I went to the mall today. Not an unusual event for most people, but I am a person with a disability, and I use a wheelchair, I live in Phoenix and it was 113 degrees, so going to the mall is an event. I needed to get a formal dress for a cruise that my husband and I are taking for our 25th anniversary. I had no idea it would turn out to be the worst day and the best day I’ve had in a long time.
My husband left me at Macy’s, and we agreed to meet in two hours in front of the mall. I went up and down the aisles of the store looking for something in my size. Something that would be easy to wear, comfortable and attractive.
The first step is to find a wheelchair-accessible dressing room. This is usually doable. Once in the dressing room, things get a little more difficult. They usually have grab bars, but they are seldom in the positions I need them to be. Getting in and out of my clothes without help, and then trying to hold on to something so I can stand up and look in the mirror to see how I look becomes an exhausting task.
I tried on about a dozen different outfits. None of them worked. Too small, too big. Wrong color, not me. It was now past the time I was supposed to meet my husband so we could go home. I was tired, my hair was ruffled, and I needed a nap. I went out into the mall and found my husband. When I began to tell him why I had bought nothing I started to cry. It was suddenly all too much. Then I started to sob.
A 60-year-old women in a wheelchair sobbing is not a pretty sight. Now understand, I usually keep a pretty good attitude, but this day I was having a very bad time. I just felt so old and for the first time I felt old, disabled, and yes, the word no one wants to use ... handicapped. But I did not want to go home empty-handed. So I told my husband I was going to try another store in the mall. Lane Bryant. A smaller store. Made for “women of a certain size.”
I entered the store, and a sales woman immediately came over to me and asked me if she could help. I told her I had just come from Macy’s with no luck and explained what I needed. I started to cry again and tried to explain that I am usually not like this, but was having a very bad day. She chose several outfits for me to try on and stood outside the dressing room in case I needed any help. Again none of them worked for me. I was tired and near tears once more.
Now comes the most amazing part. She told me that she shops at Macy’s often and knows just what I need and where to find it, and she would come with me to the Macy’s store and help me pick out an outfit. “Come with me to another store? Help me pick out an outfit? Can you do that?” Apparently she could. So off we went to Macy’s.
Up and down the aisles she went pulling things from the racks, then on to the next aisle, pulling other things asking quickly, “Do you like this? How about this? Color? Style? Before I knew it, we had a handful of things to try on. She found me an accessible fitting room and came in with me to help me dress. By this time I was so tired I could hardly lift my arms to pull on a dress or blouse ... but ...with her help ...
I ended up with the most amazing dress, a long dress with a little sparkle and lots of zing, a beautiful dressy blouse and a gold sweater to throw over my shoulders on a cool evening on board a ship. She then took my merchandise to the checkout counter, waited with me while I made the purchase, and then made sure I was delivered safely back to my husband.
I ended up getting exactly what I needed, and it was all on sale so I even ended up saving more money than I spent.
Her name is Melissa, and she is an angel.
Originally posted June 26, 2011.
About the Author
Originally a New Yorker, I moved to Arizona in 1988 with my husband Phil. I worked as an engineering administrator for TRW for many years. In 1999, I was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disease, and later it was determined to be a slow-progressing form of ALS. I now use a power wheelchair full time, and I need help with many daily activities. I refuse to let it stop me. I still love to travel. This past March I put together a group of seven people, and we took a wheelchair-accessible tour of Israel. I began to write a blog to tell some of my stories ... and vent some of my frustrations. My motto is never take NO for an answer.
Bonnie Guzelf lives in Tempe, Ariz. Check out her blog, Wheelchair-Accessible Arizona and More.