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by Doug Hawley

I volunteered at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center (or as I thought of it, the hospital with too many names) for eleven years. My job was wheelchair jockey, or as I called it, unpaid escort, pusher or roll model (nudge–nudge, wink-wink).

Usually the job was very easy, so when I was asked if I got a lot of exercise, I responded “Not since the wheel was invented. When I had to carry people on my back, that was exercise.”  Sometimes I was challenged to roll the extremely obese uphill. I got to see a lot of overweight people because they are more likely to be hospitalized than others. My last partner was an eighty - something year old woman, so I tried to take the more difficult cases. It didn’t require much strength, but driving two wheelchairs at once, occupied or not, required a lot of coordination. It wasn’t necessary, but I liked to show off. Getting people with leg injuries into jacked up pickups was difficult. In one case, which no doubt broke the rules, I picked up a light person and put him in the seat. In return for my paltry labors, I got a free breakfast.

This was a cruel prank, but I enjoyed handing off a very heavy bag to an old, 100 pound woman and watching her almost hit the floor.

One good thing about the job was that one rarely saw the same person twice, so I could use my short list of jokes repeatedly. Best gag – pretending that the patient was deplaning. “Please extinguish all smoking material and return your seat back to a full upright position. Thank you for riding Legacy chairs.”

Some events were not humorous to those involved, but presented slapstick visuals. One fellow’s urine sac which was connected to his catheter fell of his leg while I was pushing him. I didn’t catch on until I heard him screaming. Another patient had his oxygen tube caught in the wheel of his chair.  He was cool, but his daughter freaked.  Last and least, was the projectile vomiting.  It looked much like the gag vomiting in TV or movie comedies.

Of course there were heart-rending events as well, but they belong on the “Short Sadness Site.”

The author hasn't had a real job since 1983 because the minimum wage law prevents him from being paid what he is worth.