Driving with Mr. Mike
My first experience driving besides bumper cars and go carts was mowing my grandpa’s lawn with the rider mower. It was fun while helping at the same time. I did a good job without too much drama.
When I was old enough to get my learner’s permit, I couldn’t get to the Department of Motor Vehicles fast enough. With permit in-hand I began driving lessons in a specially equipped hand-controlled vehicle. These lessons were arranged by my service coordinator at ARISE. My instructor was a calm nice guy who seemed to have nerves of steel. We mostly stayed on quiet streets in Syracuse. On the third or fourth lesson I’d become proficient enough to tackle more traffic on the streets of the Syracuse University campus. On one memorable trip I was driving fast down Comstock Avenue and got distracted by all the SU students, when I was instructed to pull over to the curb. My depth perception was so off, I was literally 10 feet from the curb. This had me seriously questioning my automotive abilities. The next serious incident happened in the student parking lot at Lemoyne College. I had just gotten into the driver’s seat still in my wheelchair while the instructor went around to the passenger side. My right leg had a spasm, and I didn’t realize my foot was crushing the gas pedal, my hand accidentally shifted us into drive and off we raced!! How fortunate my instructor stomped on the brake as we ended up two feet from a parked car.
It was at this moment my instructor and I decided it’s not such a bad idea to be “chauffeured”. Luckily, I can laugh about the incidents now but at the time it caused my heart to pound to a different beat!
I am happy to be living at a time when people with disabilities have transportation options. As little as 50 years ago, there we no local transportation companies that could accommodate people with disabilities. Even public transportation was spotty at best. I am looking forward to the next big thing…the promise of self-driving cars. Many people believe that we will see driverless vehicles in the very near future. Which of course leads to my next big problem. What will be my first destination in a driverless car?
Mike Theobald is a contributing writer to the ARISE Website and a part-time employee. His stories offer a unique perspective on life in Central New York