Still Mary

“There is someone behind you,” Jane says in the crush of the Deck 7 buffet. Wives – and I have had three –have a way of saying such things. It frequently rubs me the wrong psychological way, this sort of observation. I can’t remember what I was doing at the time in the buffet. Most likely, stopped to grab a piece of bread or something. It doesn’t matter. Fact is, being in a totally altered setting highlights of my situation. I stop frequently, much like the sign on the mailman’s van. I block people. And as far as I’m concerned, they can wait. Which isn’t entirely true. No matter how many decades into this, I still don’t like my unusual circumstance. I am aware of sticking out. And with a change to a new total environment…there’s a fresh awareness of just how disabled I am.

And in terms of disability, aboard the ship I am hardly alone. Just this morning, waiting for a lecture to start, I talked to another woman in a wheelchair. We compared notes on practicalities. I gleaned some useful information. The Queen Victoria, Cunard’s next-size-smaller ship, Has push button door openers. It also has fewer elevators, making for long waits. There you have it, wheelchair-wise. I also learned that you can rent a wheelchair at Southampton, take it on a ship for a week or two…and not worry about a thing except, presumably, the bill.

And this very afternoon, while considering whether to take the one-meter solo walk across my corridor, damned if you young woman in a wheelchair didn’t burst forth from the adjacent room. She even had a minder, this one, urging “schnell.” And this young woman, may or may not have been young, or even a woman. She had such a large facemask, Presumably needing such a large amount of oxygen, one couldn’t tell. She was tilted well back in her chair. She was quite massively disabled with something or other. I am not alone.

As I say, I was considering this very brief walk. With Jane gone, to exercise alone, the best option is to park my wheelchair in the stateroom doorway, across the hall and grab the handrail on the other side. I did not quite have the nerve. The ship is in calm seas. But I am not a calm person, not calm enough to make my way on a very slightly shifting surface, alone. So I did that other thing, the hallway-blocking thing, and parked in the heavily trafficked corridor. Here it was easier, not to mention safer, to get to my feet and grab the rail. Cunard doesn’t want you to do this. I don’t want other people to do it, either. On past voyages, it has been a common practice for various passengers to park their disability scooters out in the hall…making it difficult to squeeze by in my chair. I get it. Still, I decided to do it. Blocking traffic. Being an obstacle. It seemed a necessary next step.

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