By David Shapiro

Saturday, December 20, 1997

Just something about
a man in wheelchair

A wheelchair isn't the best way to tour a Christmas party.

The restaurant where the Star-Bulletin partied this year was on two levels, leaving me trapped much of the evening in a limited area trying to stay out of the way. I couldn't even get the wheelchair into the men's room. They told me to have the ladies room cleared if I needed to go.

It certainly discouraged me from drinking too much. It's bad enough that my doctor wants me to do my business sitting down like a girl to keep weight off of my broken ankle. Darned if I'll do it in the women's restroom.

While I can't gloss over the downside, I did learn there's one big advantage to being on wheels: Women can't resist a man in a wheelchair. They simply can't keep their hands off the gleaming chrome and sleek vinyl.

I noticed that my lovely wife Maggie got a whole lot friendlier after my misfortune. There's something about a helpless man all but begging to be pushed around.

How else but in a wheelchair could I have gotten a Christmas party photo of one of the newsroom's most ardent feminists -- sitting in my lap?

I could tell she regretted her lapse in judgment as soon as the flash went off. But it was too late. She had succumbed to the siren call of the chair.

Unfortunately, negotiations over the proof -- publishing the photograph in this column -- broke down.

"I know how you guys can doctor pictures on the computer," she said suspiciously. "If I let you run that picture in the newspaper, how do I know if I'd have clothes on or not?"

"Oh, alright," I said. "If you feel that strongly about it, I'll have one of our artists doctor the picture to put some clothes on you."

After she stomped off, she sent me an electronic message to punctuate her point: "To repeat: do not print that photo if you value your life, car, other foot, etc."

I don't mind pushing the chair myself. It's good exercise. But usually I don't have to push. People materialize behind me and off I go. Ninety percent of the time, the pusher is a kind and generous woman exercising her wonderful nurturing instincts.

At the Christmas party, I decided to put the magnetism of the wheelchair to the ultimate test. The Zydeco band Bon Ton Roule was playing. They have a fiddler named Lisa who was once described to me as "probably the most hit-upon woman in Honolulu."

Every time I've seen Bon Ton Roule play, there's been a cadre of men sitting in front of the stage watching Lisa fiddle with distant looks on their faces, like the men sitting in front of the runway at Club Hubba Hubba.

Lisa is a fine-looking woman, but not the kind who would leave men swooning in her wake at the mall. The passions she arouses stem from her superb musicianship -- the driving sounds she wrings out of her instrument, the way she attacks the violin.

I parked next to the stage to see if my wheelchair could drive her to distraction the way her fiddling was doing to some of my male co-workers.

Nothing. Two other women threw themselves into my arms -- they claim they fell drunk into my arms because my chair was blocking the way to the bar -- but Lisa managed to totally not notice me. She must have had a date afterward with a guy in one of those sporty red racing chairs.

It's just as well. My wife dropped by to pick me up when she finished work and got friendlier by the step as she pushed me to the car.

David Shapiro is managing editor of the Star-Bulletin.
He can be reached by e-mail at
Volcanic Ash runs every Saturday in the Star-Bulletin.

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