Tuesday morning at quarter of eight, my wheelchair died. The chair had been difficult to rouse when I roused myself around five that morning. But rouse it I did, and all seemed in order as it carted me from bed to bathroom to the refrigerator to the table. The chair sat patiently while I ate breakfast, did the LA Times and USA Today crossword puzzles on line, and then checked out huffingtonpost.com, along with the on-line editions of the Star Beacon, Post-Gazette and Plain Dealer. And when asked, the chair took me to the kitchen sink, the coffee maker and the bathroom without hesitation or difficulty.
At seven-twenty, I set out for my morning inspection of the Covenant Woods’ grounds. On my way down the hall, however, I was unable to get the wheelchair out of P1, its slowest speed. I stopped and pressed the button several times, to no avail. I went on, and at the door I pressed the button again, and again the chair did not respond. Outside, the clouds hung heavy and low, and the wind whispered, “If you come out, you best be prepared to make a mad dash when the rain starts.” Being prepared to dash madly is one thing, madly dashing in P1 is another, and I opted to return to my apartment to give the wheelchair time to adjust its attitude.
Back in the room, I pulled up to the computer, shut off the chair and pretended to write for a few minutes. But I didn’t want to write; I wanted to go outside. That’s when the wheelchair, in the manner of all the women I’ve ever known, failed to respond to my efforts to turn it on. And like those women, the chair snickered contemptuously when I tried again and again to get some action.
So, there I was, at the table, sitting in a power chair that hadn’t any power. The first order of business was to call Convalescent Care, a local concern that, among other things, services wheelchairs. Finding the number wasn’t a problem; I’d put it in the phone a few months ago, when the chair first exhibited its disagreeable feminine attributes. My call was answered by a machine that told me the slug-a-beds at Convalescent Care don’t show up for work until eight-thirty.
The next order of business was to get away from the table and into my manual wheelchair. I disengaged the wheels and used my feet to push me and the chair backward until I ran into the bed. From there, a lengthy stretch enabled me to grab my walker, which enabled me to get up and pull my manual wheelchair from its place between the file cabinet and the bookcase. My mechanical ineptitude and physical limitations combined to make a ten-minute chore out of the thirty-second job of setting up the chair. With the chair in a ploppable shape, I plopped into it and waited until eight-thirty to call Convalescent Care again. Kevin said he’d send one of his lackeys over, probably around ten-thirty, with a new control unit.
The lackey showed up shortly after eleven. In his late twenties or early thirties, and a pudgy five-eleven, he had the look of a man who’d been eschewing exercise since his career as a third-string lineman for his high school football team ended. And after two or three minutes of less-than-strenuous labor, he sounded like it too. He rasped, he gasped and he wheezed for a minute or more before announcing that he would take the chair to his van and replace the control unit. Had the NSA been listening to my breathing after I bumbled about getting the manual wheelchair and compared it to the lackey’s, it would have concluded that I am by far the superior physical specimen. But the lackey had a job to do, and he did it. The wheelchair is working again.