The Van Man Cometh

For years I have worked, that is to say volunteered, with a local civic organization. Our leader – let us call her Christine – has always been volatile. On the other hand, she has accomplished a fair amount, has my general support. And, this is the other thing, I am used to her. We have been colleagues for many years, our shoulders to the same wheel, our eyes on the same results. And yet she occasionally goes off the rails. Such as just the other night when she began, well, railing. The group had let her down, we were all such a disappointment, and so on and so on. Several of us wandered into the evening air for a coffee break, rolled our eyes and lamented Christine.

And that would be that until just moments ago. When catching a few late afternoon rays, reading a few stories from the news, I recalled Christine and her lamentable evening…and slipped toward genuine despair. Before I caught myself. Caught myself slipping and grabbed for the nearest railing. Metaphorical railings being the best. Certainly the cheapest and most readily available.

And what of Christine? What indeed. What but the endless disillusionment with my sick mother and, more to the point, my inability to cure her. And what to make of this permanent flaw in my own character? And what is that flaw? Perhaps a general underestimate of my own resilience…and by extension, my ability to manifest my own imperfections, right the ship of life when it takes on water, then sail on. Surrounded by other foundering ships, all of them following the wrong course, or at least not the optimal one. And it was always thus. Shakespeare made a career of observing it. So why can’t I at least, occasionally, enjoy it?

In April, mid-April to be exact, my wheelchair-ramp-equipped Chrysler van arrived in California. The basic modifications were completed. All it needed was the next layer of personalization. An accelerator that can be operated by the left foot. A disabled-friendly control for the turn indicator. An electronic automatic transmission shift. An extra pump for super easy power steering. And so on.

All of which may sound daunting if you’re not in the disabled driving business. If you happen to be a customer, what’s most daunting is the price. You don’t want to know. Trust me. Which is why, having thrown thousands of dollars at this project, one does expect it to move along. And it has, creeping from one task to the next. I have written earlier about the steering wheel. How one person from the company decided it was fine. But another decided, no, I needed a custom extension. The latter added approximately one month to the timeline. Which, incredibly, has extended from April until now, October.

Today’s van delivery was in keeping with everything else. Lots of fumbling with clipboards. Apologies for documents missing. The delivery team could not find the manual…and remember, this is a new car. As for keys? Just one, I’m afraid. They couldn’t find the other.

At least it’s been consistent. The genesis of the new van traces to November, 2012. At a sales fair, I talked to the owner of the disabled car adaptation company. Told him I was interested, gave him my name and contact info. Did he phone me over the next few weeks? You guessed it – I had to call him.

Which brings us to this very afternoon, sitting at my dining room table, signing what papers one could. And when it was all over, they thanked me hardly for being so extraordinarily patient, such a trooper. Oy, I thought, am I really that private? Does my gross annoyance with these people never manifest? And upon reflection, is this good or bad?

Or in the end, just instructive? Because my chief contact at the van company happens to be a guy in a wheelchair. Guys in wheelchairs who don’t have their act together seem to gall me in a particular way. So there’s something going on here that has to do with me. And does this guy really not have his van modification act together at all? He seems to be pretty good at sales. Maybe that was the direction I might have gone, giving him credit for something so I could feel good enough about him to be patient with the rest. And as for the rest…. Simply accepting reality. Which is that, yes, you have to give these people a whole lot of money and ride herd at the same time.

So maybe it’s a good thing, my seeming so cooperative. Because berating them, showing my annoyance, etc. would have had no positive effect. The thing to do was phone. I don’t like phoning, for some reason. But these guys don’t seem to like email. The latter getting ignored more often than read.

All of this cycling back to my mother, feeling ineffectual at her cure. Just as I can’t fix what’s broken in the disabled van modification world. As for the van itself, I am hoping not to break it. Pretty soon, I’m going to break loose. Probably not tonight. But soon.

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