A few days ago I took the new electric wheelchair across the street to the Meers – you know that small lake with a path around it. On one side the path is sort of gravelly, and the other side (east) is flat and I asked Babs to join me on this first trip outside the Castle because it would be the warmest day of the winter so-far and I meant to write a long adventure tale about what happened and how the wheelchair got stuck with an error 49, which kept reminding me of a John Lennon song, because the whole time I was sitting there besides the frozen lake, all I could think of was what a great adventure story this would make and obviously I decided to tell the thing in the longest run-on sentence instead for no reason at all; okay so one semi-colon.
Let’s do this next one Hemingway style. (First was Lardner Jr.)
It was a warm day for a change. 50 degrees in the middle of a miserable New York winter. Nick called his friend Barb. They went to the top of Central Park. Nick in his new electric wheelchair. Barb on foot.
A little ways around the west side of the Meers Pond, and both seated.
Between his 6 week stay in the hospital and two weeks in the home, he hadn’t seen much of the winter. Here he was next to the frozen lake Meers. Surprised was he to see it still so frozen solid.
The LCD on the techie chair was flashing error 49.
Ah, that was the Lennon song: Number Nine, Number Nine etc.
And there was a small red circle with an “X” in the center.
Trying to be funny, Nick turned to Barb who was trying to get a beautiful yearling dog with a spanish name to come to her.
And Nick said: Houston, I think we have a problem.
Barb turned away from the dog that was running frantically up and down the rocky hill behind her, and raised her eyebrows.
I know this is sort of crazy, Nick said. But the chair won’t move.
Battery? She asks.
Plenty of battery. He shows how the chair will still lift up, tilt, and assume tons of positions. Plus the battery indicator reads 100%.
The chair is supposed to go about 15 miles without a problem.
Here is where the story flags. A whole bunch of people are called from the manufacturer to the hospital wheelchair clinic and even the programmer of the firmware and to make matters crazier, there is a manual n the back of the chair, and Barb spreads it out on a green park bench and finds the error messages, but they stop at number 47.
Oh. Did I mention that it is getting colder, and night is falling?
There’s another story about the late start we got but do I really have to include that?
So we’re both in a good mood because the situation is absurd and I had one measly toke from a vape I took with me and was somewhat stoned.
Oh, and directly behind us is a cop car, parked and wondering or not wondering what is going on.
Eventually Barb approaches them. and the two officers who remind me of Tudie and Maldune (I’m not looking up Car 54 where are you right now) altho those are some names, come out of their warm car.
One says his uncle is disabled (that word stings) and has a chair like this.
He starts pressing all the buttons on the controller – had he been in charge of the space mission he would have said his uncle had a capsule like this – one of the many men who could tell you how to fix your car without actually fixing it; and he keeps mumbling about rebooting the chair, while his partner sips a cup of hot coffee.
Finally the genius cop gives up and says they have a call to respond to. They wish us luck and we thank them.
Meanwhile the guys with pitbulls are beginning to appear on the top of the rocky hill and I’m realizing that I’m a target if ever there was one.
Had I been in a manual wheelchair I could have wheeled myself up to the main entrance.
Meanwhile, I forgot to mention this, Barb had called EMS about 20 minutes ago when this all started. She had described exactly where we were in the park. But nobody showed.
The last I heard the firmware programmer was on his way back to the manufacturer and was going to pull over and call me back, but since he wasn’t in my contact list it’s possible he came through as 100% spam.
I did try calling the one spam number back and a recording said that number didn’t exist.
Barb and I figured out how to disengage the motor (pull the clutch) and btw she was the one with the insight that you could only put it in neutral if the machine was turned off. That was the turning point.
She was strong enough to turn the chair around and begin pushing it up the trail to one of the main paved paths, and along the way I stopped a young guy and asked if he didn’t have anything better to do, could he give Barb a hand pushing this thing, dand never did I feel so grateful to friends and strangers and so helpless at the same time.
Together they got me to the corner of 106th and Fifth and guess what – EMS had sent a patrol car there to meet us.
Thank you stranger (I forgot your name) — and then the two cops got out of the car, apprised the situation, and the larger of the two (Garcia – we wrote down their names) pushed me the two blocks to the Castle.
I was pretty damned cold.
Together, Garcia and Troci of the 25th PCT got me out of the chair and into bed.
I stayed in bed a day, mostly eating oatmeal and salami-cheese rolls. And by the following day, Christmas Eve, I had recovered.
There was nobody in, anywhere Xmas eve or day, but by X-mas day I was ready to try and figure out what had gone wrong. Which I did.
The chair is working fine, at least in the house.
I plan to find the equivalent of AAA for electric wheelchairs. i.e. some sort of towing and or fixing service. And it will be a while before I head out on my own in this without backup support of some kind.