Off the road again

Ed Smith
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Last week, I drove to St. John's. And drove back again. No big thing. I've done it a thousand times at least.

Now, before my friends, my publisher and my enemies start getting royally ticked off at me for not contacting them, let me explain that there were - and still are - extenuating circumstances. Indeed, this whole period may be seen as one large, frustrating and painful extenuating circumstance.

Don't stop reading because this is boring. On the other hand, that's not a bad reason to stop. Life is too short to waste it being bored by someone else's drivel. Bad enough to be bored by your own. What I mean to say is that this gets better as it goes along.

Earlier this summer I suffered some damage to my right leg. Despite dire predictions from Other Half, nurses, workers and psychics that if I didn't stop abusing my leg I might have to spend the summer in bed, the wound didn't heal fast enough for my liking.

Consequently, I didn't rest it as much as I should have. But I tried; you know I tried.

Then the inevitable happened. Two Mondays ago, the wound got worse and I was ordered to stay in bed until it got better.

That would have been fine, except for one little thing. Wednesday I was scheduled to drive to my capital city for a speaking engagement. Don't go, my advisers advised, don't go. The drive in and out will kill your leg once and for all.

I thought they might be right, but at this point I didn't have a choice. I'd been asked a year earlier to speak to the National Association of school trustees. Hundreds coming in from all over Canada.

Imagine if at the last minute I didn't turn up. Think of the ravaging disappointment in people from Medicine Hat, Yellowknife, Vancouver and Lower Barney's River who were coming only to hear me speak. I had to go.

They patched up my leg as good as they could and packed pillows around me in the van so I could lean way back and take the pressure off my leg.

I was hurried into bed as soon as we got to Holiday Inn and kept there until just before I was to speak. Went and did my thing (to the great delight of the crowd from Lower Barney's River) and got hustled back to my bed until we took off for home next morning.

That's when the fun began.

We aren't too far out over the highway before Son, who is driving, begins to complain of a lack of power. ..

"Won't hold her power going uphill, Dad b'y. Something's wrong."

He's right about that. She stops dead halfway up that long hill west of Port Blandford in Terra Nova Park.

So, you say, don't you in your condition have CAA? Of course I do. Great for flat tires and dead batteries and stuff like that. They've gotten us going several times. There is just this one little thing - if you, gentle reader, break down on the road, you can call for a tow truck to get you to the nearest garage, and then call a relative or friend or taxi to get you home or some place to stay the night.

But what do I do? My chair won't fit into any other vehicle and no one in his right mind would tow someone in a wheelchair inside the vehicle being towed.

So, there we were. Breaking down isn't an option. Son keeps trying the thing and finally she goes - after a fashion. To make a long story shorter, she goes 10 minutes and stops.

Goes 10 minutes and stops. Etc. etc. etc.

We are still four hours from Springdale. That's a long way by 10 minute intervals. A long way by slow heartbeat.

By the time we get to Grand Falls-Windsor, Son has discovered that if he puts it in third gear and keeps it at 90 klicks she goes much longer than 10 minutes. Consequently, we reach Springdale in only nine hours instead of the normal fewer than six.

OK, the van goes to the garage first thing Monday (this is Friday). I'll just be grounded until it's fixed. So it's into bed immediately for leg examination. Just one little problem - the electric lift that gets me out of my chair and into bed is deader than last year's political promises. Two hundred pounds deadweight is difficult to lift from a chair into a bed. but somehow between them all they manage to do it.

So, what's wrong with the lift? How do I get into and out of my chair now? They can't keep lifting me with their arms - it could do more damage to my leg.

Oh well, worry about that later. The examination shows my leg is still open but no worse than when we started. Thank you, God! Then my worker casually looks at the other leg and guess what? The leg that hasn't been a problem since being operated on four years ago has suddenly and without warning busted open.

Lovely, just lovely. That'll put me in bed for the foreseeable future. And summer has just arrived with a vengeance. 30 today. It's "Oh well" time again. Oh well, while I'm embedded I can perch the laptop on my chest and get in some serious writing. Might as well start tonight. It's still relatively early. Yes, boys, I'm serious! Bring me my laptop!

It's sitting on my chest, it's all plugged in and … (you're not going to believe this) nothing!.

Absolutely nothing! The screen is blacker than an Irish Protestant!

So here I am. In three days I have lost my wheels, can't get a lift, can't do anything in bed and don't have a leg to stand on.

Love those trips to St. John's.

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His e-mail address is

Organizations: National Association, Holiday Inn, CAA

Geographic location: St. John's, Lower Barney, Springdale Canada Medicine Hat Yellowknife Vancouver Port Blandford Terra Nova Park

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