Disability has a myriad of lessons to teach us impatient types, most of which were totally unimaginable in those halcyon days when freedom of movement was a normality. who could ever imagine that something as mundane as hopping onto a bus could become as appealing, and unattainable, as a five star world cruise. i wonder if knowing we faced a housebound future would have made us more accommodating to those for whom it was already a reality. it seems to be an aspect of humanity that we don't grasp the value of something until it's no longer ours for the taking.
A dentist visit brought home to me the precarity of having to rely on others in order to access life's necessities. it was flu season and poor, stressed Jim The Dentist had staff members off sick so was running an hour late. no problem, i was armed with The Guardian and the waiting room was snug and comfy. a simple phone call to rearrange taxi to take me home and all should have been well.... HA !!!....
"Could i change my taxi to 3 p.m. please?"
"No.... it's the school run so we'll have no cars"
"OK what time could i have one please?"
"You can't. no cars till after rush hour, about 7 p.m."
"Ummm i'm at the dentist, they close at 6"
"Not my problem love.... do you want one at 7?"
My little market town home has six taxi firms, i phoned them one after the other and eventually the last on the list was able to send a car for 5.30 so i settled down to read paper and crave coffee.
5.30 came.... and went
5.40 came.... and went, along with the last patient.
5.50 came.... and went, the receptionists starting turning computers off.
5.55 came.... and went, the receptionists started putting coats on.
5.58 came.... the taxi firm, when contacted, had no record of my booking and no cars till 8 p.m.... PANIC !!! there's a very good reason dental receptionists have a reputation for being dragons, boy oh boy did she breath fire down that phone !!! a supposedly non-existent car was miraculously dispatched on the wings of the storm arriving moments later, a tyred Valkyrie tearing up the tarmac.
The scariest part of the adventure was the utter helplessness. if the taxi company had insisted they had no car, there would have been no car, and no magic wand or fairy godmother could have summoned up a coachly pumpkin to take Cinderjeni home.
It's 20 years since the Disability Discrimination Act came into being yet, until this month, taxi drivers could refuse to pick up wheelchair users or they could charge extra for taking the chair. finally, thankfully, this is an inequality that has been addressed.... or has it ?
That desperate dentist day isn't the only time taxis have failed to materialise and, suspiciously, every time it's happened i've been accompanied by my trusty, pink, boa festooned chariot. the law may state illegality if a legless lady is refused a ride but how to prove it wasn't purely a case of forgetfulness or poor record keeping? non disclosure isn't an option as i discovered when a car with a small back seat and the boot full of the driver's weight lifting equipment turned up, the only place for the chair would have been on the luggage rack.
The ultimate answer, of course, is to live long enough for driverless cars to be the norm. a car can't discriminate or be impatient when it's passenger moves at the pace of a geriatric tortoise. it is totally democratic and nonjudgmental. it might even remember to turn up.