An overweight woman on a scooter, with a $7 bag of kettle corn in my basket. The whole thing reminded me of an episode about obesity on some evening news program. But it didn’t bother me. I’m too tired to care what anyone else thinks. In the first half hour at the zoo yesterday, hell, in the first fifteen minutes, I felt demolished. My back hurt, my feet hurt, and the weakness was so much fiercer than my old normal (my new, more profound weakness, is my new normal). I had to keep grabbing Greg’s arm when the unsteadiness would hit. The kids were pointing and yelling about something up ahead, but all I saw was a wooden bench under a tree about twenty yards away. A few people were standing near the bench, and I silently willed them to stay standing. Reaching that bench was taking forever. Why did I do this? I looked out at the trees – our Seattle zoo is beautifully wooded – and remembered how much I’ve missed being out, lately. Going places. Just being somewhere else but my own living room. I wanted to be here, I wanted to hang out with kids in an environment that wasn’t home. But was it a mistake? Was I going to drag everyone down? Were there enough empty spots to sit, at the right intervals, to make this work?
We finally reached that beautiful wooden bench, and I sat down. Greg said, “Here, let me carry that,” and took my purse and began stuffing it into his backpack. I tried to be cheerful for the kids, but I couldn’t concentrate when they showed me things. I was so distracted by the pain, by the fear that I might have to leave early and ruin it for everyone. We went on like that, bench to rock to bench to railing, resting every few minutes, the kids traveling on up ahead and coming back to give reports, until I noticed someone rolling by on a scooter. I looked at it carefully, and realized it was a rental. The zoo had rental scooters?! I looked at Greg. “That’s a rental! We could get one! Would it be nuts for me to ride one of those?”
“Huh! Actually, that might be a great idea. Where do we get one?”
We both whipped out our iPhones (our zoo has an app) and looked at the map to see where the nearest guest services station was located. Thankfully not too far. And there was one scooter left! It was $25 to rent, with a $200 damage deposit. For the deposit they just took a rubbing of our credit card, they didn’t actually charge it. The guy said they’d never had to charge anyone the deposit. I got a little well-rehearsed speech about how to use the controls (very easy), and sat down in the scooter seat.
The relief I felt was immediate, and I was overwhelmed with gratefulness. Sitting down, the pain was over half better! This meant I could concentrate! Oh, sweet relief. I can keep up! I pushed the little plastic bar on the handlebar and the machine cheerfully scooted forward. A smooth, even ride. The guy said the battery would last all day. I started smiling! Greg and the kids started walking, and I just kept up! I wasn’t holding anyone back, I wasn’t looking for a place to sit, I was looking where they were looking. “Let’s do the bears next!” I didn’t have to get out my map and strategize how I’d make it there. I was able to take it for granted that I could get to the bears. I could get anywhere. And I could chat with my family the entire way there, instead of spending 90% of my energy just COPING. It was glorious!
As glorious as this gorgeous flower, which I posted to Instagram and described as a hydrangea who had changed her mind. Someone commented back and said it actually is a hydrangea, a variety called “lace cap”. I saw these flowers all over the zoo. I took a picture nearly every time. I credit the scooter with giving me the energy to spend the entire afternoon zipping over to flowers and appreciating their charm. One of the best parts of the scooter was how it conserved my energy, so that when I wanted to get up and walk around an exhibit, I could do so with far less pain and zero anxiety.
In the car on the way home. The number in the middle, the 3,543, is my number of steps. I use an app called Pedometer++. I’m estimating that the scooter saved me around 3k steps. While it’s incredibly hard to “pace yourself” with CFS (don’t ever tell a person with a chronic illness to pace themselves, if you want to avoid bodily harm), but in general, I know that I can usually to 3k-4k steps in a day without crashing, assuming other factors (sleep, digestion, etc.) are going well. So I was elated when I looked at my watch and realized I was in a great spot for the rest of the day. I could go home and rest, and probably still have a little left this evening to play a game or hang out with people. That scooter really saved my ass. I’m so glad I made the decision to use it!
Here’s a few more photos for family and friends:
We loved the penguins the best, I think. We gave them names and told stories about them.
This penguin is a baby. Beth named her Barbara.
It was a warm day, and this orangutan was high up in a hammock, with a bucket over their head to get some shade! Aww!
There is a butterfly garden now, a permanent installation!
Flamingos are simply fantastic. And remind me a lot of the mid-80’s. My favorite eye shadow in 6th grade was this color.
Miles got a blue ICEE, it stained his lips and teeth. When I told him he was adorable, he said, “Yeah, I get that a lot.”