I Predict A Riot
Today my son and I visited the Botanical Gardens. It's a place I've been on occasion recently, as they have acres of green space, a very cool cacti collection, peacocks and mobility scooters.
My son hasn't seen me with wheels before, as we are currently in a complex Wheelchair Service vs Social Services wrangle. Ramps needed before chair, chair needed before ramps. That sort of thing. Boring.
Today was anything but boring. I knew we were going to go out. I'd planned it, rested for it and was determined it would be just him and me. A friend dropped us off. I went to reception and asked for the key for the scooter.
"So there's three of you today?" the lady asks, looking at my son. There's clearly just us two. It's only writing this now that I clock Negative Assumption No 1. "You can't be responsible for a child. You are disabled. Where's your carer?" But you know? I didn't pick up on it at the time. A combination of inexperience and intoxicating excitement got the better of me.
The thing is with intoxicating excitement, it's catching. And it can lead to inappropriate and even riotous behaviour. Seated on the scooter, I failed to concentrate and hit reverse at full speed. Clunk. My son creased up. And there was I, hoping to calmly introduce him to the notion of my wheelhood. No chance. Off we went.
"Get the gate! Quick!"
The gate that allows disabled people to enter the gardens only if they get off their scooter and open it or ask a carer to open it.
"That gate!" Clunk. My son steps right in front of me and I bump into him. He cracks up. This sets the tone for the whole excursion.
"Let's get lunch," I suggest in an attempt to restore order.
Huge queue. Swarms of toddlers. No space in the queue for scooters. Hmmm.
"Tell you what. Here's a tenner - grab a couple of sandwiches and drinks. I'll wait outside."
Bad wheelchair lady (couldn't possibly be his mother, surely) leaving that poor
boy in the queue. So I'm outside, worrying. Damn their crappy layout. I can see my son, so call him over.
"Forget the tenner, we need it for the taxi home. Just come and get me when you get to the checkout."
Checkout. My son has an egg sandwich for me and the biggest piece of chocolate cake ever for himself.
"Where's your sandwich?"
"The sandwiches here make me puke."
I wince and grin apologetically at checkout boy. He doesn't smile back. My scooter is blocking the path to the kitchen. There is nowhere else to put it. Waiters are swerving around me like I'm a traffic island.
"You need a better lunch than that. What else is there?"
There is nothing else.
So I get my card out and pay.
"I think it's coffee cake."
The cake is exchanged for a scone. More waiters are weaving around me.
My son picks up our tray and I reverse. Into a waiter.
We both crack up. Then we head outside. The ramp is being blocked by a man fiddling with his camcorder.
"Excuse me. Excuse me."
Lost in a fortysomething technotrance, he stands there oblivious. So I reverse. Around him, down the ramp, around the corner and straight into an ice cream sign. By now, we are in bits. People on the terrace stare. It was quite an entrance. We start lunch. My sandwich is off (my son was right).
Back into the scooter. Now this wasn't entirely necessary, as I could have walked just up to the café, but by now I had the devil in me and needed to demonstrate how bad their layout is.
"This sandwich is off. Can I exchange it?"
The manager looks down at me. I continue.
"Could you get me another one, please? I can't get to the display fridge because of the queue. And could I have cheese? I don't want to chance it with another egg mayo."
I smile sweetly.
Back outside, my son drops his scone on the floor. At this point, every new disaster only prompts helpless mirth. I knock the knife intended for his scone flying. People are looking at us. We are purple with trying to suppress our giggles. Disabled Person and Child in Mirth Shocker!
After 'lunch' we set off for the gardens.
"Will you always need one of these?" he asks.
"Well, you know they can't tell how long I'm going to be ill, so I need one for as long as I can't do things like today unless I am sitting down." Gulp.
"How fast does it go?"
"Quite fast. Fancy a race?"
Three elderly ladies seated on a bench look up in synchronised surprise.
We hurtle off into the distance, me at full throttle, my son running and laughing beside me.
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