Su Lum: Slumming
November 17, 2009
Soon after my friend Hilary and I had made our reservations for a week-long Caribbean cruise, Hilary gently inquired if it would be prudent for me to order a wheelchair.
I had already found out that my bad back and knees could not handle Disney World without a chair, and though the benefits of that (secret entrances to the rides, no lines) were wonderful, I hated trading one infirmity for another: I was off oxygen (YEA!) but being pushed in a chair (DAMN!).
We had the best room, at the very back of the ship, which meant long hikes down aisles that looked like Route 50 through Nevada, so I asked my agent at vacationstogo.com (Noah Brown – five stars!!) about chairs and he referred me to carevacations.com from whom I rented a small “Scooter” for $175 for the duration of the cruise – it would be at our door when we arrived and picked up after we disembarked.
I measure money spent by the value of return, and I got at least $500 worth of sheer fun out of the Scooter, not even counting the benefit to my back. I had had a long session with Patty Bennett, my back healer (Muscular Activation Technique), the day before I left and that got me through the plane trips and the Scooter saved me the long walks.
Oxygen-free, backpack free and motorized, I was more liberated than I’ve been in 10 years.
As promised, the scooter was sitting in the hall outside our stateroom door when we arrived. We were mentally and physically fried after the ordeal of my missing passport, the mandatory lifeboat drill and hanging out topside to watch the ship depart, possibly not the ideal time to learn to drive a new vehicle to the dining room.
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The scooter had two wheels in back, one in front, was battery-operated (Hilary would haul it into the room at night for recharging), turned on with a key, had a very comfortable seat and a speed dial that went from Turtle to Rabbit. A right hand lever governed the speed: Hold it down and the scooter would go as fast as the speed control was set for (i.e., halfway between Turtle and Rabbit); let it go and the scooter would stop.
I found out immediately that the scooter could turn on a dime but that it did not stop on a dime (ZIP into the elevator – BAM against the far wall). Backing up to get off the elevators was a challenge because I had to be fast so the doors wouldn’t close on me. If I’d turned it down to Turtle to avoid hitting the wall, it would creep when I was trying to reverse (left hand control) quickly.
More times than I care to mention, other passengers would get on when I was in mid-flight to a higher deck and, thinking it was my stop, I’d back out and be on the wrong floor. Hilary, who took the stairs, would be waiting for me, eyes rolled. “Don’t even ask,” I’d say.
Though there were many near misses, I only had one real accident, when I got tangled up in the taped stanchions defining the route off the ship at one of our stops, drawing the attention of customs officials who were yelling and waving their arms. Unnerved, I accidentally threw the scooter into reverse, running over Hilary’s foot and raising a substantial bruise on her right knee.
The room stewards were especially skillful at springing out of my way, reminding me of the pin boys who would leap for cover whenever I approached the lanes in a college bowling course.
My favorite scootering came after being at the front of the ship, taking the elevator to our home deck and then, the wind in my hair, rocketing down the passageways to the other end at full RABBIT, Hilary racing behind on 4-inch heels.