I thought I was dealing with my multiple sclerosis well. Apparently not. My closest friend, Ellen, rocked my world when she told me that she didn’t enjoy spending time with me anymore; I was miserable to be around and brought her down. That was a revelation to me. I thought I was doing a great job hiding my anger and frustration with my disease. Apparently not. I cried myself to sleep that night and on several ensuing nights. I didn’t know what I could do to change my attitude, but I had to do something. I couldn’t lose my best friend and strongest supporter!
Around the same time, my personal trainer at the gym, Neil, had mentioned enjoying “The Daily Show ” and ”The Colbert Report”. I was developing a new interest in politics, partly due to the influence of Shelley and decided to check them out. I quickly fell in love! Jon Stewart’s wry reporting of the day’s news from the liberal perspective intersected with my own feelings, perfectly (and he’s not too bad on the eyes, either!). Stephen Colbert’s imitation conservative viewpoints had just the right amount of sarcasm. It just took me a little while to pick up on it. I have watched both of them, almost daily, for over two years. And really, I can only take the current news reports with a heavy dose of humor. Anything I miss, otherwise, I get from the Internet or it’s not that important.
After about a year of watching, they both started talking about the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear”, as it eventually was called. I was intrigued. A website soon was born as an off-shoot of “The Daily Show” to enable people from outside the Washington, DC area to carpool to the rally. In a completely uncharacteristic (but somehow not very surprising) move, I signed up and was soon contacted by a guy who was organizing a group from Winston-Salem. We spoke several times (by e-mail) and Paula, a woman I met through the group, turned out to live in Raleigh. Eventually, we splintered off and made our own plans to attend the rally. I made it clear to her that I had M.S. and would need her to push me in a wheelchair while at the rally. She agreed, no problem. I never heard from the original guy, again.
The morning of October 30, 2010, dawned clear, cool and bright. Paula showed up at my door right on time, 7:00 AM. She loaded the wheelchair into her trunk and helped me to the car with my cooler full of snacks and drinks. And we were off! The drive was uneventful, other than long. Paula and I were never at a loss for words; the conversation flowed freely about our personal lives, likes and dislikes, and politics. We rolled into D. C. around 1:00 PM after only one stop to fill up one tank and empty two others. We drove around the National Mall area for a short time, getting our bearings and deciding where to park. Parking is one of the few benefits to being handicapped; somehow no one was illegally parked in the last available handicapped space of the lot we chose. By the time we found our parking spot and made it to the street, it was closer to 2. Fortunately, we ran into a man who offered to push my chair to the rally; he obviously knew where he was going. We gratefully accepted his offer and started cruising (at least I did) to the Mall.
When we got to the rally, we could hardly believe our eyes. Throngs of people were everywhere and we couldn’t even see the stage. After plowing through the dense fringes of the crowd (with me crying out, “Coming through! Watch your heels, I bite!” the whole time and ALMOST making it without injuring anyone), we finally positioned ourselves along one edge and just people-watched. There were tons of interesting, funny and provocative placards and home-made signs. One of my personal favorites was, “Immigrants have always been a problem… Ask any Native American”. Paula and I both took several pictures but unfortunately, we never saw either Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, or even any of their guests; nor did we hear a single peep from the stage. It felt like we were just part of an enormous, loitering crowd, the biggest I’d ever been a member of. News reports estimated the crowd at over 200,000 people! That’s more than twice the size of the largest crowd I’d ever been a part of. One man, riding a Segway personal transporter and seeing me in my wheelchair, stopped by to talk to me. He explained how the Segway worked and gave me a demonstration. I filed the information away for future reference.
And soon it was over. The crowd started thinning out and Paula and I meandered our way back to the car. We both agreed, we‘d had a blast. Getting home was less trouble and less traffic than we had anticipated, and we were back in Durham by 11:00 PM.
Although I didn’t get to see Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert, I wouldn’t have missed that rally for anything! I’d never done anything like it before and may never get a chance to, again. Sometimes I am amazed at my bravado and motivation. I rode over 500 miles in one day with a complete stranger, never once fearing for my life or worrying how I’d feel or get around. It was a very liberating experience and I will be eternally grateful to Paula and the Comedy Central “pundits” for a long, long time. Oh, and Ellen and I are back to old times. No hard feelings, no unhappiness, no misery. I even FEEL better: I really believe the daily dose of laughter plays a big role in that. I never even realized I missed it, but now I do. I won’t make that mistake again. Laughter really is the best medicine!