I'm writing to you from San Antonio, Texas, in a hotel very close to the Riverwalk. I'm attending the Texas Music Educators' Association annual conference.
To give you an idea of just how big TMEA is... although I'm sure that every last member is NOT in attendance today, nor that every member who is in attendance is going to hear my music performed Saturday (which is why I'm hear, to be at the performance), TMEA has 26,000 members.
Twenty-six thousand members.
Why yes, it is a big organization. No pressure, bein' a composer whose work is being performed by an All-State choir.
I'll share more about that after it happens. What has been interesting, though, from a "daily living" point of view, has been navigating in a completely foreign city, and in a flopping HUGE convention center, in a wheelchair, for the first time. Completely alone. My wife is in a show which she'd have had to cancel had I demanded she come, and I thought "Hey! It's an adventure! It's worth the experiment, let's do it--I'll go by myself, let's see what happens!" So we were both completely happy about me taking it on, on my own. (Plus, I'm sure the director and cast of her show are quite relieved that she's going to be there for this weekend's shows, just as planned/hoped for.)
So what have I learned, so far? Well, a few things...
- When you're driving the wheelchair, flat is your friend, and a ramp of too great an incline might as well be a wall.
- Being able to sorta kinda walk--which is to say, to be able to get around short distances with help from walls/chairs/pilasters/whatever, to be able to get out of the wheelchair and still function, for a short distance--is a Godsend. So. Many. Problems. Are circumvented instantly, when you can get out of the chair for a couple/three feet and move the chair around the obstacle.
- Wheelchairs mean you can't carry things in your hands. Obviously... one hand to carry something, or maybe two, and then two hands to push the chair around, just doesn't add up to "you only have two hands." Some sort of bag, at the back of the chair, around your chest, or between your knees, is a must. However, the Wheelchair Place warned me that if you overfill the back-of-the-chair bag with stuff that's too heavy, you run the rist of being pulled over on your back. "Turtleing," as the Mythbusters might call it. Very bad.
- TMEA was a huge convention. Having somewhere to sit, no matter where/when/how you go anywhere, it a lovely thing. The price is, your arms do get used a lot. A lot. Or, in another word, "constantly." As constantly as your butt gets to rest comfortably in the seat of the wheelchair.
Now, they did have motorized scooter/chairs available for rent, but for some reason, I said "No, dammit, I'm doing this myself, that was after all part of the point of coming here by myself," and so I didn't go in for motorizing. I ... think... I'm glad I did that. That was, after all, part of the experiment.
Tomorrow, I have to be across town in time for the rehearsal, and then again Saturday to make the show. I'm going early both days to make sure I've found the right concert hall... the convention center is pretty @#$#ing big, and it takes a while to get around, even if you're doing it on your own feet.
So... the adventure continues! Stay tuned to hear more about Our Hero and the Convention as the news happens! (And I have the strength to type it in.)