He who hesitates…. Well, there are various ways to look at ‘lost.’ Let’s start with the most recent.
Wheelchairs and construction sites generally don’t mesh. An electric vehicle with the mechanical properties of a forklift…made for a world of paved and flat surfaces…does not fare well rumbling over a semi-discarded world of pipes, boards and tiles. That’s what one sees inside the opening – let us not call it a door – to the bomb site that promises to be our home. Still, I am a regular caller at this hillside property, rumbling in wheelchair and all for meetings with the team. Of which the captain is impossible to identify. The architect? Contractor? Doubtless someone is in charge. It’s definitely not me.
No, my job is to rattle my way across a temporary bridge over very troubled construction waters, vis-à-vis, plywood. The latter laid out in shifting sheets, creates a certain path into the…let us not overstate this either…interior. Which is actually the less exterior. For with the addition of a roof, the whole thing can be said to be enclosed. Protection from the elements, true protection, is another matter. In any case, I regularly make my way up the tilted boards for meetings that generally confound. Going down, I always ask someone, generally a sympathetic architect, to hold the back of my wheelchair. It’s that steep.
As for he who hesitates…that would be me. I hesitate to depart these meetings too early, just because I tend to skedaddle out of the neighborhood via the local BART (subway) station. The latter serves two functions, one of them bodily. Naturally, there’s no place in the construction zone to pee. Unless you’re a construction worker and can easily handle the porta potty in front. I can do so but not easily. This fiberglass toilet was not designed for wheelchair use. BART was, or was redesigned, along these lines, so that’s where I headed at the close of yesterday’s meeting. Not rushing, of course, for there were electrical outlets to be specified, tiles to be discussed and, let us not gloss over this, experiences to relish.
I once made it upstairs while purchasing the property. Yes, it was quite a neuromuscular event, wife and realtor both helping me up the flight of stone steps from the street. But that was then, more than a year and a half ago. Now, with construction moving apace, I had a second look. This time via my very own elevator, ascending swiftly and quietly. Even descending. And atop, there it was, an old house refashioned into an old house with wheelchair access. Yes, the architects had moved walls to move the wheelchair more readily down the hall. They also re-created the original look of the hall, its ceiling curving exactly as it had before. And the sunny south-facing end of the place…where kitchen, deck and dining room converge…well, there it was, all bright and crisp as a living map. That blue thing out there, I knew what that was, a water tower or something in McLaren Park. As for McLaren Park, I don’t know it, except that the place has, for decades, offered a popular venue for gang fights. Maybe not much longer, if at all. With the likes of me gentrifying one neighborhood after the next, crime doesn’t have a chance…except for the increasingly popular white-collar variety. Where was I?
Hesitating. A bad plan, as I say. Anyway, meeting over, I bounced down the Glen Park hill to the station, joined the queue at the toilet…everyone delayed by a mystery person doing mystery things behind the door. I missed my train. Which wouldn’t have been disastrous if some constituent hadn’t felt obliged to throw himself on the tracks many miles south in Mountain View. Throwing all of Caltrain into a familiar rush hour convulsion. Never mind the details. I only got home an hour late.
And a pound short, as they say? They say a lot of things. Anyone who remodels a house in San Francisco is many pounds short. So don’t worry about it. In fact, get up the next day and hit the quadriplegic road. The drive up Interstate 280 to San Francisco was remarkably calm. With Jane talking about important things…like dealing with dying parishioners…I drove with a pleasant sense of things in perspective. I even parked, on my own, that is to say, parallel parked, and on a slight slope. We even found our way to a tile shop in San Francisco’s Bayview District, a neighborhood best known for gun violence, but actually just a neighborhood with houses and old commercial warehouses. A good place to store and sell tile. With rush hour starting, and traffic parameters tightening, I did a bit of tightening myself. The drive home was tense. I kept asking Jane where my foot was. I’m glad I didn’t hesitate to ask.