Well. Here I am. Back in the Motherland after what turned out to be a pretty amazing trip to the Georgian capital. It was even more beautiful than I expected it to be. And much more Eastern. Tbilisi is about 1,200 kilometers from Tehran, and the Persian influence is evident in many aspects of Georgian culture. Check out the ironwork on this balcony in the Old City:
Amazing, yes? Oh and the food is fabulous. But…
For an Aided Mobilizer Tbilisi poses some unique challenges. I learned some hard lessons last week about the inadequacies of forearm crutch design. I won’t say that the Evil Aid let me down entirely; it is just woefully ill-equipped for Georgian terrain.
Here’s the thing. Georgia is a mountainous country, snuggled as it is up against the backbone of the Caucasus. The picture I added to my last photo indeed did not lie. Tbilisi is a city of hills, hills, and more hills. Think San Francisco with more ravines. The Old CIty is full of charm and splendor, but part of what makes it so charming is that it is nestled into one of the city’s higher peaks. See?
That gondola at the top there, next to the fortress is a work in progress. Once it is completed, it will shuttle Georgians and visitors of all abilities from the river bank up to Old City. But until then the options are either to take a cab (not terribly expensive but also not super cheap, AND Georgians are MAD drivers, so the ride is not without thrill) or to walk. The latter has the advantage of affording the opportunity to really inspect Old City and the surrounding Caucasian scenery, and it also does not carry the risk of tumbling to your death in a high speed Soviet automobile. My friend and I did a lot of slow meandering in and around Old City. Although I do love my Evil Aid, I realized almost immediately that its standard inflexible metal body, even with its trusty Tornado Tip, is not made for hills in potholed asphalt or cobble stoned/pebbly sidewalks that frequently turn into dirt paths or disappear altogether. What someone attempting to use a cane or forearm crutches in this kind of situation really needs is a super special smart tip, and can recognize ground changes immediately and alter its form and resistance accordingly. A little flexibility in the shaft would also be helpful, because when the grade of a slope changes the mobilizer constantly has to alter the position of her stick or sticks to accommodate and thus, walk. If the shaft were just a little bit springy or mobile the burden wouldn’t fall on the mobilizer nearly as much, and I have no doubt that she would enjoy a smoother walk with less strain and fatigue. I know there are forearm crutch models, such as the Millennial, which incorporate some kind of spring mechanism into the shaft, but having read the reviews, I’m not sure this super crutch can really do all that it claims it can. Plus of I heard that it makes A LOT of noise. And I’m certain that Super Smart tips are a figment of my own little imagination, at least at the moment, more science fiction than reality. But. A grrrl can always dream. Because here is the thing: Mobility aid designers seem to assume that because someone requires an aid to walk, it follows that she probably does very little walking. And furthermore, when she does walk, she likely does so only over the smoothest most well maintained footpaths. Wrong and WRONG! I remind that for many of us Aided Mobilizers, one of the major benefits of acquiring a mobility aid (and I dare say one of the reasons many of us agreed to do so in the first place) is that in theory it allows us to become more active, to participate in more of the fabulous things life has to offer (i.e. traveling in the foothills of the Caucasus), not less. This means that we walk or roll over all kinds of surfaces. And yes, sometimes we even climb. Or at least, we would really really like to. And we can and could do it all better if only mobility aid design matched our actual needs rather than what someone at a desk in an drab office park assumes are our needs, based on stereotypes and outdated or downright incorrect information.
One of the things I want from the world right now is a better stick, designed for someone who actually moves and would like to move more.
(PS–Che Koala has a fantastic post here wherein she expresses a similar frustration about rollator design, which in most ways can best be described as EPIC FAIL.)