[Written at 7.18 A.M. (27th May) Singapore time, 4.18 P.M. (26th May) Vancouver time.]
It was Grandma’s first trip to Alaska! (Well, it was the first trip for the rest of us too … but the emphasis of this entry will be on grandma, non?) We embarked on a 7-day long cruise to Alaska (Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan) last Wednesday and it was beyond awesome.
For most of us, it was the activities on the cruise, the shopping and amazing scenery that dominated our memories from that trip.
For grandma, it was a slightly different story. I’m pretty sure she still has vivid memories of almost being toppled off her wheelchair and wheeled into walls, pillars and what-have-yous. There’s more where that came from, which I will elaborate further in this entry.
Considering the events of the past seven days, I wouldn’t be surprised if my grandma develops a permanent phobia to her wheelchair. Erps.
Note: My grandma can walk perfectly well. It is just that she’s fast approaching ninety and tires easily, which is why we let her ride on a wheelchair most of the time – occasionally letting her walk around so that she has some exercise.
Gran’ and her wheelchair. The airline tag on the wheelchair reads
‘priority baggage’. Teehee.
Being the funky grandmother she is, she takes everything in her stride. Her face turns pale with fright when the various incidents happen … but bursts out laughing (along with the rest of us) later on.
Bumps here, there and everywhere
The corridors on board the cruise ship weren’t exactly the smoothest. There were the occasional slopes, and little metallic ‘humps’ every twenty metres or so. We especially had a pretty hard time navigating the wheelchair over those humps.
At low speed, the wheels will catch onto the humps and send my poor gran’ tipping forward. At high speed, one would think that the wheelchair will go over the hump with ease but nooooo. Instead, the wheelchair will still tip forward and send my poor gran tipping forward again … this time at high speed.
The wheelchair has to go over the humps at a certain speed in-between. It took us many tries before we finally got it right.
Oh, there was also one time we attempted tipping the wheelchair backwards to get over the hump – but lost control halfway – causing the whole thing to nearly fall over. Thankfully, we’re talking about three or four people navigating the wheelchair (this was at the initial stages where we were still learning to get past those humps … so more people were involved) so they managed to catch the wheelchair (and my grandma) in time. Phew.
Narrow corridors galore
Not only were the corridors bumpy, they were narrow too. Couple that with a prankster younger cousin who likes to steer my grandma’s wheelchair as he would with a go-kart and you have some serious trouble.
My grandma had to contend with some really sharp three-point turns, really speedy u-turns and traveling in zig-zags rather than in a straight line. Not to mention how she nearly crashed into the wall (and into people) a few times because the person pushing her wheelchair (we take turns) wasn’t looking where they were going.
For the added thrill, the cousin loved to add in some shouts of “Woohoo!” and “Yee-ha!” when he steers her wheelchair. Hurhur. I seriously doubt that lessened my grandma’s anxiety.
Navigating the wheelchair up and down the gangways – some steeper than others – each time we disembarked and re-embarked the cruise ship at the various Alaskan cities proved to be a challenge as well.
Navigating one of the gentler gangways. (We had to contend with a much
steeper one before this gangway, hence the THREE people helping out.)
Thank goodness for the ship’s personnel who stepped in to give us a hand. Otherwise, my poor grandma would have to cope with one backward roller coaster ride after another.
My dear aunt, the road is not the sidewalk
With grandma in the care of Aunt N, Aunt O and myself headed to a corner shop in Ketchikan, Alaska for some shopping. Upon our return, we were shocked to find grandma (and her wheelchair) in the middle of the road with Aunt N nowhere to be seen.
(Upon spotting grandma in the middle of the road.)
Aunt O – Where is that JOKER Nelly? Why is mama sitting in the middle of the road like that?!
(Aunt N emerges from a store next to the road at that moment.)
Aunt O – NELLY! WHY IS MUM SITTING LIKE THAT?
Aunt N – It’s okay! There are no cars!
(Aunt O and I were rendered speechless.)
Aunt O – This is a MAIN ROAD, you know?!
Aunt N – WHAT?! ARE YOU SURE?!
Aunt O – Luckily no cars came by! This IS a main road!
(All this while, as the conversation was going on, poor grandma was still sitting in the middle of the road.)
Me – Erm, you know. We should get grandma off the road like … now?!
(Aunt N pushes grandma to safety.)
Aunt N – Oh dear, I didn’t know this was a road. I thought it was one of those pedestrian streets!
And I thought the sight of all those cars parked along the road would have been a big hint. Seriously, this was really a close shave. Thank goodness no cars came along, and that Aunt O and I appeared on the scene before any did.
Old, but not forgotten
Each time we re-embarked the ship, we had to go through the usual security screening procedures – getting our bags scanned and having to walk through metal detectors. Being in a wheelchair, grandma was exempt from all these so she sat in a corner and waited until the rest of us were finished.
The younger cousin was the ‘in-charge’ of the wheelchair at that moment and having completed the security screening, proceeded to walk straight ahead along with the rest of us … until we heard a really annoyed sounding “OEI!!!” behind us.
All of us whirled around, and spotted the grandma (and her wheelchair) still in the corner. The latter shot us (particularly the younger cousin) an accusing look. Apparently, the cousin had completely forgotten about grandma’s wheelchair.
At least he had the grace to look sheepish.