Yesterday was a big day: I had hand controls installed on the new rig. Yet another step on the disability path. My dear friends Gwenlyn and Nan went with me, partly to keep me company during the four hour installation process and partly to be my support team as I learn how to drive in this whole new way.
After our heart rates had returned to an acceptable level and we thanked goddess no one had been in the road, we discussed my options, Because Laurie doesn’t drive, if I become benched, getting around would be extremely challenging. We can't afford a chauffeur, so the next day Laurie and I started investigating hand controls.
As soon as we bought the Element, I made an appointment for the installation. I knew there would be a bit of a learning curve – after all, I’ve been driving with two feet and two hands for 43 years – but I was assured that it was pretty easy to catch on. What I didn’t think about was that my left hand will be on the combo accelerator/brake lever and unavailable for other duties, so I have to steer with just my right hand. This is not an easy task! Plus there are so many other things I need to be doing with my hands – tuning the radio, adjusting the AC, petting the dog, drinking water or coffee – and how the heck am I supposed to parallel park???
I spent about 20 minutes practicing in the parking lot after the installation was complete. Then I felt (sort of) ready to get on the road with Gwenlyn as my co-pilot (and kudos to her – I didn’t see one white knuckle or hear one “Oh Shit!”). I decided to stay off the freeway and drove a comfortable 35 mph most of the way home. It was a mostly uneventful trip - even though it was rush hour - and I got the hang of it, but don't yet feel confident that I could handle any driving situation.
We have a road trip this weekend. I still have the option of using the foot pedals and I may opt to do that for this trip and get more practice in empty parking lots. The experts say that once you've decided to use the hand controls, it's important to commit to it and not switch back and forth. Today I'm feeling a little commitment phobic.
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