The woman is blocking my path, thrusting the wheelchair at my legs.
‘I don’t need a wheel chair,’ I tell her for the second time. ‘I am visually impaired but there is nothing wrong with my legs.’
She is having none of it however. Here in Philadelphia airport the disabled Are Assisted In A Wheelchair, dammit!
‘It will be faster,’ she says. . She is pretty solid and behind her is a rattled looking security guard. Behind me the passengers are getting restless I submit..and here’s the rub. It IS a lot faster. Barbi for that is the wheelchair pimping woman’s name, puffs along at the speed of sound whisking me through customs, baggage reclaim and back into the departures. Everyone is terribly nice, talking to Barbi over my head as if I am a well behaved child. I get a ‘well done’ when I hand over my passport. I wonder if I should drool in gratitude. Barbi, in spite of my protestations and constant pointing at my fully functioning legs, transfers me into the back of a peeping electric cart driven by another hugely fat woman who does not look as if she would be capable of walking herself.
I am taken all the way to my gate and off loaded. The seat is uncomfortable and dirty and there is an hour until we board. I ‘undisable’ myself. I will not remain in my prescribed seat. I will not be good. I stalk off back down the shiny corridor passing the fat lady in the electric cart.
‘Are you alright?’ she yells confused as to where I might, cane a-swishing, be heading.
‘I am going to find a bar.’ I yell back over the peeping. ‘I might actually NEED you to pick me up after the amount of Bloody Marys I shall be imbibing.’
‘Oh my Lord!’ wails the woman as I grin wickedly and narrowly avoid walking into someone’ luggage.
I spend two days in New York holed up with my cousin and her two small children in their apartment in Manhattan. My cousin is in agony. Problems in her spine are causing nerve compression and the pain is truly excruciating. Nonetheless she is still having to run a busy nursery and kindergarten, look after her two small kids and generally ‘cope’ with life in the Big Apple until her surgery. She is now on extremely high doses of pain medication and has been advised to keep nipping at the vodka (the last remaining weapon against nerve pain) until her surgery
The vodka-nipping bodes well for me of course but I soon realise that even I, with my Lusaka trained liver, can’t keep up with the constant martinis and still manage to keep fully focused on the small ones. On day two, we head to Philadelphia to my cousin’s folks for help and thanks giving.
These are the smalls.
They look cute don’t they? Adorable in fact. Do NOT be fooled. The little one on the left can go from Zen Master to Monster in under 10 seconds. In Philly they go from riotously sweet to..well …..just plain riotous and at one point the lad, Ben, sets off the burglar alarm which triggers a phone call from the police. In an effort to make them calm their rampaging it is decided to try and string out the police situation.
‘Oh now look what you’ve done.’ shouts his mother. ‘The police are on their way! Now you will have to go to jail.’
‘Its not jail, Mummy, its ‘juvie,’ Ben corrects her.
‘I won’t let them take you!’ Zen Monster shrikes turning into a tiny Bonnie (of Clyde fame). ‘I won’t let them take you alone! Quick lets go and hide!’
This is rapidly getting out of hand and their granddad stomping downstairs, ringing the door and pretending to be a policeman only adds to the hysteria. They hole up upstairs, barricading doors, recruiting mercenary teddies and making catapaults out of pacifiers……
We all reach for the vodka..
Later, amongst other outings, we take the kids to a Chuck E Cheese restaurant for a treat. For those of you who may not heard of a Chuck Eeeeagh Cheese it is a pizza serving amusement arcade. Little children are given tokens and set free within. Our hands are stamped on entry so that we can’t try and sneak off without taking our children (and vice versa). It sounds like it should be sweet but the whole place smells funny; of anxious sweat and old nappies and the kids, loaded up on coke, run from game to game without pausing to put down their pizza.
My poor cuz, recently back from an MRI scan at the hospital, sits opposite me in the far booth, watching her son licking the mirrors on the merry-go-round..
‘You know Chuck E Cheese is a rat?’ she muses.
A rat running a children’s restaurant. Indeed, at one point a thin person in a large rat mask and hairy gloves comes out of a hole in the wall and dances with the exhausted staff before throwing hundreds of prize tickets into the terrifying crowd of seething sugared up children and scampering away.
(c) Ben Edlizt
Luckily it isn’t all Chuck E Cheese. We escape in the evenings and there is sushi and cheese fries, delicious Cobb salads and the boil in a bag turkey and pie at Thanksgiving. All in all it is a manic but wonderful week. I love my cousins.
They are all so smart and funny and so full of love for each other. They are exceptionally generous and gentle too. And the smalls, when good, are very very good. . The Zen Master is a marvellous cuddler and Ben gives me this work of art before I go. (I suspect it is a portrait of me after spending an hour at Chuck, E. Cheese)
(pic: Suzie and Irv in Philadelphia (c) T. Bush)
I arrive back in England to my icy flat and no dog and for a moment the heavy cold silence weighs me down. I even consider putting on the children’s channel and watching SpongeBob Square Pants all night…but then I remember Chuck E Cheese ….and I breathe a guilty sigh of relief…