Yes, last night was very different from all other nights. Only not, on account of I have been going to Seders at the home of my cousins, Gregg and Ruth, for a good 30 years. And they have been good. I am mostly good myself, only a bit less now owing to the mortal gear shifting currently underway, vis-à-vis independence. Still, last night was a help in many ways. Largely because, as they say, the journey was more important than the destination. Or at least as important.
Good Friday. What’s good about it, I grumble, as my watch nears 4 PM. With Jane tied up with her own religious observance, on this particular evening I am on my own. Meaning, we are not driving to Oakland together. Jane will be Sederless. And I will be meeting Gregg-Ruth’s daughter Valerie at a nearby subway station. Which must sound routine enough, but of course isn’t. To be plain, no one ‘meets’ me anywhere with a car. My massive, lead-battery-laden wheelchair requires a special, i.e., very special…not to mention special-needs…van. And who has one of those?
But there is an almost workable alternative. I have an old and rather feeble folding electric wheelchair. The thing folds the way a business folds. Or a play folds on Broadway. I mean, all the essential bits come off, and the wheelchair chassis narrows in the more or less traditional way. Leaving what is still a good 35 kg of unwieldy steel. Which, according to plan, was to fit in the back of Valerie’s car.
And there are no surprises to the story. Everything went according to plan. It’s just that with this wheelchair the best laid plans…can get waylaid. Yes, I have set off in this wheelchair, and I can’t even remember where, only to find that one of the plugs that connects the battery to the motor, designed for easy assembly or disassembly, has come off. Yes, the chair had begun to disassemble itself. Leaving us both powerless. Some enterprising person helped plug the thing in. But you get the idea. It’s not a terribly robust bit of equipment.
Nor is BART, our regional subway system. I’m not speaking so much of its mechanical state, although that is nothing to brag about. But the sociological fact of urban masses on urban mass transit. I feel a bit vulnerable riding the trains, particularly late at night. Furthermore, I knew that the folding wheelchair I adopted for the evening was singularly un-maneuverable. Oh, this is hard to explain. Outwardly, all the essentials are there. Wheels, a seat, a joystick. But there’s little joy in the joystick. The wheelchair I use routinely can actually turn 360° like a carousel. The folding one requires a very wide arc, the driver heading over there while gradually turning to one side of over there.
And Gentle Reader, these days my general vulnerability has never felt more tangible. Would the chair unplug itself? Would I be able to turn and successfully maneuver through the commuter crowds when I got to my Oakland stop?
As it turns out, the universe had other obstacles in mind. The portable wheelchair had been parked in the garage, and my thought was to park one chair near the other, stand, pivot and drop, neatly transferring. All of which worked out just fine, but one wheelchair then blocked the other. I had slightly anticipated this, but not enough. Jane’s bicycle, also parked in the same garage contributed another set of obstructive wheels. I spent about half an hour maneuvering one chair this way, one the other way. In fact Jane’s last-minute appearance in between pre-Easter services all but saved me. I was rather late at the Oakland end.
All else went according to plan. The portable chair is terribly uncomfortable. But missing Seder would be more uncomfortable. And, yes, I can still stand up, turn and drop onto someone’s car seat. But it takes an unusually high level of alertness. Not to mention clarity of communication. Hold me here, let go there, get that out of the way, etc. The whole experience might be termed marginal. But that seems to sum up my current life and times. Marginal, but enough.