Finally, my "secret" berry patch is beginning to ripen and yield fruit. Robby and I stumbled upon the stash of free berries last year when we were playing at our local park. We have been checking the bushes, anxious to pick the ripe fruit before the birds and deers have their feast.
Yesterday morning I packed up my seasoned berry picker, grabbed a bucket and headed to the park. As we were picking I again realized how "lucky" I was that I was using a prosthetic. I have had these thoughts before, but the irony of this observation never ceases to amuse me.
I have written a lot about the obstacles of living an active life with a prosthetic. Sometimes having a prosthetic is an advantage. While I would obviously still prefer to have my original limb, I would be remiss if I didn't expose the advantages of living as an amputee.
Picking blackberries can be a hazardous job. The wild bushes are thorny and are often covered with brush and poison ivy. My two legged counterparts would risk thorn punctures and cuts if they tried to reach into the depths of the bushes. I was able to stomp down the thorny growths with my prosthetic and remain untouched by the sharp prickles and unaffected by the poison ivy. A prosthetic is an invaluable advantage when trampling down thorns and overgrowth.
Having an amputation is especially beneficial if you are flying on Southwest Airlines. Because seats are not assigned, passengers are grouped by number for boarding. A stampede often ensues, especially on a sold out plane, as passengers vie for a better spot in line. Those at the back of the line are often stuck in the worst seats.
Since my amputation we have not had to volley for the optimum position in line. As soon as I reach the gate, I immediately locate a Southwest employee. I ask for the "blue card" which permits pre-boarding access for me and my flying party. I am allowed to board the plane before the first group, providing me with the opportunity to pick the best seats possible.
As I discovered at Disneyland and have since confirmed with other amusement parks, amputees qualify for preferential access for rides. The amputee and those in the group are ushered to the front of the line. Avoiding the 45 minute wait in the herd of hot, grumpy and sometimes odoriferous visitors is a definite advantage!
Not only do amputees avoid the long waits for the rides, but many theme parks offer reduced admission prices for disabled patrons. Check at the ticket counter or online, but I know that Six Flags parks offer half price admission for those with disabilities. Saving money because I'm an amputee? That's a good thing.
If you enjoy visiting national parks, you have probably realized that the entrance fees have skyrocketed in the past few years. Some parks are now charging upwards of $20 for admission. Disabled individuals, including active amputees, qualify for the "America the Beautify Access Pass" which allows for free entrance into every national park. Discounts are also available for various park amenities. Check here for more details.
I have learned that many zoos also offer reduced admission prices for disabled individuals. I have gotten into the habit of looking on their website, typically under frequently asked questions, to determine individual policies. I know that the National Zoo, which doesn't have an admission fee, does offer air conditioned sitting areas for disabled patrons. After a few hours of walking in the heat and humidity of DC in the summer, the air conditioned respite is a welcome relief!
When I first became an amputee I shunned the "perks" that were offered to disabled individuals. With the exception of handicapped parking, I refused to accept discounted admissions, access to amenities and special treatment. I think my pride kept me from utilizing these offers. I figured that I was "just as able" as everybody else, so I didn't need anything extra.
Time has tempered these feelings. I now realize that, although I am capable, the special access to amusement park rides was beneficial. Standing still can be painful for me, and I am often fatigued merely by standing in line. With time, I have come to realize that preferential ride access is merely an accommodation to make my experience more comfortable.
My accepting a reduced fare because I am "disabled" is no different than the senior citizen taking advantage of senior discounts. I do not demand to pay less because I am an amputee, but if the opportunity to save money presents itself, it would be financially imprudent to pay more merely on principle. Still, in some situations I turn down the reduced fare, opting to pay full price. For example, the DC metro system offers reduced subway prices for disabled patrons. Somehow, that just seems wrong so I pay the normal price.
I am forced to overcome obstacles on a daily basis because of my limb loss. Many times I adapt without giving it a second thought because, after all these years, living as an amputee is natural. However, sometimes I am forced to the sidelines because I am having difficulty or I am in pain. I have opted to accept the benefits and accommodations which are afforded to make my experiences better. I am forced to accept the obstacles; I might as well embrace the few benefits as well. Have I forgotten a "perk?" Feel free to list your own!