Friday, 23 November 2007

Where the wheelchairs go to die

You ever have one of those days? Yup, it’s been one of those. This afternoon in particular.

This morning was routine, Mrs S did her voluntary stuff and I pootled off to do my Red Cross duty, little knowing what the afternoon held for me. I rolled up at my appointed time, ready to go and do my bit, only to find at first that there was not a bit to do. I ended up stripping down two definitely defunct wheelchairs for spares, mostly bolts and wheels. With a few of the bits we salvaged a third and I thought that it was going to be a slow afternoon. The rest was stripped and separated for recycling. This, I mused as I dismantled it, is where wheelchairs go to die.

Half an hour later, my oppo meanders by.
“Fancy a run out Bill?”
“Yeah, sounds like a good idea. Ready when you are.”

Forty five minutes later we’re at the house of a client, fitting some aids for the disabled, having negotiated a forty plus degree slope to get down to the property, itself perched on top of a steep drop but with views to, if not die for, then seriously inconvenience yourself for.

However, there are times when things conspire against you, and this was one of them.
“Er, I think we’ve got a bit of a problem.”
“What’s up Bill?”
“Take a look.” The bolts I had been tasked with undoing were corroded to almost a formless reddish brown lump.
“That doesn’t look so good.”

For twenty minutes we manfully struggled with two rusted bolts until the Householder offered to drill them out. “Yeah, great. A quarter inch drill would do it.” I responded.
Five minutes later the Householder had appeared with an air drill and thirty feet of airhose. With a few deft actions and a lot of the characteristic loud wheeerk and whooork! Noises that air tools are in the habit of making, the offending lumps of rust were removed, much to everyone’s relief, without harming the rest of the decor.

The next hurdle was finding that half of one kit we had been issued to fit with was defective. Mine host sprang to the rescue again, and I followed him down to his basement to find a full mini engineering workshop. A full air tool set up including a serious compressor, pillar drill, small vertical miller, TIG welder and a lathe. Not to mention a crane track built into the ceiling. I was quite taken aback, and quietly impressed by the range of kit the Householder had at his disposal.

“You got quite a place down here.” My oppo commented, obviously impressed as I was, watching the Householder take a mini grinder to an aluminium component we couldn’t have otherwise fitted.

Half an hour later we were all finished and ready to head on back to the barn, having taken almost two hours over what was normally a twenty five minute job. Next task was to actually get back onto the road. This too was not without difficulty.
“Looks like you guys are going to have to reverse out.” Commented the householder, indicating fifty or more metres of steep drive.
“We’ll try turning around.” My oppo volunteered.
“Want me to wave you out?” I asked
“Yeah, we’ll give it a try.”

For the next ten minutes we fussed and went one lock to the next trying to reverse turn in the restricted area of the Householders clifftop retreat. Had the area at the bottom of the slope been level we might have made it, but as this was not so, and our truck was a rear wheel drive without a decent differential, we started to leave more rubber on the ground than was helpful. “No good Bill, we’re going to have to reverse up.” My oppo and I decided to try things the hard way. Him driving, me guiding.

Ever tried to reverse a Dodge Sprinter Van up a steep slope? It doesn’t like it very much, especially when the slope has several nastily little ridges and gullies that interfere with your vehicles imperfect traction. Even with both myself and the Householder pushing with all our might, the Van left long skidmarks most of the fifty metres back up to a less insanely steep road. At one point I was ready to jump clear when the van completely lost traction for half a second and jerked forwards. We just redoubled our efforts, and ten minutes later the van was back on the road above with it’s tyre tread thickness significantly reduced. My oppo checked his mobile phone to see if our Manager was wondering where we were.
“Any missed calls?” I asked, having got my breath back, although my throat felt raw and my shoulders ached more than a little.
“No.” He said, surprise evident in his voice. “I’d have thought they’d be wondering what was taking us so long.”
“I just feel like someone’s been sticking Kryptonite in my cornflakes.” I responded, glad that I could now take it easy on the way back to base.

On the way back, we saw the moon appearing through clearing clouds and an old Vachel Lindsay poem drifted into my head;

The moon? It is a griffin's egg,
Hatching to-morrow night.
And how the little boys will watch
With shouting and delight
To see him break the shell and stretch
And creep across the sky.
The boys will laugh. The little girls,
I fear, may hide and cry.
Yet gentle will the griffin be,
Most decorous and fat,
And walk up to the milky way
And lap it like a cat.

Tonight it is a real Hunters moon, fat and bright. I may not sleep very well. I never do at full moons. Shaving becomes a bit of a chore as well.

1 comment:

Shades said...

I was impressed back in the 80s that I could go into a Canadian Simpsons-Sears Department Store and buy a Lathe.

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