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  • Dougie

So near and yet ... so very very far

Updated: Dec 30, 2022

I know when I've been smug and too self-satisfied by half. But only after the Universe tells me. In its own inimitable way.

"Douglas," I almost hear the Cosmos whisper gently. "This is what you get for being too damn pleased with yourself. All you did was go to work in late December. Let this be a lesson to you."

It was the day after Boxing Day. I was back at my desk alongside six other members of our office team of three times that number. We provide disability support services to around two hundred and seventy participants of the National Disability Insurance Scheme; mostly in Canberra, some in New South Wales, a few in Queensland and even one in Tasmania.

Disability, of course, does not go on holiday. Problems can arise. Supports 'fall over' now and then. So we've dispensed with the customary (and increasingly mandatory) 'Christmas shutdown'. We're here, if needed. We'll do the best we can. If asked.

And asked we were.

Team members solved end of year problems. Some shift changes among our direct support employees were managed quickly and efficiently by my colleagues. A home visit was required. One genuine crisis for the family of someone we support was averted. (It was created -- regrettably but not surprisingly -- by the very Agency meant to support the family. Looking at you, NDIA).

At the end of the day, my colleague Margaret and I left the office around 5:30 p.m. The last to leave.

The vast car park -- known for its Hoons, its learner drivers in the afternoon and donut makers in the noisy nights, the detritus of abandoned food bags from Hungry Jack's, and carelessly discarded sharps -- was almost empty. The air was still. An almost amber glow heralded the evening's imminence.

And it was still thirty two degrees (Celsius). Summer in the great southern land. At last.

I pushed myself up the car ramp into my modified Voyager. I positioned my wheelchair behind the front passenger seat, pulled on switches to draw back my driver's seat and rotate it through ninety degrees, then prepared to transfer for the eleven minute drive -- back to the ridiculously large bungalow that me, Spike and Thistle-the-Cat call home.

I leant forward to begin my transfer. As I did so, my gaze took in the near deserted, ugly car park through the open side door to my left.

And that's when I cursed my journey.

Smugness, you see. Self-satisfaction, arising from the egotistical, fairy tale notion that my 'moment' mattered. I took a photo (for no good reason I can think of). And wrote a post on my socials.




I wrote ...

End of day 1 back at work solving problems for #NDIS participants after the Christmas break. 32° in the almost empty Kambah car park (where not even the never quiet medical practice is busy). Acrid smell of smoke lingers in the air from a fire at the Hume re-cycling plant (10 kms distant) 2 days ago. Reminiscent of Decenber 2019. But nothing like that, fortunately. Work, however? Once more unto etc ... You know the rest. #NDIS #DisabilityRights #DisabilityInclusion #NothingAboutUsWithoutUs

I posted this pic.

I drove home in no time at all (because almost no one else was working, it seemed). Four sets of traffic lights were green. Six roundabouts (it's Canberra -- go figure) without a pause.

Lulled into a false sense of security by hubris.

"Is it not ever so?" asked the Universe, snickering like that line in the Prufrock poem.

I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,

And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,

And in short, I was afraid.

I reached home, parked the car, deployed the ramp, made preparations to transfer back into my wheelchair. And then -- neither there, nor here but somewhere in between -- I blew a fuse.

That's not a metaphor.

I blew an actual fuse on my six-way (backwards, forwards, up, down, clockwise, anticlockwise through ninety degrees) quadriplegic driver's seat manufactured by the Ricon Corporation of San Fernando, California and fitted by Capital Specialist Vehicles of Dandenong, Victoria.

The technical term is, fucked.

But vanity ... thy name is Dougie. After phoning the ever helpful NRMA (formerly the National Roads and Motorists' Association) I did what any other ego-damaged, wannabe preening peacock would do.

I got back on my socials. Naturally.

In the online space in which it's almost certain no one hears me scream, I tweeted this.

Count to 10 Douglas. 1, 2, 3, 4 ... Fuuuuuuck! Just parked at home. Push switch to move seat back. Push another to rotate seat to transfer spot. Blow fuse @ 20 degrees. Not. Transferring. Anywhere. Not effen moving. Call @NRMA who arrive within 20 minutes. #SoNearYetSoFar

And posted the obligatory pic of my not-life-threatening dilemma. A gap too far.

Much worse things happen all the time to people who do not deserve the shit life deals to them. I lost ninety minutes of my life.

I was rescued by yet another fantastically helpful, patient, smart and tenacious NRMA roadside assistance mechanic. And by Spike (of course) who saves my miserable life several times a day. Every day.

As usual, I brought it on myself.

My grandmother would have warned me. "Hell mend ye," she might have said.

This is a painless truth. My grannie was never wrong.

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