Most of you will already have worked out why this column is called Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard. You're a particularly clever and pretty bunch after all. But for those of you who haven't, I have again today experienced another fine example of the reason for this somewhat unusual title.
First things first I have been off work today. I had to take Emma to the hospital. She's ok. There's no fire. But it's always best to set your mind at rest and get things sorted quickly if you can. Unless you're me, in which case you find out that you have kidney problems and then spend the next seven years avoiding any medical advice whatsoever. Anyway, while we were winding our way through the new building at Whiston Hospital, through its various mult-coloured sections (we wanted yellow and it is a very, very good job we knew that) we came a cross a sign which said;
Beside it was an arrow pointing left and the bog-standard, spike-up-its-arse disabled persons symbol. It's no wonder none of us can walk when we spend our time impaled on protruding objects. So anyway even though I could see a door in front of me leading to where I thought we should be going, I followed the arrow. It's instinctive. Every time you see that symbol and an arrow you think it means that this is the way you should go if you need wheelchair access. In fact, on this occasion, it meant literally what it said;
Behind the screen where the arrow led were three or four battered, old-style NHS wheelchairs which must pass as the hospital's supply of loan chairs for day visitors without one. Or who knows? People who are stupid enough to have turned up without theirs. It happens, as anyone who read the story about me arriving at work without my wheels will testify. Since I was not the patient today the worst part of our visit after that is having to sit in the waiting room for 35 minutes after Emma's appointment time with Jeremy Kyle on the small television in the corner. That show is just one long argument and I really, really don't get why anyone would want to sit through it. If you want an argument, go and tell your other half they need to lose a few pounds.
So after doing something a little unpleasant we had decided we would do something nice later on in the day. That meant a visit to Reel Cinema in Widnes to see Iron Man 3. We chose Reel because we like Nandos which is just nearby. What with the hospital and everything and the way the wind was blowing and the alignment of the stars and whatever, it transpired that it was better to see the film first before we ate. Now previous experience at Reel tells me that I have to ask them if I can have a seat, and not just a space for my wheelchair. Believe it or not I prefer to take the opportunity to get out of my wheelchair when I am watching a film. Yes I know, I don't sleep in it either. Incredible.
So I ask the girl if I can have a seat;
"Yes of course, you'll need to leave your chair outside, though."
She wants me to leave my chair outside. The one thing without which I shall be spending the night in the theatre, she wants me to leave outside by the side of the popcorn kiosk. People don't steal wheelchairs in the way that dogs don't bite. And besides, you will find that most wheelchair users are very reluctant to let their wheelchairs out of their sight even if they are not currently using them. I have this problem on planes whenever Emma and I fly anywhere. Airline staff seem to think a replacement which is 20 times wider than my arse and 40 times longer than my legs is acceptable. A wheelchair is a very personal thing, much like your legs. And if that sounds like we want it both ways then yes we do, what's so wrong with that? We want to be treated as humans, independent of a piece of metal and rubber, but at the same time we don't want to leave that piece of metal unattended in a public place. And we don't want to use anyone else's till we get to the fucking carousel. Is any of this making sense?
"No, I'm afraid I can't do that." I say, quite prepared to leave if need be;
"It's company policy, because of health and safety."
And there we have it right there. I'm a health and safety risk. A Fire Hazard, if you will. I stick to my guns because I know it has rock all to do with health and safety and more to do with the fact that they know that if I buy a seat and put my chair in a space then they will have one less ticket to sell. But there is no fucker here anyway so the debate is utterly puerile. And besides I'm right. As fucking usual, eh?
Eventually we convince the girl that it will be ok for me to leave my chair in the space and transfer my person (remember him?) to a chair. This is also probably a good time to mention that there were signs all over the place apologising for the fact that they had no 'carbonated drinks'. That means coke and everything like it. And they have the cheek to grumble over where my empty fucking wheelchair will sit? Christ's Arse!
The film itself was all good fun. I used to have a film column but I found that nobody read it because they didn't want to spoil anything they wanted to go and see later, and they didn't want to read about anything they weren't interested in seeing. I really don't know how Roger Ebert made a living. Save for the fact that he was a lot better at writing than I am. The girls at work had told me that Iron Man 3 was really good but they would, they're girls, and girls are pre-programmed to like Robert Downey Jr especially when he is throwing bad guys around and making cheap gags and behaving with an unpalatable amount of smugness. And no I am not bitter. Much. Look, it's a super-hero film and inevitably in super-hero films the climactic scenes tend to drag for me because you know what is going to happen. At one point I was sure that characters were dying more than once, which I found a stretch, but then I might have missed something important.
But not as important as MY wheelchair.