There’s a new beast out there, on the streets. An electrical hum-buzz warns you of a possible mechanical presence behind you as you walk along the pavement, if you are not quick enough a loud and tinny beep will announce its abrupt arrival and if you don’t step smartly to one side you may well get clipped on the ankle as the shiny creature sweeps by. Yes it’s the advance of the Motorised Wheelchairs. And their driver’s: a new breed, of often fit-looking, mostly young-looking people ‘cruising’ around at alarming speeds, close to a brisk jog, and the drivers are so angry; tutting and cursing at people who dare to get in their way. I watch one woman drive to the front entrance of Walgreens and (literally hop) out of the wheelchair and proceed inside. Once out again with a bag of goods she jumps right back in and turns on a penny; swiveling into the stream of walkers who, spying the glint of low slung speeding metal in their midst, would do well to swiftly pass a message back, a warning signal of some kind, alerting the rest of the two-legged tribe of the oncoming threat.
In Las Vegas a car passes me at a junction and on the back rack, where a bicycle might reasonably be located, sits one of these chairs, a motorised chair of the sort I have been describing. I wonder if it belongs to the driver of the car, perhaps the driver’s feet never actually touch the ground apart to walk from one seat to the next?
Las Vegas is full of them; maybe the Casinos give them out from a special parking lot, in order that the punters can get to the betting machines quicker. And they do scoot around the carpets of the Grand Casinos with beer in their cup holders and cups of coins in their laps. What happens when the money is gone? Are these unfortunate punters then seized by security, turfed out onto the carpet, and sent mournfully on their way; powered by mere muscle and bone?
I do not deny that there are a legitimate populationof motorised wheelchair users who through disability and mobility issues actually need the things, but apparently (and I have talked to other Americans about this, who looked embarrassed by the situation) there are a growing number of perfectly able-bodied people who now adopt one of these things as a family run around, it sits in the garage along with the two other family cars and is used to travel three blocks to the local grocers, or to take the trash out.