Wheely Horrible

When my wonderful wheel wouldn’t went it was wheely horrible.  Wheely, wheely horrible.

My new SmartDrive power assist wheel was still every bit as fabulous and thrilling as it was when it arrived three weeks ago, right up until the moment I left the wristband controller on while getting into our pool. After that, it wasn’t very fabulous at all. The drive unit is water-resistant, drives in rain and through puddles; but the controller … not.

We disconnected the battery; laid it in the sun; put it in a bag of rice; but all the tricks were to no avail. A day later it was all but dead: emitting a feeble, sickly green glow in place of the strikingly bright blue and red LEDs it ordinarily displays. And controlling nothing.

I rang the supplier on Monday morning and discovered they were to close within the hour until the New Year, but thankfully they were able to quickly get a replacement in the mail. When I saw how many hundreds of dollars were involved in that very brief swim, I was also thankful that I had previously discussed wheelchairs with our home insurer.

It was all wheely, wheely horrible, but, I am ashamed to admit, I was wheely horrible too.

I hate, absolutely hate, being pushed in a wheelchair. It is nothing more than pride I’m sure, but gosh, do I hate it! And being without my wonderful wheel meant … can you guess? … being pushed now and then. Later the same day my kind and devoted Favourite Wife wanted to push me from the vehicle up the closest ramp onto the footpath in town. Instead I immediately took off in a huff in completely the opposite direction, in public, with many witnesses, and with a prodigious display of offended, impatient grumpiness. I must now confess that I had no idea where a ramp was to be found in this alternate direction, but I ploughed on over some tree roots and gravel and forced my way up a vaguely sloped section of gutter  with much grunting and puffing. It was a mantrum, a terrible display of infantile behaviour, all because I wouldn’t be pushed. I was wheely horrible to my Favourite Wife. I once saw an elderly man who was using a pair of crutches in a Melbourne concert hall do something very similar, and I was astounded by the rudeness he showed his partner in public!

But I understand a little more these days. I went in one splash from delightfully mobile with my miracle wheel to comparative immobility. I’m amazed at how integral that little wheel has become in just a few weeks, and how debilitating it was to suddenly loose it. Little things added up constantly: not being able to duck back down the hall for some small thing I forgot. Not being able to carry a cup or plate in one hand while rolling from one room to another. Not being able to balance a tray of freshly prepared afternoon tea on my knees to take outside for my Favourite Wife. Not being able to scoot along the front path to check a watering hose. Not being able to join the family inside the shopping mall. Not being able to manage the gradient of the church car park without help. I could go on, and on, and on.  Technology is so wonderful, and loosing it is painful beyond imagination! I can honestly say those few days were the lowest point of 2015, and the point at which I felt most profoundly disabled. It’s a bad feeling.

I had hoped that on reaching the end of this essay I would have discovered something philosophical to share about the link between technology and the human spirit, but I haven’t.  Except to say: it’s great when it works.

And it’s great how consistently it works too: wonderful, liberating, reliable technology.

It was GREAT when the new wristband arrived, just 3 days and 19 hours after the dunk.




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