Screaming OH MY GOD while Granny does a backflip

Sunny Sunday, no real plans, just get out and enjoy the warmth and that special atmosphere that only a German Sunday can offer. So after cleaning my clock at Monopoly the little red-haired girl helps me bundle Granny – known as Oma around these parts – into her wheelchair so the three of us can all go out for a Sunday stroll. Our destination: down to the Elbe waterfront.

The bus comes, so we head inside after the friendly bus driver lowers the platform for Oma’s wheelchair. Carefully observing the sign on the wall, I turn the chair in the reverse direction as indicated and set the brakes.


At the central bus station we all pile off and do the same thing when our connecting bus comes, only this time while setting the brakes the little red-haired girl and I are already deep into a conversation about skunks.

We sit down facing Oma and the bus pulls out.

“Have you ever been sprayed by a skunk?” she asks me.

“Nope. I’ve been pretty lucky. But I did run over one once. It was with the first car I ever owned and it must have been cursed because I’d only had it for two days when I ran over it.

“What’s cursed?”

“It means something or someone that for some reason gives you nothing but problems from the start. Anyway, some friends were along for a spin and it was at night and I sort of saw the thing in front of me but by then it was too late and then we heard this THUNK and right away the whole car reeked to high heaven. It stank for two years. Well, it actually only smelled bad for about three months. But for a couple of years you’d catch a whiff of skunk every once in a while. By the way, do you know the only thing that works to get the smell off if you do get sprayed?”

“Yeah, tomato juice. You told me before.”

“Right. I think there’s some acid in it or something that dissolves whatever’s so bad in their spray.”

“Too bad you didn’t wash your car with tomato juice!”

“Nah, that would have been pretty hard. The thing was splattered all over the wheel housing – that’s the part that covers the wheel – and I sprayed it over and over again, but the smell like I said took a long time to

OH MY GOD!!!!!!!

By this time we’ve already made one stop and rounded a corner and gone through the light and turned another corner and we’re headed down to the Elbe waterfront, which is kinda steep. The bus driver for some reason hit the brakes and Oma, with nothing but fresh air behind her, was doing a slow-motion backflip onto the floor. Never changed expression, never said anything, just tipped backward until she was staring straight up at the ceiling.

So in the instant I’m lunging forward way too late to be of any use it flashes through my mind that somehow I’m going to have to explain to my wife that her mother – a woman who lived through the worst of the Second World War by having to abandon her ancestral home to flee the advancing Red Army and live like a refugee for four years with a small child while her husband wasted away in a prisoner of war camp never knowing for the longest time whether he was dead or alive and who scrimped and saved to bring up her family and made it almost to the start of her 10th decade – was finally done in by the negligence of some twit Canadian who may have set the brakes, but didn’t stand behind her wheelchair just in case.

But as I lean down I realise the reason she’s not the least bit upset is because her head is being cradled by two feet – two feet which are placed in the footrests of ANOTHER wheelchair placed it just so happens in exactly the right spot to catch her head as she fell backwards.

The other passengers and the bus driver are all over us at the same time, making sure everything’s OK and that she’ safe and sound, and demonstrating the best way to position the wheelchair to make sure it doesn’t happen again. They suggested sideways, but basically any direction will do as long as you STAND BESIDE IT.

Oma later said she thought I was more rattled by the whole thing than she was. She’s right. We were going to start our walk along the Elbe straight away, but I needed time to let the shakes die down. We headed to the beach where she watched the little red-haired girl and I throw the football around and get sand in our shoes.

Note to self: Use your head. Don’t always pay attention to the instructions.

© 2007 lettershometoyou

2 Responses to “Screaming OH MY GOD while Granny does a backflip”

  1. April 23, 2007 at 10:35 am

    I can’t read german but the extensive use of exclamation marks would make me think twice before I’d dare disobey those signs

  2. April 23, 2007 at 11:02 am

    that’s the thing – I did obey the sign – only too well. they say you should hang on to prams, but it says nothing about keeping a hand on wheelchairs…

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The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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