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99 Problems

The daily struggles of urban living as a quadriplegic explained one by one. It's so much more than not being able to find a parking space.

99 Problems — #2 My Kitty Has Super Powers

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So there I was minding my own business, taking a break from the daily blogging grind to focus my attention on the newest 1000-piece jig saw puzzle to grace our dining room table, a cartoonish version of the Las Vegas strip, when I noticed Zola, my four-year-old Manx cat, reaching up to me from my left side. Using my wheelchair to balance herself, she was standing up on her back paws and impressively holding her balance with one front paw resting on the arm rest of my wheelchair and the other reaching out to me, coyly, cute enough for a picture but also ambiguously enough to play the reach off as stretching in the embarrassing case I paid her no attention. Cats can be sensitive super sly like that, especially Zola. She’s like a hipster in that even her faults or mistakes can seem ironically intentional.

99 Problems

Over time I’ve come to learn that Zola’s flirty wheelchair pole dance means she’s ready to be attended to. Specifically, she wants up and to plop in my lap and sit sides-ies with me in my wheelchair, which obviously can be really fucking adorable. However, on this particular day in June I wasn’t up for it. I was feeling selfish, too engrossed in playing with my new puzzle and also not wanting to deal with the orange tumbleweeds of fur that come along with her lap visits. More importantly, and this is something she just can’t understand, I couldn’t let her sit in her favorite spot on my lap because my hip was in danger of becoming a pressure issue at that time (which is a whole ‘nother 99 problem all together). So in response to her pawing me I reached down and rubbed the little cuddle monkey on the head with hopes it’d pacified her, and then she’d be on her curious way. But it didn’t. She continued to stand and sit, paw and purr, and command my attention with her wild, dilating emerald eyes. Like a dog pissing on a tree, she was marking her territory and making it known she was coming up to sit with me regardless of what I wanted.

I needed a plan or at the very least something to distract her. So in attempt to outsmart the kitty and cut out any opportunity for her sneak up on me, I dove my wheelchair under the table until my ribcage nearly touched the edge of it. Nonverbally I thought this sent clear message–fuck off kitty and leave me alone. Unfortunately, my cat Zola is delayed in picking up on social cues. So regardless of my efforts to disarm her, she stood up by my chair again, placed her paw on the armrest of my chair, reached up, and continued to make efforts to climb up into my lap. Her determination was so admirable I nearly caved and scooped up the little fur ball until I recalled the last time she sat with me at the puzzle table. Not only did she destroy the entire bottom outside edge of the jigsaw puzzle, but after it was all said and done one piece went missing–one frustrating piece that I imagine most likely ended up somewhere in her tiny, furry belly. So I pressed on, ignored her cuddle-time attempts and made great strides in putting together my puzzle at the cost of being stared at creepily.

Then, somewhere in between completing a lady’s boot and finishing off a roulette table, I felt two little clawless paws wrap over the left side of my wheelchair. I had thought Zola would find something else to do with her time, like sunbathe or chase the tiny fruit flies that recently had become trapped in our house. After all, I had blatantly avoided her for sometime now. But she hadn’t. Instead, Zola had sat, plotted and strategized a way to accomplish her mission. Somehow, and I couldn’t how exactly, she had figured out how to do a kitty pull up. Placed atop my wheelchair arm, I watched her little paws and front arms quiver as she pulled her self up, inching her chin closer and closer to the arm rest.

“Oh my god Zola!” I shouted.

I blindly reached my left arm down and scooped my hand under her butt for support. Quickly she used my hand and arm to prop her hind legs and then like a rabbit, sprang up over my chair and into my lap. Actually, she landed more on the table and then scooted her way in between me and the table, purring and vibrating with what I can only imagine was kitty pride. Apparently she too practiced nonverbal communication. Because once she sunk into my bosom, she looked up at me wide-eyed and delivered her own message. ‘I do what I want when I want. And don’t fucking forget it.’

We were squished. Now that the 10-pound ball of fur had sprawled her self on me and the table, we needed the space I had given away before, back when I was the adult and one in charge. So immediately and without looking, I reached for the on/off button on the wheelchair’s right side. I needed to reverse, and reverse fast if I had any hope of not destroying the puzzle. Already bitch-cat was swatting at pieces and watching them fall helplessly to the floor, clearly my punishment for making her work so hard for my attention.

Impatiently I flicked the power switch on and waited for the buzz of electricity. As quick as I heard the click, I jerked the joystick backwards. To my surprise, I didn’t move. I waited a second and gave the joystick another pull. Still there was no movement. I repositioned Zola so I could see over her and down to the lit up control screen on the right of my wheelchair. Since I was so close to the table I was having a hard time doing anything except catching fur in my mouth. I continued to yank back on the joystick franticly, feeling more claustrophobic with each failed pull. I needed space. I needed air. I needed an extra hand, or at least two working hands instead of the fumbling paralyzed fingers I was trying to manage. And then I saw it. On the yellow control screen next to my wheelchair joystick, a message:

Left Brake Default

“Nnnnnooooo,” I screamed out loud, to the vacated house. My husband had left just thirty minutes prior for an afternoon of errands and an hour at the gym. Before he had left I had asked him to plug my phone in to my computer to charge, which was now inconveniently 30-long-feet away and on my desk.

“No way Zola,” I announced. “No way.”

I looked down to the left side of my wheelchair. And then back to the controller. Zola was now walking freely on the table and up and down the Las Vegas strip, leaving trails of puzzle pieces as they stuck and fell from her paws.

“Zola!!!!” I yelled.

In the wheelchair world ‘Left Brake Default’ is equivalent to being out of gear. Technically it means the left brake, which is located at the bottom of my chair and out of my reach, has been pushed down and is no longer in a locked position. When both brakes are not in the locked position the chair’s electronics become non-functional. Electric wheelchairs with no electronics are just chairs. In ordinary chairs, I am stuck and helpless. Bitch cat.

I turned the chair off. And then back on again. Off. And then on, hoping the ‘Left Brake Default’ note came in error. But each time the screen lit up the message was the same. I looked over at my cell phone sitting on my desk. Useless. I looked up at Zola who now was laying on the puzzle, showing her lady bits to all of Las Vegas and licking her guilty paws. I looked over at the clock on the microwave; it read 11:09. No one was due home until 1:30. And no where in sight was the remote control for the TV, which was airing a “What Not To Wear” marathon. I yelled Zola’s name one more time for good measure, because she got me. She got me good.

As it turns out, cats are not strong enough to do kitty chin ups. They are, however, clever enough to use any resources available to get the things they want. Sometimes they’re even willing to stand on the brake of a wheelchair just to get some cuddle time with their owner, even if it means paralyzing trapping them for hours.

Zola: +1  Jana: 0

Not up to date on Jana’s 99 Problems? Catch up here!
99 Problems #1 Attack of the Flying Pens
99 Problems #3 Los Angeles Sidewalks Are Cracked Out
99 Problems #4 Strangers Touch Me
99 Problems #5 I Once Offended a Woman With Lupus.
99 Problems #6 I Hate Parking Garage Ticket Dispensers


One Response to “99 Problems — #2 My Kitty Has Super Powers”

  1. kathy kiely says:

    good one, jana! lots of great images and artful tossed-off lines.
    on another note, i can’t believe there is anything on a power wheelchair that is not accessible to the user. i can see some things requiring an override command or even a password for safety, but just plain inaccessible? that’s stupid design.

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