralph doesn’t know he’s too hot until it’s too late.
We keep him unclothed. We point fans in his direction, and wipe him down with cold washcloths. Unfortunately, these ministrations are not enough to prevent discomfort. We need to change his position often, but when he’s lying on his side, he can’t use his computer. Ralph without his computer is a man trapped watching endless hours of TV. This makes him very unhappy, which means all of us who help take care of him are, by association, unhappy too.
During one of the hottest days I thought it prudent to get Ralph up, into his wheelchair, and into an air-conditioned building. His attendant, Andrea, and I could then air out his bed and replace the damp sheets with clean, dry linens. While we waited for the outside temperatures to go down, Ralph and I could see a movie.
Andrea and I dressed Ralph, hoisted him up, and placed him in his wheelchair. We combed his hair, strapped on his foot protectors, and assisted him into the van. I drove us to Emeryville, a ten-minute drive that took 30 minutes due to traffic and poor planning. It wasn’t poor planning on our part as we left our house 50 minutes before the start of the movie. No, the blame can be placed on the city of Emeryville and everyone involved with the multiple traffic lights on 40th and Shellmound streets, and to all the people who chose, like us, to beat the heat by hiding inside the AMC theaters at Bay Street.
By the time we finally arrived at the parking garage, I was hot. Not hot as in sweaty, although I was that too, but hot because of the time it took to get there, and because there were no handicapped parking spaces available. Ralph drove himself backwards down the ramp and out of the van. I left him by the elevator while I found a place to park. I returned, pressed the button for the lift, helped him squeeze inside, and then we got stuck. After a lot of pushing and pulling, grunting and cursing, we emerged onto the fourth floor. During the excitement in the elevator one of the wheelchair’s footrests fell off. I had to figure out a way to temporarily reattach it. We wheeled inside the theater just as the opening credits for The Devil Wears Prada rolled across the screen.
And then the incident that clinched my crankiness occurred. All the seats set aside for the handicapped and their companions were taken except for one. The empty seat was occupied by a purse. The purse belonged to the woman who sat in the seat next to it. When I asked her if she was saving the spot for someone, she said no. She removed the purse and put it on her lap.
Ralph maneuvered his wheelchair into the space beside the now unoccupied seat. I sat down, and the movie started. Ralph immediately fell asleep. I watched Meryl Streep treat everyone around her with calm, calculated cruelty. It was a silly, vapid film, but I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Streep’s ice queen performance as Miranda Priestly. I wish I could be more like her character so that the next time I go to the theater and discover a purse occupying the seat that rightfully belongs to a handicapped person or his or her companion, I can act like Ms. Priestly. Thanks to the movie, I now recognize Hollywood’s interpretation of bad taste. With snake-like hooded eyes and nostrils flaring, I’ll let the person who owns the purse know what I think of her Prada knock-off and her selfish, inconsiderate behavior.