Summer 2011 #3
It’s a startling sight, vehicles rushing past vertically instead of horizontally, water spraying from car wheels in incongruous directions; all viewed from an alien location three inches above the bitumen. A startling sight to match the startling realization that Bugger can, after all, turn turtle. My power chair routinely leans back at the most alarming angle on ramps, causing bystanders to grab at the rear handles with a gratuitous expletive, thinking they might somehow save us. I barely notice this alarming tendency nowadays, but I well recall the gut-curling, breath-sucking fear I felt in our early days together, especially when negotiating those troublesome ramps from roadway to footpath. The feeling that we were about to tip was appalling! Having traversed innumerable slopes since then I had developed what now seems a somewhat insane conviction that it was physically impossible to flip my Marque.
I do love the ride! After five months power-chairing with B4 I still relish a long foray into unfamiliar terrain. Today, however, it’s getting tricky. I am climbing a precipitous incline, gradually ascending the plateaux behind the strip of golden Sydney beaches where we have been holidaying. These footpaths are certainly not ‘accessible’, and I’ve had to retrace my tracks to find an alternate route half a dozen times already. I am encountering impassable obstacles, dead ends and impossible gradients on this narrow, windy road; and there is an unpredictable rush of traffic around its many blind bends. Heavy rain began falling about ten minutes ago, requiring a ninja-like flourish of the umbrella permanently sheathed behind my seat. On a corner just a block from my destination the road is intersected by an even steeper incline. The footpath ends with one of the dreaded ramps, awkwardly slanting to accommodate the new grade. The pitch is too much … I am pushing right and up on the joystick … adjusting the speed setting to balance power and control … B4 fights valiantly … I can feel the wheels beginning to slip on the wet concrete of the gutter … this incline does not feel good … oh no …
And a startling view of cars flying horizontally past us.
A firm harness that I designed a few weeks ago to lessen wobble-fatigue probably saved me from injury; but it also trapped me firmly to the asphalt. With rain streaming into my clothing everywhere it shouldn’t, I had the oddest thought: Will this play out like those appalling news items we see occasionally from the cities of the civilised world where no one stops to help a fallen human being? No, this is Sydney, and the Aussie spirit is alive and well! In no time a car and then a motorcycle rider stop, and soon enough these genuine blokes have done the de-turtling and B4 is back on six wheels. Initially she won’t budge, warning lights are flashing in the controls. But then we are off; with shelter and warmth only minutes away. Tomorrow morning our little grandsons will arrive and our family will be gathering. And I’ve made it. Phew!
It was a near miss, no doubt! There must be any number of ways that the episode could have been worse, if not dire. B4 has no more than a gash in her Tasmanian Oak arm rest; and I have little more than a grazed and stiff arm. And like every close shave, it makes a cool story! One to tell your mates, something to write home about … something to blog! I wonder, why is it so much fun to boast about the moments when we narrowly elude catastrophe? Why do men (and women?) bear scars with such pride; and so readily hold forth on the minutiae of their battle wounds?
A great deal of life consists in pitting ourselves against the odds; and I wonder why? The easy days, the golden days, seem rare enough; and they are hard-won. If it’s not a struggle with finance it’s strife with illness. If it’s not the quirks of technology that conspire our ruin it might be the forces of nature instead. Conflict, contest, competition: our existence always seems to be a battle, one way and another. Great art is most often the story of the Great Struggle. A plethora of axioms and clichés was tersely summarised by one of our Prime Ministers: “Life wasn’t meant to be easy”. As I write Queensland is in its third week of extreme flooding, lives have been taken, many are missing, and tens of thousands have lost their homes. We reserve our most visceral admiration not for the skilled, but for the hero.
Death and Resurrection play out in the petty and in the grand schemes of our lives in wondrous ways. I’m not sure I understand it; but I do love the ride!