A few years ago, I happened to be in Southampton city centre with my elderly stepfather, Malcolm, who was in his late 70s at the time. Never the longest holder of a temper, he was the very definition of “Doesn’t suffer fools gladly” … but then again, who does ?
Anyway … we were walking down the street in a pedestrianised part of the town when one of those electric wheelchairs came hurtling towards us. I say hurtling, but it was more of a motorised lurch … I side-stepped the glorified golf-cart easily enough, but for whatever reason, Malcolm didn’t and the woman “driving” the thing ran over his foot.
I was already laughing when she stopped to apologise, but he couldn’t see the funny side of it and was apoplectic with rage. Having suffered from a throat tumour years previously, Malcolm’s speaking voice could at best be described as sounding a little hoarse: on a good day, he still sounded like the ghost in The Amityville Horror.
He just looked at her and asked “Have you got a license ..?”
To which she replied: “You don’t need a license for one of these!”
Quick as a flash, Malcolm came back with ” … to be OUT !??”
I was on the verge of wetting myself and we were both about to be arrested, so I pulled him away before anything else happened.
Fast forward a few years and you now see these infernal machines on every street in every town and you need to be careful in some of the narrower thoroughfares and shopping mall walkways because they become like the streets of Monaco when the Grand Prix is in town.
But you know what ?
I don’t mind that … some of the very fat people that use them would have no other way of getting to the food court, and how else are we supposed to fill the vacant units in suburban high streets if we don’t have two or three electric wheelchair dealers opening for business, serving our ageing, increasingly obese populace ?
What really gets me is that they’re allowed on the road.
So when I’m driving, or when a bus is making its merry way along its route, or – just think about it – a speeding fire engine or ambulance is bombing towards the scene of an accident, what happens if one of those things gets in the way or is simply not seen till the last moment because they’re both too small and too slow to be spotted ?
I would be really interested to see the figures for accidents caused by or to the operators of them. I won’t use the word driver because I don’t think there’s enough momentum to warrant the term …
I think they should be licensed. And the people using them should be tested. And they should stick to the pavements.
As Malcolm would’ve said “Get out … of my way!”