Friday, October 26, 2012

A super sad true chair story

A few weeks ago, I wrote here about reading Super Sad True Love Story, a novel by Gary Shteyngart. Well, I have a super sad true wheelchair story!

It is about my new power wheelchair - yes, the one that I got in June and have written about here, the really cool one (a Quantum Edge 6) that is so agile and has an awesome tilting seat, the one that I ended up waiting nearly eight months for after a prescription was botched and nearly six months after my old wheelchair broke down. So this story is partly sad even before it begins.

The super sad true wheelchair story starts on a Sunday morning in late August, when I went out the door at the end of meeting for worship. I heard a man say my name. I looked back and saw that in his hand was a wheel from my chair. I looked down and saw that the rear left wheel had fallen off. This was most surreal and definitely ended worship, at least for me!

I got a ride home, and, the next day, called the wheelchair place and pushed to have the wheel fixed in the next few days. I was leaving on a trip on Thursday, and, after all, I had just had the chair for two months. The wheel shouldn’t be falling off - ever, and especially not after two months.

The wheel was fixed in time for the trip, and all went well while I was away, but on the day after I returned, it was apparent that the wheel was coming off again. I called the wheelchair place, and a technician came out a day or two later and declared the chair “unsafe to drive.” (Really?) When I called the wheelchair place to find out the next step, I was told that the wheel was bent, that it was something I did and that, since this wasn’t under warranty, a request would have to be sent to Medi-Cal - a process that we all know can take months.

A few days later, feeling quite low, I called the saleswoman, who had raved about how great the chair was outdoors, and told her what was going on. A few hours later, literally, I received an e-mail from the wheelchair place saying the wheel is under warranty. Mmmmm.... Someone’s face got saved.

Then, over the next few weeks, it turned out that the wheel was on “back order” - there were no wheels? really? MAKE ONE! - until early November. But, two weeks ago, a wheel was “found” - actually a wheel from the demo. Again, someone’s face got saved.

A few days later, a technician - a very nice, super polite man (not your usual mechanic - I’m just saying...) - came and replaced the wheel. The next morning, for the first time in a month and a half, I got into the chair and left to go to a memorial service for Karl Benjamin, the famous artist who taught at Pomona College here. I was 20 feet from the house and in the middle of the street, and the left motor began cutting out. My attendant was out at the time, and, by turning the chair off and on several times, I managed to get back to the house. I didn’t get to the memorial.

I immediately sent an e-mail on that Saturday and then called the wheelchair place on the next Monday, when it was again implied that I had bent the wheel and was lucky to be getting a new one under warranty. The same nice technician came and discovered that the motor has a short - nothing to do with how the wheel was attached, like I wondered. I immediately felt a sense or relief, that I wasn’t crazy, that it really wasn’t my problem. This was last week, and the technician, who seemed genuinely ashamed, couldn’t say when the new motor would come in. I will call again on Monday.

Too bad there isn’t a lemon law for wheelchairs! I asked.

I have left out some twists and turns here, including being told by a disabled friend last month that these six-wheel chairs really aren’t good for rough outdoor use, but you get the drift. I have also been trying to get a mount so that my Vmax speech device with fit onto the other power wheelchair I’ve been able to use (and may well need to use more than I had in mind in the future), but that’s a whole other sad, dreary story - right in time for Halloween!

Friday, October 19, 2012

True but strange

A few days ago, I read in the Los Angeles Times that some people calling the L.A County Registrar of Voters had been getting a recorded message saying that the deadline for registering to vote in ext month’s election has passed, even though the deadline is October 22, this coming Monday. It turns out that the phone system can handle 24 callers at a time and that the overflow callers had been getting the post-October 22 message. This message was reportedly removed the previous afternoon.

The Times said it is unclear how many people had gotten the wrong message, and who knows how many of these people read this small article inside the second section of the paper - why wasn’t it above the fold on the paper’s front page? - or got the news somewhere else. At least one can reasonably assume that this was just a technological snafu and not another attempt at voter suppression. (I got my permanent absentee ballot last week, but it seemed awfully late, and I had called a few days earlier and was assured it was on the way.)

This may well have been just a freaky error, but it is hard not to think that it fall in line with other strange goings-on. Unfortunately, such doings as those below are nothing new and, unlike with the phone message mistake, stem from an extreme ideology or belief. (I thought I had one or two other example but seem to have misplaced them. Perhaps readers can suggest others - the more specific and detailed the better.)

*The mayor of Costa Mesa in Southern California, according to a report in the L.A Times a few weeks ago, requested an investigation of some of the city’s most prominent and long-running charities in an effort to get the homeless out of town. Mayor Eric Bever targeted two organizations, Share Our Selves and Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, comparing them to nightclubs that have become neighborhood nuisances and said the that it would go a long way to solving the problem of homeless people coming to Costa Mesa “if we managed to put the soup kitchen out of business.” The mayor will be termed out of office next month, and the director of Share Our Selves, in addition to noting that the mayor has never visited the center and that “(h)is message is old,” said, “Thank God he is going out the door.”

*According to the L.A Times last week, Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun, running unopposed for re-election next month, said late last month that evolution, embryology and the Big Bang Theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” He also stated that the earth is 9,000. What’s even weirder and more disturbing, if not anything new, is that this man not only is a physician, he also sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. So this is our government’s idea of science. Yikes!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Book marks

I don’t think of myself as one of those people with a stack of books on my night stand waiting for me to read. But the fact is that I buy two or three books at a time, usually at a bookstore, have them spiral-bound (so I don’t have to hold them open if they’re paperbacks) and then read them one at a time. I am definitely not of those people who read more than one book at a time. So I guess the books are waiting for me to read, but they aren’t waiting in vain.

I’ve recently begun to read Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart, and I can tell you it’s a loopy hoot. Told through diary entries, e-mails and instant messages (so far), it seems to be a love story between a mis-matched young man and a younger woman, set in a not-too-distant future in which America is a shabby, militarized state and, among other things, everyone knows each other’s credit rating and communicates with and reads each other through devices, sometimes even when they are with each other in person. The novel is quirky and definitely different, outrageously funny even as it’s depressing, if not tragic - not unlike its over-the-top, half-joking title.

The really weird thing is that a lot of the books I’ve been reading lately have been quirky and definitely different, hilarious and off-the-wall, sort of sci-fi but not sci-fi (Mark Haskell Smith’s Baked, Christopher Moore’s Bite Me, etc.). I’m not complaining - I laugh out loud reading these books - and it’s nothing new (Alice in Wonderland, A Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Universe, etc.), but, after a while, it does feel like the weird and wacky, if not always hilarious, is the new normal.

Then there’s John Irving, who can be quite weird and wacky and funny but is squarely grounded in everyday reality, down to the kitchen sink, being today’s Dickens. I did enjoy reading his reading his recent novel, Last Night in Twisted River, finding it a good, meaty read, but I have to say that he is getting tiring. I have enjoyed his books (The World According to Garp, The Hotel New Hampshire, Cider House Rules, A Son of the Circus, A Prayer for Owen Meany, etc.), but they are getting to be the same. Irving’s novels, as rich and enjoyable as they are, are obsessive and cloying, taking an idea and hammering it, hammering it, hammering it to death. It recently occurred to me that Irving writes novels like Wes Andersen makes movies. Both are obsessive in their work, and both drive me crazy, despite, or maybe because of, their charm.

Having said this, I never get tired of Larry McMurtry, whose output I find astounding (something like 50 novels, many quite hefty, plus other writings, including the screenplay for Brokeback Mountain). Yes, he writes a lot about cowboys and the Old West, but he also writes novels like Terms of Endearment (the film covers only the last twenty pages) which are quite contemporary and sometimes remarkably female-oriented. His novels set in Hollywood are a lot of fun.

When I bought Super Sad True Love Story, I also found a huge McMurtry novel, published decades ago, that I never knew about called Moving On. At over 700 pages, it was a pain to lug around, but it was remarkable, even brilliant, in a laconic, meandering ways. Set mainly in Texas, with side trips to L.A and San Francisco and even Altadena not too far from here, it is about a woman in a stormy marriage with a man who tries doing everything from rodeo photography to graduate school in literature. I kept thinking of a cross between Lonesome Dove and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff?