The weather was unseasonably pleasant and warm for the beginning of November in the Midwest. My brother was visiting from Florida to help celebrate my mother’s 94th birthday. Taking advantage of the weather, we three decided to go to the zoo, a favorite of my mothers. I figured my mother would need to work a scooter since she was only able to walk with a walker.
The day before, I needed to take my brother to the ER because of a serious problem with his feet – swollen and painful and barely able to walk on. Although he was improved, we decided that he, too, would need a scooter to ride on.
I was alone, with two disabled family members on scooters. I was outnumbered and I could envision all sorts of issues popping up throughout the day.
I called my friend Jean and asked if she’d like to go to the zoo with us. Of course, she saw through my invitation and, thankfully, was delighted to jump in and help.
We arrived and immediately rented two scooters.
Except that my credit card was declined! That’s a whole other story. Sheesh.
We used an alternative card and proceeded to give operation instructions to our two charges. As we began on our journey, my mother took off. I mean took off rapidly. There was no catching up so we just stood there, hoping she’d stop eventually. She did and looked around to see us way, way behind her. As we caught up, Jean adjusted her speed to slow. My brother meanwhile kept hanging back and circling around. I tried to keep my eye on him while Jean took charge of my mother, making sure she didn’t drive over any kids.
It actually was a lousy day for spotting the animals. It must have been siesta time.
But it was a pretty day and we four established a routine. Then mother spotted the train. She was always a softie for a ride. We obliged, not sure how this would work with the scooters. As it turned out, accommodations were made for one scooter on the train. Of course my mother was the chosen one. My brother’s scooter was parked and we agreed to ride the entire way around without getting off at any of the stops since we wouldn’t have a scooter for my brother.
Mother was treated like a queen! These guys (retired railroaders) put up special ramps and opened secret gates for her to enter. They then strapped her in. She rode right behind the conductor with my brother directly behind her and Jean and I in the next seat. Again, barely an animal anywhere! But fun, nevertheless.
Until. . .
First we went through a tunnel. I had a brief moment of panic but then could immediately see the daylight at the other end so was ok. Then, another tunnel. This time longer, with no daylight to see. My claustrophobia began to creep in. I closed my eyes and we emerged safely. As we then stopped at a station to let people on and off, I looked ahead. Another tunnel!
I deduced that if the first tunnel was short and the second tunnel was medium, then this tunnel must be . . . you get the picture.
Leaning over to Jean, I whispered, “I need to get off.” I don’t think she took me seriously at first until I pointed out the upcoming tunnel and told her I might punch someone if I go in there. So. . . she and I got off and told the others that we’d meet them at the end. That was not easy as there is no straight path at the zoo but we ended up there just as they were getting off. No one dared mention my phobia so we proceeded our zoo tour.
As we rounded the corner and passed over the railroad tracks, I noticed my brother not with us. Stopping to look back, I saw him sitting on his now very still scooter on the railroad tracks. I booked myself back to him. He said it stopped. It just stopped. I’m about to scream, “Don’t you know people can die like this? Car stopped on the tracks with a speeding train coming towards them?” I chose to keep my mouth shut since he didn’t give me a hard time about the train issue. We then pushed it off the tracks and flagged down a zoo employee. He used his walkie talkie to summon another one. While we waited, directly in front of the polar bear exhibit, there unbelievably, was an actual polar bear! The highlight of the day!
Back safe in the car for the ride home, my mother declared she had a delightful time and would like to go again sometime. Of course, she said, we didn’t need to take the train the next time. “Why,” I asked. “Because of your scardy cat baby girl?” “No, just because we’ve now done it.” She explained.
She was just being nice, but I appreciated the thought.
Under my breath, however, I was uttering “never again!”