How to Be a Paraplegic

Oct 13, 1949 | by James Burke

While meandering along Carlton Street recently, we passed through the portals of number 46, labouring under the illusion that we were entering a pool hall. To our dismay, we found ourselves involved with a tougher crowd than we expected, the more vocal members being G. K. Langford and one Donald Curran, a refugee from Halifax. Both are obscure and somewhat disreputable intellectuals and they had evidently drifted in during a dogged search for potables. The conversation went something like this:

GK: All is not well in certain quarters, I sense a vague resistance to paraplegia by many closely involved in it.

DC: A shocking state of affairs, indeed and forsooth! Stern measures must be taken immediately. In fact, sooner than that. Right now.

GK: Quite. We must launch a campaign of re-education.

DC: A campaign means a slogan. What will it be? Quick, man. Think!

GK: Ah… Let me see. Paraplegics can be fun? No? Wheelchairs are wonderful? No? Got it! More and better paraplegia!

DC: Gad! What an imagination! Of course, every campaign calls for a 10-point program. It’s a must.

GK: Let’s make it 10 easy lessons, not on how to become a paraplegic, but how to become a dyed-in-the-wool, 100% successful and typical one.

DC: Sheer, unadulterated inspiration! The first thing – actually becoming a para – I think we can leave it to individual preference. Fights with mother-in-law, cleaning loaded guns, being thrown out of cocktail lounges, etc. anything like that is acceptable.

G K: Yes, that’s not important. It’s the result that counts

DC: Point 2 would concern hospitalization.

G K: … And the development of the churlish tone.

DC: The paraplegic must learn to glance scornfully at all the machinery about his bed and say witheringly, ‘what the hell goes on here? What do they think I am – a guinea pig?

G K: Point 3. Retraining.

DC: In a crutch-walking one must learn to fall with as much frequency and clatter as possible. The greater the clatter, and the more piercing your scream, the better are your chances that the Physio will permit you to retire from the fray for the day.

GK: Good. Now for vocational training. Hitch your wagon to a star. Insist on a course with the future in it. If you want to be a parachute jumper, make the vocational officer dig you up a correspondence course.

DC: Point 5 is placement. Don’t be a fool. Start at the top. That’s where the money is.

GK: Point 6 would be economic problems.

DC: There is no excuse for economic problems. If you need a little scratch, a judicious selection from the Daily Racing Form should fix you up.

GK: Certainly. Besides, Mr. Counsell is always willing to assist beginners in making their selections. Point 7 – keep interested with hobbies.

DC: But not so interested that you forget to collect the deposit on the empties, or does that come under investments? What’s .8?

GK: That would concern keeping mentally active and alert.

DC: Easy solution. Read the Caliper. Point 9 physical fitness.

GK: are you mad, man? Forget that nonsense. Let us consider the care and repair of leg braces. They’re expensive. Don’t subject them to unnecessary wear and tear. Oil well, wrap in four layers of asbestos, and hide in a dark corner of the cellar so the moths won’t get them.

DC: Point 10. Miscellaneous problems.

G K: If you have a miscellaneous problem, consult Langford and Curran, Inc.

DC: Inc.?

GK Inc. incapacitated. Inc.

DC: I get you. We now have 10 valuable hints for paraplegics. What are we waiting for?

GK: I don’t know. The Silver Rail has been open for 10 minutes now. Let’s go.

DC: Let’s.