Monday, 30 May 2016

Taxi Travails

Disability has a myriad of lessons to teach us impatient types, most of which were totally unimaginable in those halcyon days when freedom of movement was a normality.   who could ever imagine that something as mundane as hopping onto a bus could become as appealing, and unattainable, as a five star world cruise.   i wonder if knowing we faced a housebound future would have made us more accommodating to those for whom it was already a reality. it seems to be an aspect of humanity that we don't grasp the value of something until it's no longer ours for the taking.   

A dentist visit brought home to me the precarity of having to rely on others in order to access life's necessities.  it was flu season and poor, stressed Jim The Dentist had staff members off sick so was running an hour late.  no problem, i was armed with The Guardian and the waiting room was snug and comfy.   a simple phone call to rearrange taxi to take me home and all should have been well.... HA  !!!....  

"Could i change my taxi to 3 p.m. please?"

"No.... it's the school run so we'll have no cars"

"OK what time could i have one please?"

"You can't.   no cars till after rush hour, about 7 p.m."

"Ummm i'm at the dentist, they close at 6"

"Not my problem love.... do you want one at 7?"

My little market town home has six taxi firms, i phoned them one after the other and eventually the last on the list was able to send a car for 5.30 so i settled down to read paper and crave coffee.

5.30 came.... and went

5.40 came.... and went, along with the last patient.

5.50 came.... and went, the receptionists starting turning computers off.

5.55 came.... and went, the receptionists started putting coats on.

5.58 came.... the taxi firm, when contacted, had no record of my booking and no cars till 8 p.m.... PANIC !!!  there's a very good reason dental receptionists have a reputation for being dragons, boy oh boy did she breath fire down that phone !!!  a supposedly non-existent car was miraculously dispatched on the wings of the storm arriving moments later, a tyred Valkyrie tearing up the tarmac.

The scariest part of the adventure was the utter helplessness. if the taxi company had insisted they had no car, there would have been no car, and no magic wand or fairy godmother could have summoned up a coachly pumpkin to take Cinderjeni home.  

It's 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act came into being yet, until this month, taxi drivers could refuse to pick up wheelchair users or they could charge extra for taking the chair. finally, thankfully, this is an inequality that has  been addressed....  or has it ?

That desperate dentist day isn't the only time taxis have failed to materialise and, suspiciously, every time it's happened i've been accompanied by my trusty, pink, boa festooned chariot.     the law may state illegality if a legless lady is refused a ride but how to prove it wasn't purely a case of forgetfulness  or poor record keeping?   non disclosure isn't an option as i discovered when a car with a  small back seat and the boot full of the driver's weight lifting equipment turned up, the only place for the chair would have been on the luggage rack.

The ultimate answer, of course, is to live long enough for driverless cars to be the norm.   a car can't discriminate or be impatient when it's passenger moves at the pace of a geriatric tortoise.   it is totally democratic and nonjudgmental.    it might even remember to turn up.   

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Like Father Like Son

I imagine we've all fallen back on those old tropes when seeing a newborn.... "she looks just like her mum.... he has your family's nose.... oh my goodness doesn't he look like his great uncle Bert's second nephew on your mother's side,"  when in truth the swaddled, snuggled creature you are beholding more closely resembles the solitary, wrinkly grape that always seems to be cowering in the bottom of any fruit bowl in its attempt to evade the hordes of ravening vampire satsumas lusting after its juice.  

Years later when the grape has grown into an equally unappealing adolescent sultana we regurgitate  yet more aphorisms and declaim "that lass of yours she's a chip off the old block.... like father like son,"   especially when addressing unwelcome behaviour, as if all undesirable traits must be the fault of at least one parent rather than the inevitable outcome of being human.

Of course these sayings are passed down the generations because they hold a germ of truth.   we are a genetic mish-mash of our antecedents, their strengths, their weaknesses, their ailments, all swilling around the building blocks of our DNA ready to make a break for freedom and alter the course of our lives in a heartbeat.  many of the illnesses and disabilities that afflict mankind can be traced back along this long line of glitchy genes to our forefathers and foremothers.

When youth was on my side, friends would gather to contemplate the vagaries of life.  during  late night/early morning rambling debates we would question which of our many abilities it would be the most devastating to lose. sight seemed to top the list and knowing glaucoma has trickled down the branches of my family tree i always assumed loss of  vision would be one of the first fatalities age would throw my way.   how wrong can a girl be?   the eyes are fine but the brain has decided to steal my words.   

For many years i have made a joke of my lost mobility by laughingly exclaiming "the only parts of me that work are my mouth and my brain", lately though they too have openly rebelled and instigated industrial action, pending all out strike.   what's most infuriating is that the words are intact INSIDE my mind,  they come to fruition through my fingertips on a keyboard without difficulty, but when they are ready to be spoken, at the in-drawing of breath.... they get stuck !!!   the ability to maintain a reasoned argument has stuttered to a stop, the witty retort to criticism has turned into wordless gaping worthy of a goldfish, quick off the mark speech has stalled in a traffic-jam sequence of red lights. everyday chatting is fine but when a cogent line of thought comes into play communication leaves for the playground.

My parents and grandparents stayed fluent in grand old age so i can't lay the blame at their feet.  it could be the absence of young people in my universe since moving to supported housing.   it could simply be a tired brain.   whatever the cause may i apologise in advance if in the midst of discussion a vacant stare overcomes me.   it's not the fairies come to take me away or terminal boredom with your company, it's more likely that synapses are firing in overdrive, snapping at the heels of stray vowels and consonants, herding them back into line before i completely lose track of ....   ummm what was i saying ???