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

 

Tech a Step Forward

The poetry project is coming along well, even if I do have the occasional crisis of faith in regards to their quality. The student bank account is officially open and all related numbers are in the process of being crunched. As I sit here writing this, I am simultaneously badgering Mum about the university “big shop” and when we’ll actually be going to do it – by next Christmas, I might have a definitive answer. The final preparations are therefore all progressing nicely, and one in particular has got me very excited, as last week – after a great deal of insistence from my family – I finally became a smartphone owner, acquiring a shiny new iPhone SE.

My previous phone, a white HTC Wildfire S, had served me well for almost seven years before its demise on the bathroom floor a couple of months ago. I had seen no point in changing my phone at all, hence why it lasted so long, but towards the end of its tenure the HTC was becoming increasingly tired and obsolete. Yes, it still called and texted as I wanted it to, but its limited memory meant that there was very little room for apps – indeed, the app store I originally got them from had been upgraded and no longer opened – and those I did have were of poor quality or did not work properly. I couldn’t see or use emojis in texts, weather updates were non-existent and on the outside, the phone appeared dirty and battle-worn. The time for change had finally come, so I was somewhat glad when the HTC was pronounced well and truly dead. It may have been considered smart in 2011, but it had been left far behind by its rivals in 2018. I now had to decide on a replacement – and in the meantime, Tesco would provide a temporary substitute.

This came in the form of a MobiWire (no, me neither), which – until Friday – I had been using since around mid-June. It was about as basic as phones get, and actually had buttons on it, but it would have to do for the time being. I had certainly forgotten how long it used to take to send texts before the advent of the smartphone – it may have been what you might call a “first world problem”, but having to select each individual letter from groups of three or four very quickly started to drive me round the bend. This annoyance was thankfully ended when I settled on the iPhone and the perfect contract deal that came with it. It was swiftly delivered the next day, and I gratefully extracted it from its box to set it up. Once this had been done, I thought about what I needed from it, keeping my Winchester future firmly in mind. My old phone number and contacts were all immediately swapped over, before my focus turned to the vast array of apps potentially at my disposal.

Excluding a couple of games, as well as Facebook and Twitter, I only have things that are relevant to university installed at the moment. There are two mobile banking apps, the recording software I will use in my lectures, a social network allowing me to connect with other students, a portal to various student discounts, and an app from my mobile network that will provide me with relevant updates. I think you’ll agree that as statements of intent, these initial additions are very mature – although I’m sure I’ll be seduced by the lure of mobile gaming at some point! I haven’t forgotten WordPress, in case you were wondering, since that has pride of place on my home screen too. University work may prove itself to be intense at times, but as long as I keep on top of things, nothing will get in the way of Third Time Enabled. You’ll be with me every step of the way!

Mason

 

Wrong Number Stories

My line of work, like many people’s, involves answering the telephone on an hourly basis. As I’ve explained before, this is something fairly nerve-wracking for me, but there’s also a substantial amount of curiosity to be found in the task. Recently, at one of my two workplaces, we’ve been receiving a steady and noticeable stream of wrong number calls from various people. When you answer the phone to them, some pre-empt what you are going to say, admit their mistake and immediately hang up on you. Others are ensnared in a moment of confusion; I will open with my usual professional greeting, and they will question why they aren’t speaking to their mate Derek before the penny quickly drops and they leave me be. In my particular experience, there have even been elderly people who – mistaking my workplace for the local hospital – have proceeded to describe gruesome ailments in considerable detail before my awkward admission that I am not medically qualified to deal with their complaint. They can put you off your lunch at times, as it happens.

Whatever their reasons for calling (albeit unintentionally), these people do all have one thing in common, at least in my view. Because they’re totally anonymous – the calls generally don’t last long enough for me to establish their identities – I always do wonder who they are, and what their stories are. Why might a phone call to the aforementioned Derek be so important? Was it intended as a simple catch-up between friends, or was he being sought out as part of the resolution to a life or death situation? When I am mistakenly contacted by confused hospital-goers, how worried are they about the problems they face? Are they looking for an answer to a simple question, or are they frantically searching for a second opinion on something that could potentially change life forever? All I can do is ponder, as any writer might. Whatever the truth may be, that’s what this is good for – imagination and inspiration. As annoying, inconvenient and brief as some wrong number calls may be, they do make me think – so maybe the people on the end, whom I generally speak to for no more than a split second each time, do have a much bigger impact on my day than I could ever have anticipated.

Mason