During this little vacation, I've done a lot of new and different things, most of them involving eating immense quantities of food (Mexican food with my former teammates! Japanese food with S.C.! Take and bake pizza with A.! Fudge with the people at my office! Lamb shepherd's pie with E. McQ! Fro-yo with E.C.! Mallowcream pumpkin candies alone by myself in my car because they are so mind-numbingly delicious I could eat a whole bag in one sitting if the sugar rush didn't make my heart feel like it was about to explode!) or drinking beer/fancy margaritas/whiskey with various people. Despite all the excitement of my high-class East-Central-Illinois lifestyle, however, I've taken time out to rehab my Freaky Cyborg Hip, because if you looked up "overpowering desire to improve in the walking department" in the encyclopedia, you would see a picture of my smiling face.
Lucky for me, my former team (I-L-L! I-N-I!) has allowed me to work out at the gym for people with disabilities while I'm in town. Now, you'd think that if there was one place where my "drunken peg-legged sailor" walk would fit in, it would be a gym for people with disabilities. Incorrect! When I entered the gym, all eyes were on me and most of those eyes were wearing an expression that read, "what the hell?..." Of course, part of the reason all eyes were on me is likely because they have all missed me so much that they cried real tears at night over my absence and erected shrines to my beauty in their bedrooms (don't lie, S.C. and B.K. You know you have a little Arley monument in the P.A.D.). Part of this is also because most of the people in the gym knew me before the surgery, and were expecting me to walk in fully cured...or at least not walking like a monster (what? You mean surgery's actually supposed to make you better?). But most this, I suspect, is that even if you yourself walk with a little bit of a lilt...or use a wheelchair...or use a powerchair, the sight of a six-foot-two chick with crazy hair waddling from side to side precariously on her tip toes is inherently amusing. Hint: if the quads in powerchairs are giving you the side-eye, probably you're not exactly a walking rock star (a "walk star?"). Yup, even in a place dedicated to people with disabilities, I'm still winning the Ministry of Silly Walks competition. (I'm number one!)
It was, however, interesting to count the number of times I heard, "Man, it will suck if your hip flexors never work again, but wouldn't that make you a class 3 or a 3.5? Or a class 2.0 in the States? You would get so much playing time!" Even though I am retired, I was facing the wheelchair-sports ability paradox. In wheelchair basketball, every player is evaluated based on their functional ability (class 1 for high paraplegics, class 4.5 for able-bodied players or people with minimal disabilities) and assigned a point value. There are only a certain number of combined points allowed on the floor. Getting classified is a complicated and bizarre process, since even people who work their whole lives to maximize whatever functionality they have want the lowest number possible. A low number means more playing time. People with disabilities that worsen over time therefore find themselves in the weird position of grieving over their lost abilities, while recognizing that they're going to get a whole lot more time on the court.
So, yes, silver lining! Of course, the fact that I'm retired and that doctors are not sure whether playing wheelchair basketball would damage my Freaky Cyborg Hip makes the "being a 3.0" bit not so useful, but man...if I decided to play wheelchair basketball again, I would be the world's tallest female 3.0. Perhaps that is how I will have to think of myself from now on: not disabled, but a 3.0. A nice, simple number.