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Three weeks ago I bought a three-wheeled electric scooter. After watching multiple TV commercials extolling the virtues of the scooters and the enormous changes ownership can bring in the life of users, my daughter called an 800 number and made an appointment for me with a scooter salesman.
He came, I bought. Last week, at 5PM, my blue Rascal was delivered, assembled and parked in my living room. For four days I eyed it balefully.
Despite using similar carts in grocery and department stores, I experienced a rare nervousness and yes, fear, as I contemplated getting into the vehicle and taking off.
I never use anything new without carefully studying the owner’s manual. The manuals with my phones and toaster oven are all in English, Spanish, and French and are folded like road maps, which means if you’re not careful you’ll lose the language you need by the simple act of a logical unfolding to get to the next page.
The scooter manual starts out with safety precautions and warnings. After reading these I was even more worried. They all were excellent rules, and a matter of common sense, but there were so many of them. I was intimidated.
These were followed by schematics of the vehicle. As it turned out, the manual was for several different models and I couldn’t figure out which one was mine. I did manage to locate and identify all the operating parts – well, almost all. I also learned how to use the various things, such as, the tillers, (exactly like the ones I the stores), the battery gauges, the speed regulator, and the anemic little horn.
The next day I decided to have a go at moving myself around inside the apartment. Going at the lowest possible speed, I drove from the living room into the bedroom and back again. The doorways are small and I managed to wiggle through, bumping into only one. So far, so good, I thought. Now try to get through the kitchen into the hall.
My kitchen has to be seen to be believed. It is so small you have to step into the hall to change your mind. The builders seemed to think that retired older ladies or men only required as much space as a telephone booth for meal preparations and clean-up.
I didn’t think to open the door to the entrance hall before riding into the room. Instead, I found myself trying to maneuver backwards and forwards to get out. I backed a bit too far and jammed the partially opened door into a back wheel. Now I couldn’t go forward, which would only have propelled me about half an inch even if I were able to move.
At first, I panicked. Then I calmed down enough to assess my situation. Unfortunately, the phone was on the wall behind the jammed door and totally inaccessible. Whom was I thinking of calling, anyway? Every family member was at work. 911? I don’t think I could have faced my fire department friends. The only thing I could do was wriggle out of the seat, jam myself into the stove, move as far away as I could get, and shake the back of the scooter as hard as I could. To my everlasting joy, the wheel released the door so I could open it all the way, at which time, I made about five back and forth moves and got myself back into the living room where I parked, plugged in the batteries, and collapsed in my chair.
On Saturday, my daughter, Chuckie, and his friend showed up ready to help me get control of my little blue Rascal. Adele, who, in addition to dozens of other talents, is a master mechanic, took on the manual. She immediately learned how to adjust the seat so I wasn’t sitting with my teeth in my knees. She then learned how to disassemble and reassemble the scooter for transport in a car trunk. She and the boys went through both routines with the speed and efficiency of a NASCAR pit crew. When all systems were go, she insisted I get in it, take outside, and practice in the parking lot. I was shaky, but I went.
Getting out of the kitchen was easier with someone directing all the backs and fourths on my part. Getting out the front door wasn’t too bad. It’s geared for staying open until a wheel chair gets out, which is a big help. I managed to go down the ramp and around a few times then went back up the ramp. Getting inside was another problem due to a tricky turn between the flight of up stairs and the hall. Getting back through the kitchen was really easier than getting out.
Today, Adele called early to tell me that she and the boys and Bonnie the dog would all come over to pick up me and my Rascal. Our destination was the Hampden, three school yards where I could practice going down and up hills and all over the place. I read up on technique for hills and discovered that, due to a great braking system, I was in no danger of going down a steep grade and not stopping. I even practiced riding on a sidewalk on a busy road, which I crossed, and going in the pharmacy to shop. Next step I tackle is the mall and a restaurant.
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