It’s that time again, Wheelchair Nation, to head off to your annual office or neighborhood holiday party and try to have fun, though you can’t stand eggnog and are bored by most of the people who’ll be there. Be that as it may, you will be going — it’s a sacred end-of-year obligation — so I thought I’d weigh in with a few tips about proper party etiquette to avoid potential embarrassment, humiliation, or outright banishment from all parties going forward.
What to Wear. You’re in a wheelchair. You can wear anything! Bathrobe, prison jump suit, Bermuda shorts, you name it. But in this setting you should try to dress for success — or at least safety. Many of us like to stand out with some oversized elf ears or a bow-tie that lights up every time we shake hands. That’s fun stuff, for sure, but on a more practical side, wear something that will help you maneuver through a dimly-lit party setting. A miner’s hat with a light is always a safe choice, and if you can afford it, get a backing-up alarm beeper like those little service trucks at Home Depot. See if you can find one that plays “Jingle Bells” or Adam Sandler’s “The Hanukkah Song.” Pretty soon you will be the campfire around which everyone gathers for a sing-a-long.
Mingling. Circulating at a holiday party in a chair is damn near impossible. Your host or hostess will feel much better if he or she can plant you in a corner and forget about you, knowing no one will trip over you or vice-versa. You need to prepare for this by surveying the room the moment you arrive and choosing your own spot. If you like to chat with total strangers, park next to the restroom. “Hey, how did it go in there?” is always a winning ice-breaker. If you just want to gorge on the roast beef and cream puffs and not make stupid chit-chat, park at the far end of the catering table, an arm’s length from seconds and thirds. The food servers are always happy to oblige