When Her Chair Really Almost Became an Electric Chair
Joey, my then girlfriend, and I were walking home from I don’t remember where… that’s how bad this date was, right? We probably were walking home from the movies before the buses started running in our town, so being in wheelchairs, we had no choice but to walk.
Now, walking around town’s normally no biggie. We’ve done it millions of times, in any direction. I’ve got routes for anywhere I want to go. So, going to and from the movies is no problem unless the traffic’s bad, or weather decides to go south. We live in West Texas in the desert, so all bets are off.
OK, the movie ends, and we set off for home. The first hurdle is a major street the runs east-west. See where this is going? The way I have to look to start our cross is right into the setting sun…great! I say a prayer, and totally going on my hearing and the grace of God and the attention of drivers, I get us across. Phew.
Continuing, we go down the side streets, which is the way I’ve been doing it since I was young. We only cross major streets if we have to… and, walking on the shoulder of major roads is only done for very short distances or if there happens to be a bike trail. The next major street we have to cross, we have a median to contend with. Luckily, there a couple lights that could help. The first is a one-way, so we just have to wait for the light to turn red, and New York cross, which is going between the cars waiting for the light to change. Once across there, we wait in the cutout of the median that just fits to chairs snugly. When that light changes, we haul across to the side street until we get to the third major street.
However, before getting to the third major street, our journey got very interesting. You see, as we were walking, a storm was tailing us the whole time. Yeah, we started to feel little sprinkles, but thought we could outrun it. Wrong. Going down McDonald, it started sprinkling harder. The faster we went, the harder the rain seemed to get. Dude. And, of course, there were no awnings for us to hide under until the storm passed, so we continued.
Now, we’re getting wet, and water and electric wheelchairs don’t make good bed partners. Most of the time it’s nothing to walk in a drizzle. We’ve all been caught out in one at some time or other. Except, when the rubber lining that covers the mechanical mechanisms of your control has been frayed, water gets in there and plays havoc on said electronic mechanisms. So, it was with Joey’s chair. This chair, we called The Tank, because it was so old, it was literally made out of metal…like an old car…instead of the recycled DP you can throw away yesterday.
Here we are getting wet and wetter when Joey’s chair starts to short out. Oh my God! It’d work for a bit, then, short out again. Eventually, her chair stopped altogether. By this time, it was pouring. If her battery’d just died, I could’ve pushed her while she steered. That’s not the case when the motors seize. We were screwed.
Then, a group of guys stopped in their truck to see if they could help. The offered to take Joey out of her busted chair, load said chair in the bed of their truck, and drive her home. I’d walk home since I was already soaked, and my chair was fine otherwise. The thing was Joey wasn’t wearing a bra and her shirt was white. Damn the luck again! No wonder they helped her out. Seriously though, they took her and I made it home to meet them, and they helped us get her in the house with her chair, which took a week or so to dry out. From then on, we go out with a plastic bag to put over our controls for those "just if" moments.