I am so desperate to own a Tom Tom navigation device, I am planning to post several blog posts in an attempt to ingratiate myself to the competition judges.
So, why do I need one? Well, I recently replaced my company car, but I could not afford the extra R28,000 that VW wanted to relieve from me to have sat nav fitted to the vehicle. In fact, the whole process of aquiring this car was quite a journey. I was due a new car, and, after working long hard hours for a few years on various FIFA projects, I had decided to reward myself with a new car. Being a wheelchair user does make life a little tricky as it is impossible to test drive any car. My research started on the Internet, looking at different models, and talking to other wheelchair users, and drivers. This began to narrow the choice. Then I made a few visits to various dealers, not to test drive the cars, but to see which ones were easiest to get in & out of, and how easy (or difficult!!) it is to drag the wheelchair in behind me. This narrowed the choice still further. Once I had decided on the model, then I needed to check to see if the necessary hand controls could be fitted (the vehicle has to specifically imported, and then the controls fitted before Customs can inspect the vehicle and allow a (small) rebate on the purchase price. The reasoning is that I pay taxes the same as anyone else, and some of our taxes goes to pay for public transport. Apart from the new BRT bus systems, I do not have the choice of being able to use public transport, plus I need to pay more money to have the hand controls fitted.
That was quite a process, and took several months. I decided to only order the car after I had my shoulder operations late last year. So I came out of hospital and ordered the car… Then the real "fun" started. What was supposed to be a straightforward recovery turned sour. I had tried to halve the hospital time by having both shoulders "done" at the same time, but I managed to pick up an infection, and there was a complication in one of them. So back inside I went (so much for trying to save hospital & down time!!). So then all I had to do was to sit back & wait for my new car? Hmmm…
There were a few hiccups and hold ups with the processing of the car, but that turned out to be the least of my worries. Just before Christmas, my left arm began to fall asleep...go numb...lose sensation… So back I went to the surgeons, who proposed more tests & scans. They found more problems, with my elbows, and, more worryingly, with my spine, in my neck. So back into hospital...extended this time. First of all they attacked my arm, moving nerves, cutting muscles around my elbow. That fixed one problem (although the other elbow will need doing at some stage), but still the left arm was useless. I could not even move myself, let alone drive. I seriously thought I would have to cancel the new car. In fact, I honestly thought I would never drive again (which for me, a complete petrol head, would have been a really tricky issue to have to deal with). I spoke to the surgeons, who could not give any firm prognosis, I spoke to my wife, who gave love & support, but not the promise that I would recover again. I even phoned the garage; could I change the lovely little coupe that I had ordered for a combi, or something that I could put a ramp on, to get a powerwheelchair in (along probably, with a driver). They told me it would be tricky, and advised me to hold on, if the worst happened then we would work something out.
Eventually the surgical team decided that they had to operate again, and fuse my neck (my fourth spinal fusion). They admitted it was a risky operation, due to my pre-exisiting conditions, but I felt it was worth the risk. Bizarrely operating on the neck portion of the spine is, in many ways, easier than operating further down, as the spine is easier to get to. Rather than go in from the back, as you would expect, they prefer to go in from the front (causing my adam's apple to move sideways for a couple of months). The op was a success though, and while I had to wear a collar for a while, and the left arm is not quite 100%, I could at least drive. So you may imagine how happy I was to get an SMS from the dealer telling me my new car had arrived!!
Aside from being a petrol head, I enjoy driving with new purpose now. Driving was important to me before these latest ops, as it is one time when my disability disappears; once on the road, I am the same as everyone else. But now, after having thought I would never drive again, I appreciate it all the more. I have completed advanced driving courses both before and after becoming a wheelchair user. My work tends to take me all around the country (it looks like I shall be having to spend a lot of time in Rustenburg over the coming few months), and if I am going to be longer than a week anywhere, then I prefer to drive, rather than flying and hiring a car (which can get complicated).
This car has all I need...well almost all. It is economical, quick, comfortable, safe, easy to get in & out of, relatively easy to lift my wheelchair into, and store. It has cruise control (necessary as it becomes very tiring on your hands without). Automatic this, that & the other… But...it does not have a sat nav! That is the one item missing. I can plug my iPod/iPhone into the radio, and listen to all my peculiar podcasts and music, but the sat nav is lacking. I also now suffer from the Captonian navigation problem. I have lived in the Cape for 15 years now, and most of my business is done in Cape Town. The mountain acts as an ever present navigation aid! I arrive in other South African town, and an very frustrated that they do not also have a fantastic natural wonder positioned in the middle of their municipalities!! People call me when I am in Jo'burg, and suggest coffee, am I close to Sandton, or would Fourways Mall be better for me? I don't know, because you don't have a bloody mountain. In Port Elizabeth, I might be at the stadium and I am asked to look at a new road crossing...but the only directions given are the two road names...again, no mountain reference. So I plead for the Tom Tom, or the new Rustenburg bus system will end up being built in Colesberg!!