The Lip In The Road

You’d think that now I’m rapidly approaching my 22nd birthday, I might be grown-up and mature enough not to overlook the important things in my life – especially not something as important as my wheelchair’s battery level. Sadly, though, it would appear that I still have much to learn, as that’s exactly what I did when going to and from work on Tuesday. The chair had supposedly been on continuous charge since the previous Thursday, when I’d last been out in it, so there was no reason for me to suspect that it would be anything other than full to the brim with power when I clambered aboard in the morning. That was, of course, until I turned it on…

The display told me that I only had five bars of power – two orange, and three red. That meant I had less than half a battery left, and I knew from previous experience that that was even less than it looked. Sure enough, as soon as I’d emerged from the garage and was halfway up the road, I was already down to two red bars – and they were flashing. Trouble seemed to be imminent, but I decided to continue on my way. I knew that the chair wasn’t designed to stop immediately when the last bar vanished, so I phoned Mum to update her, and then my workplace to let them know I would probably be late. The chair had never run flat in Winchester, with all its slopes and inclines, so what could possibly go wrong in the relatively flat Minehead?

The rest of the short journey to work passed at a range of speeds, since the chair tended to get faster and slower again at various points, usually depending on what the pavement was like. Going downhill, I found that gravity definitely helped – at one stage, an old lady with a walking stick moved over to let me past, and rather embarrassingly, I was as slow approaching her as she was approaching me! When I arrived at work, I reiterated my predicament to my colleagues, pulled up to my desk, and switched the chair off, knowing that it sometimes regained power when out of use for a while. Eventually, the time came to have lunch, and in hindsight maybe I should have stayed in the office to eat it, but I wanted some fresh air. Seeing that I had clawed back some additional power, I set off in the direction of the park.

As I had anticipated, I did lose much of that as I sped down the street, but I wasn’t going very far and there was only one road to cross. I’d do that, eat, get back and switch off again so that I would be fine to go home by myself. A foolproof and flawless plan, surely? Well, I was fully convinced that all would be well – until I’d finished my lunch and had to head back across that road again. By that point, the chair was covering most of my route at little more than a crawl – while it was just about still moving, there was no real power behind it. Imagine the true fear I felt, therefore, when I dismounted the kerb and the chair crept into the road at a snail’s pace, with a car approaching in the distance.

It stopped. I carried on, hoping that the camber at the side of the road would quickly flatten out so that I would speed up. Unfortunately, that took what seemed like an eternity, so opting to continue my day in one piece, I got back to the safety of the kerb, switched myself off once again and pondered my next move. I did try crossing at least twice more (with lengthy breaks in between each attempt), but I ultimately decided to give up altogether and send out an SOS. Another two phone calls to the office and Mum led to the latter coming to my rescue a few minutes later.

Once we were home, we set about trying to get to the bottom of the issue, which was still baffling me. I immediately plugged the chair back in upon parking in the garage and, as far as I was concerned, its display wasn’t lying – it was charging. So what was the problem? With some further exploration, Mum soon discovered that, in a nutshell, the charger wasn’t quite plugged in fully. Even though the readout was telling us what we wanted it to, the juice wasn’t going in as it should – so there you go. Everything that happened on that day came from one very small but crucial oversight. I’ll have to triple-check these things from now on, and I’ll make sure I push harder when I’m plugging in too!

Mason

 

A Very Merry Message

Ah, Easter. It’s an odd day. It’s the nether zone of annual celebrations. At Christmas you can open presents, tear apart crackers, fight for the cheap pocket mirror till your last dying breath and then bury the bodies of your tedious family. On Halloween you can watch the baying horde of children from the battlements of your own home. But Easter, it’s not really any different. Oh look, there’s an egg made out of chocolate. It seems weird to me.

But then, I’m not really religious. So how do I spend my Easters? Well, typically, inside, away from the languishing heat. But this year, I went outside. Let that sink in. I, whose skin is paler than the average can of bathroom caulk (it’s an odd simile, but it checks out), went outside. And, for the most part, I had fun.

I’ll be honest here, family are a mixed bag for me. Some of my relatives are decent, perhaps one or two pass the factory tests. But for the most part, they can be annoying. I guess that makes me the black sheep, but someone has to take the role. Either way, yesterday we all piled into my father’s Volkswagen and sped off to Stourhead. That’s not a type of bread. You’re thinking of sourdough. And for the quick among you, pointing fingers at the screen and saying, “No, actually, I thought of, curiously enough, Stourhead,” I have news. Well done, you outsmarted me. Some of you, on the other hand, may be going quite insane at the aforementioned word, so here’s a quick guide.

It’s a field, with some temples in it. It’s also got a lake, natural grotto, and an obelisk (that isn’t natural). And for a few months every year, it is a breeding ground for people. Peppered around the place like…I don’t know, pepper, they take the long, leisurely walks around the ancient estates. Breathing in the fresh country air, marvelling at the classical masonry, and chatting about how oddly warm it is this time of year, or something like that.

(That’s another thing. Is it just a generally accepted thing to simply notify everyone that “it’s warm,” when the temperature braves itself to go past the fifteen-degree mark? I think that’s a British thing. No, it most definitely is).

And it was a good day out, the best Easter I’ve had in ages. After our long walk like riders through the undergrowth, we stumbled back to the car – sweating and panting like the athletes we most definitely aren’t – and proceeded to the next place. Knowlton Rings. I’ll explain that one, too.

It’s a big field. With some ruins. And a ring. Though, to be fair, I do love a good ruin. And it most definitely wasn’t a bad one. However, given their inanimate nature and, thus, inability to have any kind of moral compass whatsoever, this may have been a given. We played football, we tired ourselves out, and we vowed never to go outside again.

And that was my Easter. We had some fun, although my eggs melted, my shirt was welded to my being and the milk went off in our absence. It’s been part-joy, part-nightmare. But at least we have some wholly good news. Like a prophet, I can proudly say that this is the 200th post of Third Time Enabled. This. This very one, right now. And for some reason beyond the boundaries of human comprehension, the blog’s owner and usual writer, Mason, has decided to give the honour of 200th post authorship to me. It’s basically insane but I’m privileged all the same. Regardless of what effect this blog has on anybody, it’s done something, and that’s all that matters. Maybe it changes lives, maybe it makes you think. Maybe it just entertains you. That’s fine, too. It all makes a difference – and this weird, wild, wonderful world that we’re bound to like spirits from the other side.

So, here’s to 200 more posts (God forbid, I may be called out of my reclusivity to do another one if that’s the case), and more good Easters to come. Be sensible, put on the TV, stay inside. Or take a nice, leisurely walk through the tranquil plains of Sourdough House and Gardens.

Wait no, hang on a minute…

Jacob

Five Flights Of Stairs

When the security guard told me I’d have no choice but to stay where I was last Monday night, I knew what ensued could be both interesting and amusing. The lift in Lara’s block of flats had broken, and because she lives at the very top of it, I was obviously unable to get to the ground floor in order to reach my own flat. I instantly considered myself lucky that I wasn’t stuck with a group of people I didn’t know so well, and even more luckily for me, Lara and her flatmates were all too happy to have me. Once security had confirmed that the lift would not be fixed until the morning at the earliest, I retreated back into the kitchen – where we all usually socialise – to hatch a plan, while Lara and Ben went to my flat with my ID card to collect some of my things. They swiftly returned with a change of clothes, the leads for my laptop and phone, and my pyjamas, among other things – and they were all in a bag Deacon had lent them, which I still need to give back! My orange manual wheelchair was also summoned, and it waited patiently in the corner of the room for its call to action. Lara then very kindly said I was welcome to sleep in her bed, and that she would take the floor (insisting that the cushions from the sofa in the kitchen can be very comfortable when laid out correctly). We therefore had the sleeping arrangements covered rather quickly, and showering was a doddle too, even in a shower not designed for a disabled person like my own. I just had to keep my balance on my knees as best I could, without a seat to use!

The real challenge came the next morning, after Lara and I had giggled our heads off in the middle of the night thinking of names for disability dating sites (don’t ask). I would have to get downstairs somehow in order to reach my 9am lecture, and we had initially agreed that I would be carried downstairs in my manual chair with everyone in the flat bearing some of the weight. When we got to the top of the long staircase, however, we discovered that a Plan B would be needed, and fast. Ben had been confident that he would be able to lift the front of the chair all on his own, but it transpired that he had severely underestimated its weight with me sitting in it, as he immediately hurt his back upon trying to lift it. I joked with him beforehand about the risk of injury to anyone who tried hauling me around, but I was not actually expecting it to happen – thankfully, after apologising profusely multiple times, I think the risk of a lawsuit has now subsided. With Ben out of action, I then tried crawling down the stairs myself so that I wouldn’t hurt any more of my friends, but these stairs had sharp metal edges that dug into my legs and impeded my progress. Our third attempt finally got us to the ground, and it was one that I took part in on my own two feet, with Lara and Ryan each supporting one arm as Nora carried my wheelchair down behind us. Fortunately for her, it was a whole lot lighter without a passenger, and her back would emerge from this unscathed.

Our little trip meant – as the title of this post suggests – that we had to traverse the entirety of A Block and descend five whole flights of stairs. The support I had was sturdy enough to mean that falling over wasn’t really a concern for me, but it was for the other two – since I, the only non-walker of the trio, was going quicker than they could! Lara feared that I might end up pulling her over, and Ryan was losing the circulation in his  arm holding mine, so we stopped and started again wherever we needed to. Eventually, after many a hop, skip and jump (since I couldn’t get an entirely firm foothold on any of the stairs), we got to the bottom and I was able to transfer to my chair, much to Lara and Ryan’s shared relief. Once Lara had gotten to grips with pushing me along on the slopes of the steepest city in Hampshire, it was a straightforward downhill run to the lecture theatre – but going back up was a different story. When it was time to do that, Lara had to bend over in order to push properly and avoid slipping, so her inability to stand up straight – and my considerable weight – caused her more than a little bit of discomfort. Before long, the lift had been fixed, so she didn’t have to endure this for very long, but after all of her help and kind hospitality, buying her mac and cheese for lunch was the very least I could do. I am tremendously grateful for the assistance that everyone in her flat gave during the ordeal – above all, I think it served as a strong reminder of the importance and value of friendship. I just hope the lift stays reliable for a while…

Mason

Minutiae

I often find that amusement and humour can be taken from some of the smallest things that life has to offer, such as the conversations we overhear or the quirks we find in the personalities of others. I look and listen out for these wherever I can, lest they provide my notebook with useful inspiration, but just every now and again something seems to fall directly into my lap, begging to be written about. Such a gift was presented to me yesterday afternoon, when I got home and read a text that had been accidentally sent to me earlier in the day:

“Hi Oli – sleepover numbers for 16th March. 56 children, 11 adults and 4 vegetarians. Thanks, Sharon”.

Once I’d opened this, I had three options. I could either ignore it, take advantage of the situation to pretend I was Oli and completely mess up Sharon’s plans (“the vegetarians have cancelled, sorry – meat only”), or politely respond that she’d simply sent it to the wrong number and leave it at that. Being the gentleman that I am, I went for the latter:

“I think you might have the wrong number 🙂 sorry! Mason”.

I saw the smiley face as an important inclusion. Without it, the text could have seemed snappy and rude, and I couldn’t have that. Since the original message had put a smile on my face – thanks to its random and unexpected nature – I had to convey as much in my response, and that was obviously the thing most likely to do the trick. Having released it to Sharon, I put my phone down, expecting the matter to go no further. Ten minutes later, however, she was back again, having also seen the funny side:

“Whoops! So you don’t fancy a sleepover with 56 kids and 4 vegetarians? LOL”.

I obviously knew that the offer wasn’t genuine, but I was relieved all the same. To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure how being surrounded by 56 overexcited kids – probably all bouncing off the walls with no intention of getting any sleep – could be at all appealing to the 11 adults who would be there. I certainly kept them in my thoughts, as they’d need all the willpower and luck they could get. All that was left was to respectfully and jokingly decline Sharon’s offer:

“I’m afraid not! Best of luck with it though :)”

That really was that. Part of me hoped we had started a chain of updates as the seemingly chaotic sleepover approached – events that would provide me with more potentially useful material – but it was not to be. This particular flame of conversation had burned all too brightly and all too briefly, but it had once again proved that life’s most enjoyable aspects don’t necessarily have to be the biggest ones. Thank you, Sharon, for showing me that and, in doing so, improving a stressful day to a small extent. What’s more, if you are due to be an adult volunteer on 16 March – tasked with the welfare of 56 kids – I hope reading this has made you feel a little less apprehensive ahead of the big day. Look on the bright side, you’re only going to be totally knackered for one day!

Mason