Zorro and I

Zorro

Zorro and I have a love-hate relationship. He is both a comfort and a curse who prevents and causes pain. He is my bodyguard, a confidant that keeps me on a straight path, and has become an indispensable colleague. We are rarely apart. Hell, I’m seen public with Zorro more than with K, and as much as I wish he would go away, I couldn’t function without him.

Who is this mystery figure? He’s my cane, of course.

First of all, let me give credit where credit is due. I’ve used a cane for years and never had the thought or desire to give hit a name. It’s a prop, for God’s sake, an inanimate object I purchased on-line. But after reading Sue’s recent post about the cane she has long-called Zelda, I thought writing about the relationship I have with my cane would make a good topic.

But before I could steal the idea, I had to give the cane a name. I christened it Zorro, partly in homage to Zelda, but also because I liked the symbolism. Zorro was a masked and sword-wielding vigilante who defended the poor and victimized against the forces of injustice. A cane is similar to a sword in the sense that it’s always in your hand, and you can wield it like one if you’re physically threatened. For someone who lives with a disability, it isn’t a stretch to feel victimized, or believe life has been unjust. I personally don’t, but the analogy fits. So Zorro it was!

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To be technically correct, Zorro is really Zorro III. All of my Zorro’s have been heavy duty Derby-style canes with a brass collar at the base of the handle. Each one was purchased from the Fashionable Canes web-site, which I would highly recommend. Zorro I, which is black, is my beater-cane now. It was sleek and shiny when it arrived, but has been scratched and dinged so many times that it looks like it has been through a war. I had to tape the handle together with electrical tape because it almost split in half when I impatiently used it like a hammer to break some ice off my pool cover this past winter. It’s simply too ugly to be seen outside the home.

I avoided buying a cane for as long as possible because I didn’t like the idea of drawing a lot of attention to myself in public, particularly for the wrong reasons.  In my mind, walking around with a cane would be like screaming “look at the gimp!” to the general populous. I didn’t relish the idea of people staring at the freak show, but in hindsight I should have known better. People are oblivious to what’s around them unless carnage, blood, death, nakedness or sex is involved, and me venturing in public with Zorro in hand was no exception. This made me realize I was once part of that that blissfully ignorance mass, because once I started taking Zorro with me every time I left the house, I saw a lot of people spanning a variety of ages wielding canes or walking sticks I hadn’t noticed previously.

Once I purchased Zorro, the first item on the agenda was to learn how to walk with him. Looking up  how to walk with a cane on the internet, I learned to place Zorro in the opposite hand of the affected limb. Rather than try to describe how it works, I’ll let the image below tell the story. This isn’t as natural as you’d think, and was awkward at first, but isn’t a difficult concept to grasp, and soon became an afterthought.

Cane walk

The next thing I discovered is that when you walk with a cane, you lose the functional use of an arm, which can make things you take for granted difficult. Try putting a cup of hot coffee in you right hand, put your left arm behind your back, and try to open a door. You can’t, so opening a door now required additional steps. I had to stop in front of the door, transfer Zorro to the crook of my left elbow, transfer the coffee cup to my suddenly free left hand, and open the door with my right. Once I was through the door, the process is reversed, and I am on my way. These might seem like insignificant details to able-bodied people, but for those of us who aren’t, it’s a pain in the ass, and there numerous scenarios like this where you learn to make these kinds of accommodations.

Is there anything I like about having Zorro with me? Well, I like the fact that he allows me to go out in public. I can get around inside the home okay with no assistance, but I walk very slowly, almost like an inch-worm without him, and often have to extend my right arm out to my side for balance. I’m sure it looks very odd. Be that as it may, I would never venture among a crowd of people without Zorro. That would be an accident waiting to happen.

I like the fact that if I’m sitting, I can use him as a prop to rest my arms, hands or chin upon. I like that when I am standing, I can lean on him so he can take the brunt of my weight instead of my leg. I like the fact that I can prevent elevator doors from prematurely closing by extending Zorro forward before the doors close shut, thus reopening them. I can extend him to pick up things from the floor, like shoes. He helps clear a path in a crowded room. All you need to do to get someone to move is lightly tap their foot or leg.  If you’re a germaphobe and don’t like touching things in public, Zorro can be used to both open and close doors, and press elevator buttons. I also like the fact that he helps me walk in a mostly straight line. I’m serious. I wobble from side to side when he’s not there to ground me.

I also like the fact that Zorro can serve as a bodyguard, if necessary. The shaft is very solid, and the derby handle is both blunt and pointed, so Zorro could inflict some considerable damage on bones, joints, and someone’s face if administered properly. You can also purchase a version of Zorro that has an actual sword attached to the handle and fits neatly inside the cane’s shaft. Zorro can also be used for carrying refreshments, as there are multiple versions that have inbedded flasks. Zorro can scratch those hard to reach places on your back, in addition to the bottom of your foot, as well. We’ve already established it can be used as a hammer.

What don’t I like about him? Other than the fact that I need him more than he needs me, I don’t like the fact that walking with him all the time causes my hip and lower back to ache. If Zorro isn’t sized properly (too long or short), he can cause horrific shoulder and elbow pain. The lower part of my hand can also feel bruised if I lean on him too hard.

Finding a resting place for place for him in the car where he doesn’t get in the way can be a challenge. Finding a place for him at a restaurant, sporting event, church, or anyplace for that matter, can be annoying.

What I hate most of all is that I am so dependent on Zorro. He helps keep me upright when I stumble, allows me to attend events I would otherwise avoid, prevents me severely injuring my knee and ankle, and generally allows me to live as normal a life as possible. Most importantly, he keeps me out of a wheelchair.

I guess I’m stuck with him.