Here is an example of how having a disability has a huge effect on every aspect of my life, but with planning, stress, worry, determination, stubbornness and a whole lot of willpower, even I can meet an A-list celebrity!
When I invented my Hanx challenge at the beginning of this year, I gave very little thought to about how it would end. I guess my assumption was that I would collect all the films on the list and then have my Hanxathon and that would be that. Mission complete.
However, fate had other ideas.
I finished the film collection mid-August and although I have yet to do my Hanxathon, it was around this time that I received an email from Waterstones that would give me the perfect ending.
You know that time when you log into your emails and all the new messages load and 99% of them are junk emails where you scan the subject line and just click the bin icon without reading the actual email?? Well, sorry Waterstones but the majority (not all!) of your emails end up in my trash folder after just the tiniest glance along with other mail deemed pointless such as the ones that try to get you to spend more money (‘get £5 free for being such a loyal customer just spend £5000 to claim it’).
Except having been hunting for Tom Hanks films for the previous 6 months, when his name appeared on a Waterstones email it definitely warranted a read. To my surprise Mr Hanks was releasing a book of short stories called ‘Common Type’. Even better, he would be in Waterstones, Piccadilly, London to sign copies and you could meet him, if you were lucky enough to be able to get a ticket.
Nobody could stop me trying.
I emailed the Waterstones event team – ‘Hi, I am going to try and get tickets for me and my carer to attend the Tom Hanks event but I use a rather large powerchair, can you confirm whether this particular branch is accessible for me please’
Reply – ‘We expect this event to be in high demand, so we will discuss access if you manage to get a ticket.’
…and the award for the MOST UNHELPFUL REPLY TO AN ACCESS QUERY goes to…
Tickets went on sale at 10am on a Friday and to my complete horror at 10.01am they were listed as sold out. By stubbornly, refreshing my screen again and again and again, I got one HOORAY!!
But oh no…tickets sales are limited to one per person and you are not even allowed to queue up if you don’t have a ticket, what about my carer? There is no way I could cope alone. Not expecting a helpful reply, emailed the events team and explained my issue. To my surprise the reply was good! ‘Of course we will not split you up from your carer at any point’ …well I shall take a printed copy of that email…you know…just in case!!
So, who shall I beg to be my carer that day? While the Local Authority and the NHS argue over who is going to fund my care, I shall have to rely on the benevolence of a friend or family member to help me.
Who can assist me with train travel? Who kind of knows the way in London? Who might have ideas what to do if my chair broke in London? Who has helped me collect Tom Hanks films and will appreciate the awesomeness of this once in a lifetime chance? Only one answer really. My brother-in-law Angus.
· Ticket – tick
· Carer – tick
· Will powerchair battery last all day in London? – new batteries fitted earlier this year so, tick
· Does the weird grinding noise that sometimes erupts from my front right castor mean that my wheel is going to fall off in the middle of a busy London street? – probably but let’s live dangerously so, tick
· Do I need new tyres as mine are bald? – I can’t afford new ones yet so they will have to do so, tick
· Radar toilet key (a disabled persons essential, thank you Angelina) – tick
· Heavy duty pad in case of catheter malfunction – tick
· Train tickets – tick
· Train ramp assistance booked – tick
· Agency home calls sorted for the day – tick
To my absolute surprise my day worked out perfectly and my obsessive planning paid off! Of course, a lot of my gratitude goes to Angus who also booked us in to eat at the Bubba Gump restaurant, where we ate shrimp (what else?). The staff at Waterstones who, on the day, were fantastic, incredibly organised, friendly and polite and of course Mr Tom Hanks himself who laughed, smiled, shook my hand and signed my book!
The perfect day.
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