Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Wasp

I'm not meant to be here. I'm not meant to be anywhere. If anyone asks, you ain't seen me, right? I just had to share this with you.

I've just had another of those 'why do I bother?' days. Increasingly these days, I am starting to feel like the wasp who flies headlong into what he thinks is an open window, only to slam into the glass at high speed. Unlike the wasp, I never end up splattered, just a little dazed. In time, usually within a few days, I have forgotten all about the slam into the glass and I come back for another go. Always with the same result. What follows is another such example.

Two days ago Emma took the car to the Renault dealership on Sherdley Road for it's MOT. I never gave this a second thought until she informed me that not only had the car FAILED it's MOT, but that it would cost £450 to make it roadworthy again. She's driving down to Buckinghamshire to see her family at the weekend so she has to have the car. No choice. She doesn't have the money, so I pay.

All well and good. Except that within a day those nice people at Renault are back on the phone to Emma to let her know that actually, there is something else wrong with the car and's going to cost £511 for the car to be roadworthy again. And seven pence. Having just forked out over a grand for our holiday in Benidorm (yes, there will be blogs when I can summon the life force) an additional £511 (and seven pence) is nobody's idea of a fun spending spree. Yet still, I puff out my cheeks and reason that since I am fortunate enough to be able to afford it at the moment I will write a cheque or wave a debit card and just neglect to look at my bank balance until the next pay day arrives.

So this morning we go together to pick up the car. Only we don't. They hand us the keys, deliver the usual speed-waffle about what they have 'had' to do to it to bring it back to life, and send us on our way £511 (and seven pence) lighter. Some spark has parked it too close to a railed fence that runs along the back of the car park so Emma has to roll it forward in order to get my chair into the boot. She does this without too much fuss, but when it comes to turning the ignition key a second time to actually get the thing started, it's having none of it. There's no sound, no lights are coming on, nothing. Now, I'm no Charlene Mitchell (come on boys, you remember?), but I'd say that means it's buggered.

So, not only have they charged us an outrageous fortune (and not of the kind Shakespeare wrote) but they have handed the car back to us in a worse state than it was when we took it in on Monday. Late for work and losing flexi rapidly I storm back into the office, positively seething. I haven't been this angry since.....ooh.....four days previously when the staff at Manchester Airport tried to explain to me why my wheelchair was at baggage reclaim (it's a whole other blog, that one).

"How is it possible for you to charge me £500 and give the car back to us in a worse state then when it came in?" I demand to know of the Customer Relations Assistant Manager or some such garbled job-title faeces.

"Sir, we don't actually check the battery during an MOT" he replies.

I'm as stunned as any forgetful wasp can be at this point;

"Don't you think you should check it for that amount of money?" I am about to ask, before Emma, usually the one to kick off first if there is any complaining to be done, calmly strolls in and asks the Customer Relations Assistant Arsehole what might be going on.

"Battery is flat." I say. I've gone a bit John Cleese by now and follow up with;

"And they are going to charge us EVEN MORE than the £500 we have already paid!"

"Sir, nobody is saying we are going to charge you again but if there is a problem with the battery then it will be chargeable."

Come again? You're not saying you are going to charge me but it will be chargeable? Do you mean chargeable as in you will be able to re-charge the battery and get the fucking thing working again? Or do you mean chargeable as in you get your grubby hands on ANOTHER extortionate amount of money that your dimwit mechanics have not come even remotely close to earning?

Undecided what he means, I just spout;

"Shut up, you and I both know we are going to pay extra for this so don't take the piss out of me."

"Sir, I'm not I....."

Emma leads me away, and they offer to take us to work. I won't stay in the car with them for the whole of a ride to Liverpool because I am far beyond the signpost marked 'fuming'. So they drop us off at the train station and I try to forget about it.

And I do, until the cakes are mentioned. There is something of a tradition in work for buying cakes. There has to be some semblance of an occasion to mark, but it need not be a very important or prominent one. My coming back to work from my holidays is reason enough. So yesterday I said I would get the cakes in.

However, having turned up an hour and a half late for work because of the aforementioned car shenanigans it slips my mind. By the time I am reminded of it, close to lunchtime, I don't have the time to go out and get them. You see I've made a mistake and I'm busy fixing it. Not a grave error, but one on the scale of...say.... a forgetful wasp flying into a pane of glass. Either way it is something that needs fixing because otherwise I dwell on it. And you know what happens when I dwell on things? I start blogging.

By mid-afternoon every other piece of office banter (and one or two Facebook posts) are about how I promised everyone cakes and failed miserably to deliver. Deepening my predicament here is the fact that I have left my ruck-sack in the stricken, flat-batteried, £500-to-fix car so I have nothing to carry said cakes in anyway. A couple of my colleagues kindly volunteer but by then it is mid-afternoon and once I have fumbled through the 257 20p pieces in my wallet to scrape together enough cash for the cakes (it's all gone on that fucking car) it's getting a bit late. Sure enough, my colleagues return without cakes because there are none at such a ridiculous hour of the day.

Why do I bother? Wasp. I will try again soon. I promised.

So then I'm stuck on the train between Prescot and Eccleston Park. Apparently some 'vandals' (do people still use that word? do 'vandals' go 'courting'?) have stolen the signals. I have had to get the later train anyway because I've worked longer hours to get everything sorted in the wake of my incompetence (I'm off tomorrow and Friday), so it's after 6.30pm when we eventually pull into Thatto Heath station.

When I do the guard asks if he can help me off the train, but he gestures as if to do so without the aid of a ramp. I think he was just going to try to pull me off (please) and hope that I did not become separated from my wheelchair (which as you may have guessed by now was successfully reclaimed from fecking baggage reclaim the other day). I ask him to look for a ramp, but my problems don't end there.

He places the ramp between the train and the platform, but puts his foot right in the middle of the thing. As I approach the part of the ramp where his foot is still placed I ask him to move it while I roll down the ramp. What does he do instead? He reaches forward and tries to pull me forwards by the shoulders toward the platform. Clearly he agrees with the Manchester Airport staff in their view that I have no real need to be seated in my wheelchair while I am moving.

The chair tips slightly to one-side, then the lean becomes more pronounced until it's Dukes Of Hazard stuff, rolling sideways down the flimsy ramp, back wheels in the air, guard looking frightened and flapping away unhelpfully all the while. Eventually, and I still don't know how, all four wheels find the platform and my arse is still in the vicinity of my seat.

And this is not untypical of the type of treatment I get from railway staff in Merseyside. Why do I bother?

Cos I'm a forgetful wasp, is why, and do you know what? I'll be back for another go soon.

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