Monday, August 07, 2006

Never cross a construction site in your wheelchair

This is the story of the first serious operational use of my wheelchair. My boy was supposed be at sports camp at 10:30 AM, conveniently located at a school at the end of our block. My ravishing wife had a hair appointment at that time, and so I agreed to take the boy.

I decided that we should leave the house at 10:20, just in case he followed his usual M.O. of delaying everything.

While we were waiting, I asked him if he wanted to play chess. He has often declined, so I was surprised when he readily agreed. We played until he wasted his queen taking my protected knight. He did a similar thing the last time we played, a few months ago.

"I thought you wanted to play real chess," I slurred.

"I'm taking your knight," he said. "This is real chess."

"I'm done," I slurred. I used to take advantage of his every mistake. I never went easy on him. But now I think he's old enough to avoid giving material away.

I think he may be developing a 'friendly' style of chess, wherein he loses on purpose. Or it may be his way to get me to stop asking him to play.

A few weeks ago, I told him that I want to teach him to win. I wrote up a four-page treatise in big type. He read two pages and dropped it after saying, "This is many pages!"

I do have a plan. ICC has a trainingbot -- a program that gives you chess problems. He's solved two at the easiest level. After we move into the addition, I plan to have him train a lot more.

Anyway, after he took my protected knight with his queen, I overcame my objection and decided to play on, to let him experience the consequences. We were playing on the wall chess board, and he was standing on a chair moving the pieces. He had almost no trouble understanding the coordinates I spoke (Once I had to slur "D for dog" when he thought I'd said "E").

I told him my move for taking his queen with my pawn, and he correctly made the move. He knows very well how chess pieces move. But then he put the queen and pawn back. He feigned that I was trying to take with another pawn, which would have been an illegal move. I accused him of cheating and he ran upstairs in a rage.

I did stuff on the computer.

When 10:20 came, he was in a good mood again, and willing to go. I asked him to use the bathroom while I used the other one. He wanted to ride the chair lift down with me. Part way down, he warned me about something. I heard a crack, and looked down to see a piece of wood obstructing the descent of the lift. One of the builders had used it temporarily to brace another piece. There was some delay as I bent over to fiddle with the obstruction. I need not have bothered, because the lift had already broken off a big enough piece that we could still descend.

By 10:35 we were down on the back patio. I tried to ride across the sheets of plywood the workers had laid across a place where concrete will be poured to ease the passage of my chair, and got stuck on an uneven surface with one wheel spinning fruitlessly in the air.

I struggled with this for a few minutes, during which my son tried to encourage me with "You're doin' a good job, Dad." He offered to push, and that helped the chair get past the trap. We headed out to the sidewalk.

Then I saw that he didn't have his cap, or backpack. I took him to the front door and gave him my key. He had trouble getting the door open, so I creaked out of the chair and used the railing as I made my monstrous way up the steps. I popped the door and he got his things.

By 10:44 I was back in the chair and we were on our way. I'd expected to have him there at 10:30.

I dropped him off at 10:49.

Despite the weak wheelchair, coming back across the plywood in the other direction went more smoothly, because I was aware of the hazard, and by 10:57 I was back in the house.

Within two hours my affectionate wife had to pick him up, because he was feeling sick. We think he got a touch of what his sister had. But fortunately he did not throw up.
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