The downside of handicapped accessibility

Story & photos by Gloria Salavarria

I wanted my last home to be handicapped accessible with “easy riser” steps, both inside and outside of the home.

Easy risers are steps that are no higher than six inches – thus making it easier for folks to walk up them – all the more important to me because I not only am getting older but I broke my back and damaged my hip during a trip to New Zealand 10 years ago.

So when I moved into my newly-built Middlebury home, I found everything fine except for the outside steps leading to the front door. They were 8- and 9-inch steps and I didn’t like ‘em.

Although I was annoyed, I politely asked the developer to pour the proper steps when he built his next condo unit. I didn’t see the sense in hauling a cement truck out just to redo my front steps when it could be done at the same time as the contractor would be pouring cement for a new unit.

That didn’t happen. Hisssss! But I was again nice about it and told him again that I wanted this problem corrected but I could wait until he built the next house in this subdivision.

Another year went by and he built two more units while I was overseas and completely forgot about my steps. SNAP!

Again I reminded him that I needed those steps rebuilt to my specifications. I further emphasized that the clientele for this neighborhood are retired folks and “empty nesters.” Those 8- to 9-inch steps just won’t cut it for this crowd. In fact it would create a downright bad impression if the potential home buyer has trouble getting up those steps. Therefore I wanted my front steps corrected before the summer ended. SNAP! SNAP! Hisssss!

A snapping turtle on my front door step. The reptile used the new easy riser steps I had poured for me this summer.
A snapping turtle on my front door step. The reptile used the new easy riser steps I had poured for me this summer.

Finally, five years after I had moved in to my home, I got what I wanted – but I simplified the job by asking the contractor to just pour two more steps to give me four steps that would be half the size of the original steps. This would give me four steps with 4-inch risers which would be a little odd but much easier on old hips than the two original steps and so getting to my front door would no longer be a tough climb.

Several weeks after my new steps had been poured, I came home to find a neighbor waiting for me at the front door.

A snapping turtle on my front door step. The reptile used the new easy riser steps I had poured for me this summer.
A snapping turtle on my front door step. The reptile used the new easy riser steps I had poured for me this summer.

This neighbor was my equal when it comes to patience – and like me it has a very long fuse to a very bad bomb. When a snapping turtle snaps, she can cause considerable damage. Knowing I would be up against a sister-in-snap-ability I went into my garage and grabbed an empty cardboard box along with a sturdy stick that was thick enough not to splinter if this neighbor’s mood turned foul.

I then confronted this aquatic neighbor who was placidly waiting for me to open my front door and allow it to continue on its way to the river by taking a stately walk through my home.

I declined my neighbor’s request. I wasn’t about to allow those claws on my hardwood floors and since I didn’t have slippers in her size, I offered instead limousine service in a cardboard box – thus saving some time and energy on my neighbor’s part. Certainly my neighbor couldn’t refuse my generous offer but all I got was a Hissss!

Not willing to take “Hissss!” for an answer, I laid the box on its side and gently nudged my neighbor’s behind with the stick. My snapping turtle friend meekly crawled into the box but let out a large hiss followed by an equally loud snap as I tried to transition it and the box – gently – into a mutually upright position for the trip to come.

A cranky snapping turtle inside a cardboard box, awaiting transport to the Little Elkhart River.
A cranky snapping turtle inside a cardboard box, awaiting transport to the Little Elkhart River.

Once the box was fully upright, the snapping turtle emitted another loud hiss, followed by an even more ferocious snap and then the turtle relieved its bladder – leaving me think again where the American term “pissed off” came from and how it became a regular part of our more colorful speech. (In other parts of the world such as New Zealand and Australia, “pissed” doesn’t mean “angry” as it does here in the U.S. Instead, it means “drunk” but then drunks can become quite belligerent while under the influence.)

This snapper is pissed off--literally!
This snapper is pissed off–literally!

The rest of this encounter was, I’m relieved to say, uneventful. I put the turtle in the trunk of my car, closed the lid and drove down to Riverbend Park – a lovely nature park that is not far from my home.

Once I parked my car at Riverbend Park, I called a family with kids over to see the snapping turtle that I had in the box. Fortunately there were a lot of oooohs and aaaaahs from the next generation but nobody lost any fingers.

The occupant of the box did complain about the bumpy ride down to the river’s edge. Apparently my suspension doesn’t quite meet turtle standards but I’m not going to lose any sleep over it. That’s one of the advantages of being an old lady. I don’t worry anymore if turtles, cats, raccoons or people are pissed off at me.

The turtle didn’t hang around very long for farewells and neither did I.
As for the box – there was a recycling center conveniently located just across the street.

Since then, I regularly check my front steps to see if a UPS guy has left a box for me, or whether I have another snapping turtle expecting taxi service down to the river.
I now have what I’ve asked for in the way of front steps – and then some.

I am also aware that I share more in common with snappers than just flabbiness in the upper arms department.

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