An Open Letter to The Person Behind Me

Dear Human,

It has come to my attention (via my peripheral vision) that you are standing directly behind me. Of course, I would turn around to see what you look like but it would appear that you’re directly behind my wheelchair. As you probably have not noted, I also have a table in front of me. And, although I am furnished with the ability to rotate my head roughly 90˚ (give or take 10%, depending on the day), it would place me in a peril that I doubt you would have much experience of.

I cannot tell what you are doing there and, although I’m sure it’s nothing to be concerned about, I am concerned. You see, I have a history of strangers being in my blind spots and performing all manner of social japery such as placing things in my bag, giving me a gentle ‘bop’ on the head, testing my flammable properties and such, etc. etc. etc.

It is also understandable that you believe 500mm distance (rough estimate, mileage may vary) from the back of my head is an appropriate distance for a stranger such as yourself to perch. Perhaps you look whimsical, merry or stern. But I wouldn’t know, you see… because I simply cannot, in this situation.

Now, I am most certainly not the first person to say this, so I hope you will excuse the lack of imagine when I say that my wheelchair is not me. I am not, indeed, my wheelchair. However, there is a certain novelty in that it can be treated in situations such as these as an extension of my body. In much the same way that your legs carry you too and fro and about your daily business, my wheelchair is the mode of travel that suits me best because my legs simply don’t work as well as I presume yours do. I say presume because I’m still working on this rotating situation, and it just doesn’t seem to be working out for me.

If my wheelchair breaks down, so does my capacity to move. For the most part, however, it is not an obstacle in my daily life, but the means by which to remove them. And today, my unknown rear-companion, in this particular moment, I have two obstacles. One (the observed table) lies directly before me. The other, I regret to inform you, is your very self. Not only the metaphorical you, but the actual you in esse et loco.

I would very much like to take this opportunity to impress upon you the fact that injuries sustained by impact from a wheelchair such as mine -a wheelchair of such… magnitude- are rather uncomfortable. I have, at times, been known to traverse across even parts of my own unreliable form. So please take it at face value when I say that should a sur-one-hundred-kilogram wheelchair find itself upon you, it is most likely that you will note its presence.

So, with this in mind, I politely take it upon myself to suppress the urge to gaze upon you directly, but merely observe your form in partial.

I would also like to convey my gratitude to you in not leaning upon my chair, as others have done in the past as this also impedes my movement out of feared concern for the physical safety of the other party. I would love to convey this to you in person however, this leads me back to the dilemma at hand in that I cannot rotate, and any such pronouncements might be mistaken as an unusual order of conversation initiation directed at the individuals located in front of me. Could you imagine the very scene? Or are those merely the wild imaginings of my mind?

“Oh, hello there air, you’re looking a bit thin today…”

Diverging slightly from the previous note and, I don’t mean to imply that you are a villain of sorts, but what exactly are you doing there in the first place? I’m sure it’s probably escaped your attention that a bag containing my personal belongings is behind me, across the handles of my chair. Believe me, I would place it on my lap if not for the chronic inconvenience. So to my rear I have placed it. History is abundant in wheelchair users who have also found this to be the optimal spot to place ones travel-belongings. Would you also stand so close to someone elses backpack if they were not in a wheelchair? Possibly… but herein lies a critical difference. For love, nor money, I simply cannot move without first removing one of these obstacles. And this table is dreadfully heavy.

Would you be a dear? Please save me the trouble and kindly remove yourself?


The wheelchair user,

Just next to you.