by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/01/03 16:21 -08:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2010/01/03/9943204.aspx
Life-in-an-iBot is so completely different than Life-not-in-an-iBot that this device really can be thought of as a world changer.
I am having trouble thinking back to how I looked at the world when I was without it understanding how to go through life, actually.
It isn't about the stair climbing, I tend to find it gaudy. I don't mind being a show which is what being up on 2 wheels can be, but I would rather not be a spectacle which is what the stair climbing is.
So what is it about the iBot, exactly?
There is the silly, obvious stuff like the clubs it has gotten me into. Or the parties. But that is just an extreme reflection of the way that everyone just seems to react to it.
My girlfriend (well, almost girlfriend, we just started dating!) and I have talked about the weird "fanboy" and "fangirl" factor it creates in public places, even in a place like Capitol Hill, one of the most likely places where no matter what you look like people will treat it as "business as usual". People still can't help coming up and saying something about it.
It seems like one of the most likely reasons for us to eventually break up. Since she is so not interested in the public eye and the iBot does something that brings the public eye out, in force.
Though maybe not, as (after you are used to the thing looking like it is about to fall over!) one of the truly cool things about it is that people seem to be like as not to forget that I'm in a wheelchair at all.
I forget it myself most of the time, actually.
I have been in contact with a few other iBot users out there, and so far it seems as if I am one of the most extreme of the ones out there. Which may be just me making up for lost time (the period of my life when I became tremendously less social because the distance I could walk or terrain I could cover diminished so much that staying home seemed like a better idea).
It has been a rather wild, probably the most obvious high point of wildness being Halloween dressed up as Goldfinger's henchman (Oddjob) with a painted-entirely-in-gold Jill Masterson as my date, having a drink with the principal (Mr. Belding) at the party at the Playboy mansion, a charity function supporting wounded veterans (I pointed to the director I was neither but he encouraged me not to worry about it since most of the guests weren't, either).
Another attendee of the party was a wounded veteran with a partial spinal injury who was one of the very last people to be given an iBot. We talked a bit, especially about how he had chosen to not go to the party with the iBot under him (instead he was in a regular manual wheelchair with a longtime nurse taking him care of him dressed as a nurse, pushing his chair). Almost hungry for stories about the iBot and things I had done with it, I realized that I really was "out there" in a way that many iBot-ers weren't.
Out there not as an avid supporter of the technology like this guy or this other guy since most of my "feats" violated recommended use guidelines and thus could be on no advertising/marketing campaign, but as user, who happens to be an engineer who pushes the limits of the chair in order to understand them and then lives on the edge of those limits for a lot of his life.
A lot of that is done now, as once I've done something doing it again is not really as interesting. And there aren't heaps of new things to try, if you know what I mean; the engineer's desire to obtain specs or determine them himself has kind of run its course.
But with that said...
I will say that one of the single most amazing kisses I have ever had in my life was with a girl who, after we had discussed the safety aspects of the iBot, carefully climbed up into my lap and planted one on me. I've kissed before, hell we've kissed before but there will always be two categories in my mind about kisses from here on out, after that one.
So yes, it climbs stairs.
And it stands up on two wheels.
And it can handle curbs.
And it handles rough terrain like snow and the beach and LA city streets.
But that isn't what the Dean Kamen's invention is about, for me.
In my case (in contrast to the James Bond novel's haiku), you only live thrice (once when you're born, once when you get an iBot after being in a wheelchair, and once when you look death in the face.
The iBot is about being able to be alive again.
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