Written By Jean Sansum, Canada
Having given up driving my car last spring, I have been relying on taxis for transportation. I have saved enough money through not owning a car, especially now that gas prices have gone so high, that I can afford to take taxis once or twice a week.
I have curtailed my travelling, now that I no longer drive 40 miles to Abbotsford twice a week to visit my sister, and have limited my shopping to my immediate neighbourhood. I do go to George Derby Centre once a week to do the banking for the Volunteer Society, and that is in Burnaby, the next city north, and for that, I take a taxi. My long-suffering co-ordinator, Marilyn Magid, usually drives me home, and we manage to have lunch en route most Tuesdays.
All was under control until recently, when I have found it progressively harder to walk, because of arthritis and thinning discs in my backbone. I found I was making excuses for not walking over a few blocks because I was exhausted after such short jaunts, and I jested that I was going to get a scooter and join the other seniors who zip around our part of town.
I made the mistake of repeating my determination to become the terror of the sidewalks to Jay, who took it seriously. He researched scooters on the net, and found there is a business in a neighbouring city which handles only scooters. He insisted that we go to see them, and helped me kick tires and try out a light model that seemed to fill all my requirements. When I had driven around the parking lot, trying it on for size, he said he was buying it for me, and asked if we could have it that day. The agent told us it would be delivered to my home within days, and so it was.
I tried it out in the apartment, laughing at my ineptitude at maneuvering such a simple machine as a scooter in moves I had been making for 67 years in a car. Believe me, it is not the same! It should have been easy, but until you have tried to parallel park a scooter, don't assume that it is as simple as it looks.
There is a straight steering bar, with a forward lever on the right and the reverse lever on the left. There is a control to set the desired speed - it goes all the way up to 8 mph! There are four wheels, the front two very close together, and when you push the steering bar one way or the other, the scooter turns immediately. It is much like riding a bicycle in that respect. Maneuvering around furniture and backing and turning while trying to control the speed was challenging. It should be easy, but I was reduced to helpless laughter by the time I gave up the first time.
I have grave misgivings about going out in public on the scooter: because I can still walk - just not very far - I feel as if I am using it under false pretenses. Jay kept asking if I had used it yet, and assured me that no-one would notice that I'm a hopelessly-handicapped senior. I finally asked my good friend Shirley if she would be willing to accompany me on a shopping expedition - I needed moral support. She readily agreed, and walked with me while I cautiously made my way around the many shoppers in Safeway one Sunday afternoon, and finally escorted me back to my apartment. We celebrated with a glass of wine.
Shirley even suggested we try it out somewhere else, so in the following week we went to a small restaurant with narrow spaces between the tables, and I managed to get in without banging into anyone. Getting out, backward, was not quite so easy, and I had a near miss with a woman I didn't see, but that was the only incident. We then went shopping at two small stores, where I could not take the scooter inside because there was not room in the aisles if there were other shoppers, and Shirley volunteered to wait outside while I shopped. I think it would have been quite safe by itself, because once the key is withdrawn, the wheels will not turn and it is immobilized, but I was still nervous about leaving it. Shirley accompanied me home again, but this time refused a glass of wine on the grounds that she was going walking.
So far so good. But there it sat, snoozing, for a couple of weeks. Until Wednesday, when I had to make a longer trip and managed to get there and back without incident, except for wrestling with doors, which people sprang to open for me when they noticed me fumbling. After that, I went shopping, all by myself, and again managed without any problems. If I keep this up, I will soon be a seasoned scooter-rider and will think nothing of breezing uptown and back. I will have lots of company. You know how it is when you get a new silver car? You notice how many silver cars there are on the road. It's the same with me - when I went out in my scooter, I noticed how many other people are using them around this area. I will have lots of company.
For anyone thinking of the possibility of widening their range by getting a scooter, I can only say, hang in there! Eventually we may even be as comfortable as we were for all those years in a car - and we don't have to fill up with gas!