How do you know when you are really home? When small things you take for granted go terribly wrong. Oh, let us not exaggerate. Not ‘terribly’ as much as unexpectedly. In truth while on the road, home can start looking good. After all in San Francisco, I have a shower that seems less likely to break my osteoporotic hip than those in most hotels. I have a bed that, much of the time, frees me from its nocturnal grip with a predictable amount of neuromuscular effort. Not to mention ramps to take me up and down to my garden. And a few other cushy quadriplegic amenities.

One of these is my van, of course. And, gentle reader, you may have detected a love/hate relationship with this vehicle. Never mind. For on this particular Tuesday morning we are grateful. Nothing like a week away from ones creature comforts to appreciate comforts in general, creaturehood in particular. So, I am back, morning helper Dennis has removed the driver’s seat which Jane has used for the duration of our coastal holiday…and replaced it with the blank space that accommodates my wheelchair. And there is a wonderful change to that space, made shortly before my departure for holiday points south. The handy little well that is supposed to hold my quadriplegic heel in place has been beefed up. It’s not so little, this heel well. So let us feel well about the heel well. Let us feel well about the Dodge Caravan. Even driving the Dodge Caravan. We have been away, after all. The anxieties that plagued us before need not bother us now. They have flown like the seabirds at Avila Beach, our last stop northbound.

And so being that this is the day that the San Francisco Public Works Department sends its street cleaners up and down our hill, obliging me to move my van, well, what the hell. I settle into place, start the engine and drive off to Noe Valley, 1.5 miles distant, with nothing but good spirits and bonhomie. We have had an anxiety reset. It is the dawn of all dawns, the Tuesday of all Tuesdays. I pull away minutes before the city’s parking predators swoop down. I am off and rolling. I do acknowledge that the drive was a somewhat hollow affair. More an excuse to move the car…and go for a reduced-anxiety test drive.

After all, the drive is such a modest one, considering the 700-800 miles we put it on the van last week up and down California’s coast. Just a nip over one of the spines of San Francisco’s Twin Peaks. No big deal. Until I make the homeward 1.5 mile journey. At which point all automotive hell breaks loose. By which I mean that the car begins screaming, specifically its super-power-assist thingy sets off an alarm. Part of my disabled driving gear is this extra power steering pump that makes it easier to turn the wheel. Actually, I can handle normal power steering. But, truth to tell, I suppose this makes it easier. But not when it’s buzzing and screaming at me. As it is now. What is it trying to tell me? I don’t know, and when I call the manufacturers in New Jersey, they don’t know either. Which is, simply put, because they aren’t there. It’s too late in the day. Call back in the morning, someone says.

At least I am home now, even if the banshee sound of my power steering alarm is still ringing in my ears. Time to venture downhill to get my hair cut by Lisa. Better hurry. I back into the elevator, planning to drop off a few things in the kitchen upstairs. But the bag hanging off my wheelchair armrest proves to be a bit too wide. In fact, it is ripped from the armrest and sits on the floor. That is to say, right in the path of the elevator’s accordion door. Which doesn’t quite close. Which means the elevator doesn’t quite operate, doesn’t it? But as my wife reminds me, the world has the capacity for healing. Which incredibly happens now. I remotely send the elevator up and down its shaft. And rejoice that I am not shafted. A little late for my haircut, but who isn’t?

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