Date: 14 January 2016.
Location: Easyjet flight from Innsbruck to London.
Lesson for you: when you get ‘special assistance’ at the airport it’s all or nothing.
I could probably have hobbled around to get through customs and security at Innsbruck Airport but, no, I’m not permitted to leave the confines of my new Easyjet wheelchair. Maria and Brigite, my airport medic pals / cheerful guard dogs make sure of that from the moment I check in until the moment I’m moved by truck and hydraulics (!) onto the plane. I feel like a total freak — and also a bit of a fraud because, with a little help and time the stairs would have been just fine.
Yes, on the infamous ‘last run’ (the skiers’ equivalent to Macbeth) I showed off and had a little fall. My ski caught under deep powder and hit the hard ice at rhe bottom. Meanwhile my body continued to to hurdle down the mountain, my body twisted and I heard a ‘pop’ before falling, hard. Sound horrifically familiar? Yeah, me too.
The tears of shock and terror took a while to come. Bunky and Tank, a way behind, understandly thought I was just lolling in the snow to wait for them and celebrate Bunky’s victory over the infamously steep Run No. 3 at Axamer Lizum. I was not. But it was only once a cluster of kind, concerned Slivakian ski instructors came over that I started to cry. The pain was mind-blowing, tongue-bitingly bad but east was far worse was the knowledge that, in 30 stupid seconds, I’d set myself back 3 years. What was to find? More surgery? More crutches? More pain? More helplessness? More rehab? More fear of skiing? I couldn’t bear it.
The skidoo down was bumpy and I sobbed. At the bottom of the mountain I was alarmed to find that there was no ski patrol medic facility. Instead, I was plunked down in the staff room and given sweet tea and gummi bears as I waited for Bunky and Tank to ski down the rest of the mountain. Aided by sugar, the shock gradually wore off. I managed a call to my insurance company and some tearful conversations with the ticket booth girl and her French bulldog — both of whom looked at me like a mildly frightening alien. Do people just not fall on Austrian ski mountains?
After that came the ambulance. Two young Tyrollean lads came to manoeuvre me into a chair and into the vehicle. Thank goodness, Bunky was permitted to come too. However, by that point I’d settled down and was somewhat less snotty and the boys, it seemed, fancied their chances with the Aussies girls so they divided us up: Bunky in the front with the driver, me in back with the other boy who needed to ‘practise his english’. For me, the journey passed in a quick, sick whirl. At one point I heard a siren and felt for the poor sod who’d hurt themself — and then realised that it was me. Our young driver, in a blatant attempt to impress our Bunky, had decided a siren was called for and made the 50 minute journey into Innsbruck in 15 minutes. To be clear, while I was being huge and convincing sook, this was not an emergency.
At the hospital I was put on a gurney and wheeled around between departments for several hours. First to a brusque, very German style admissions process, then into an X-ray, then into a waiting area, then into a curtained off little cubicle to await my verdict.
At one point the Kangaroo brings chocolate strudel — which the doctor bans. It’s the thought that counts I suppose …but I bloody well wanted that strudel.
I’m giddy with shock and nerves and adrenalin and Bunky, Tank and Roo are all focussing hard on distracting me. We have some interesting discussions. First Roo wants to talk about the menstrual cycle. Bless him, he’s been isolated from women in Port Hedland for so long that we’ve become as foreign and intriguing as a the Bengal tiger. But periods, really? Anyway, I’m soon giggling dementedly.
In return, we ask the boys about a subject of interest exclusive to them: farts. We learn about all sorts of horrific practices with cute names — cup-caking, crop-dusting, sharting — and then meander into a discussion about the different ways the minds of women and men function. Roo comes up with the best metaphor. A man’s mind is a series of boxes. You open one up, poke around, look at its contents and then close it. Take soccer, for example. A group of boys start talking about soccer, they each impart their finite knowledge of the topic and then fall silent. In contrast, the Roo tells us, a woman’s mind is like a plate of spaghetti thrown at the wall: no clear delineation between topics, complicated, messy, a bitch to clean up.
And now our flight is landing. And guess what? I get to take the golf cart through customs.