Fool on the Hill

Thing about travel…there’s the baggage you check with British Airways. And there’s the other kind. Of course, the other kind is much more interesting. Not to mention weightless, not subject to any limit and quite immune to Her Majesty’s Customs. Strictly in the Nothing To Declare channel.

Still, I can declare that the closer I got to home the more this psychological baggage manifested. Until this morning around 7 AM I attempted to drag my jet-light body out of bed…and found it didn’t work. Not the body. The bed. At home, I have one of those hospital-type beds that electrically crank up and down. This one wasn’t doing any cranking. I asked Jane to give the control a go. She encountered the same problem. Nothing was happening. The bed was broken.

And this is where the baggage appears. Unclaimed, but never mind. You won’t claim this baggage. It will claim you.

Was the bed broken? Or had I just nudged the rolling bedside table against the bed’s power cord? What do you think?

Needless to say, once the bed was plugged in, everything worked just fine.

Yes, this belongs to travel’s inner journey. Are things really going to fail? Am I suddenly going to lose the ability to get out of the Paddington Hilton’s bed? And coming home from San Francisco Airport…am I going to make it?

This particular drama emanates from my refusal to predict the obvious course of things and replace my aging wheelchair batteries. It is entirely possible to avoid this reality, because I have a new wheelchair on the way. But the new wheelchair belongs to the future. It arrives sometime this month. Meanwhile, there is the present. And the present involved rolling aboard a mammoth Airbus 380 (the world’s biggest airliner) just yesterday afternoon…and  while appreciating the general spaciousness and passenger storage space…being informed that it was time to roll off. Engine trouble.

The six hour delay extended the overall journey by about 50%. And naturally, the universe’s laws being what they are, had us arriving perilously close to the midnight shutdown of the regional subway system, BART. The tension level was rising as we proceeded through Immigration to baggage claim. No one knew where my wheelchair was. Presumably it was in the hold along with the luggage of 500 passengers. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the customs hall…until it was. And better yet, still working.

Jane jumped in a cab with all luggage, and I headed for BART. Which was still running…but my wheelchair wasn’t. Well just barely. The battery indicator was flashing red. Why? Who knows? It is entirely possible that one of British Airways finest had left it on…in the hold for 18 hours. Quietly draining its batteries. But I prefer to focus on the baggage. What was I doing? Why didn’t I get new batteries before the trip? And was I going to make it?

Being the Fool On The Hill isn’t particularly lyric when you’re trying to get yourself up its slopes at midnight…local time…while your body knows it’s 8 AM a.m. in London. That’s the problem with hills, isn’t it? They require power, whether it’s your car’s engine or your wheelchair’s battery. There I was, battery indicator flashing red, Jane texting me moment by moment. Fortunately, she had the bags. I wasn’t trying to carry luggage on my lap. A good thing. And the miraculous thing to find myself outside our front door. Then inside. Home again. Baggage and all.

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