I’ve bungee-jumped once. I’ve jumped out of three planes. I’ve (briefly) piloted a tall ship without bumping into the Isle of Wight and drowning eighty souls. I’ve self-injected painful drugs hundreds more times than I care to remember. Way back when, I’ve skied some of the most daunting black runs in France and Switzerland. Hey, I’ve sometimes dared to contradict my wife on matters of furniture, fabrics and fashion.
But I’ve found few things scarier than contemplating a night on my own in a hotel with just my wheelchair for company. I wouldn’t even be taking my trusty walker with me to get me up and hobbling round the room.
Packing the day before was frightening enough. Checking and re-checking drugs, clothes, PJs and catheters. Double and triple-checking the drugs. Chucking in some spares. Then repacking for easy access to the important stuff. I’ve always been a “chuck stuff in and find things later” kinda’ chap. But that strategy doesn’t work when even the act of opening a suitcase takes five minutes. When at least two of my drugs are highly addictive and the withdrawal symptoms rather unpleasant. And to forget catheters? Well, let’s just say the housekeeping team wouldn’t be best pleased with the guest in room 327 the next morning.
But you know what? It wasn’t so bad. OK, I was stared at more blatantly and more frequently than usual… Perhaps because the dozens of tourists also in the hotel appreciated actually having something of mild interest in West Acton. And the solo meal passed without incident and indeed rather blandly…Phew! No glasses crashing to the floor, no pasta flying onto adjacent tables, and nobody tripping over my wheelchair.
I learned rather too late that barging and edging my way through fire doors is best done with help, and likewise inserting the key for my room then pushing my way in before it auto-locks again are skills to be developed.
I learned that staff are only too happy to help if asked – And that through the usual mix of misplaced pride and naivety I don’t ask nearly enough. By the morning I’d figured it out. I could chuck my belongings back in my suitcase willy-nilly. Brekkie with assistance was a breeze. And checking out, the lovely porter chap was only too happy to push me round the corner to our offices. I treated myself to a celebratory cup of coffee there and breathed a deep sigh of relief.
I don’t fancy it too often. Washing and dressing in unfamiliar surroundings is weird. I miss my wife, my children and my home comforts. But for now at least, it’s a challenge I can survive.