This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

by Phillip Parris

I was rolling through a mall the other day when I noticed a GNC nestled between a Footlocker and a Starbucks. The not-so-good-half of me chuckled and said to myself, “This is going to be fun.” I entered the GNC with a straight-laced consumer look on my face. I eyed a couple of the products as though I was sincerely interested in buying something. I rolled over to the aisle lined with protein supplements. The label on the protein portrayed a man who seemed to be juiced up on steroids. The man on the label had his arms flexed so strenuous that the veins in his neck and forehead were bulging to the extent of exploding.

This was about the time when the sales associate behind the cash register took interest in me. He stood up, came from behind the counter, and made his way towards me. The salesman did not look anything like the image of the buff guy on the bottle of protein. Instead, he was a college student that looked as though Twinkies were his comfort study food.

After he approached me the conversation started off casual with simple introductions. Then he asked, “So, how can we help you today?” I replied in a serious tone, “I was wondering, will this help me walk?” The guy looked dumbfounded. He was unprepared for my arsenal of humor. “I-I-I…” I interrupted, “I did a little research online and it says that protein will help build my muscles.” At this point the dumbfounded expression on his face turned into a look of sadness, “I don’t think any of this is going to help you.” I turned away from the protein supplements and made my way towards the door, “Thanks for crushing my dreams of ever being able to walk.”

As I exited the store a smile spread across my face and I couldn’t help but laugh at how bamboozled the sales associate must have felt. I wasn’t about to stop there, I was having too much fun. I decided it was time to pay a visit to Footlocker.

I made a left turn, dodged a few snot-nosed-germ-infested-monster children, and made my way into the shoe store. Now generally athletic shoe stores do not make it easy for people in wheelchairs to enter and honestly why should they? There is usually a post placed in the middle of the entrance displaying the popular shoe of the week.

As I dodged the post, knocking only one shoe off, I made eye contact with the sales associate. She smiled, laid the pack of socks she was holding down, and came to pick up the shoe. She knew that my knocking only one shoe down may have been done intentionally. I rolled past her and made my way to the men’s shoes.

After staring blankly at the wall of shoes, the lady wearing referee gear approached me and asked, “So, what size are you?” I couldn’t help but chuckle a little and think of all the ways this question could be answered. She caught my drift, smiled, rolled her eyes in a flirtatious manner and said, “Shoe size?” “I’m really just trying to find a style I like first.” This was a complete lie, I could care less about any of these overpriced shoes. “Well what do you plan on doing? Running? Sports?” She had a big smile on her face because she knew that I had no intention of buying a pair of shoes. “Well we could start with the basics first. Do you have a pair of shoes that could help me walk?” We both started to laugh and she pointed to the walking shoes. “I don’t think those are going to help much, not my style.” At this point I bid the referee farewell and rolled towards the exit. On the way out I bumped the shoe I had knocked off and smiled.

I had to cross the entrance of GNC before arriving at my next destination. I couldn’t help but notice the twinkie loving sales associate helping another person learn to lose weight one vitamin at a time. I rolled onward towards Starbucks, no cruel intentions were intended, I simply wanted a cup of coffee. After waiting in the maze of a line I finally reached the barista, “What’ll it be today Sir?” “A tall caramel macchiato please.” “Name?” “Phillip.” “Phillip, are you sure you don’t want an extra shot of espresso to help pick you up out of that chair?”