Friday, 19 December 2008

A Door In The Life

The two men stood in our living room and sucked air in through their teeth. One of them took out a tape measure and checked again. He shook his head and turned to me.

“Do you mind if I measure your chair?” he asked. One of the men was from a company that had tendered to replace our back door, the other was the council surveyor. “You are going to lose about 3 or 4cm because of the new door jamb. Is that a problem?” “Yes,” I replied firmly. “It is.”

Welcome to the long running saga of our back door. We live in a ground floor flat (apartment) with a small back garden (yard). Our back door opens onto a ridiculously long ramp that allows access to the garden or the back gate. Both the door and the gate are electronically operated by a remote controlled entry system which was initially installed when we first moved in some 9 years ago. The back door worked beautifully for a few months and then broke. People came out and sucked air through their teeth and determined it had broken because the wood of which the back door is made had swelled in the wet winter weather. This had caused the electric door opening motor to burn out as it tried unsuccessfully to open the stuck door. The motor was repaired. The motor burned out again.

For a long time nothing happened. The motor remained burned out. We were left with a back door that was harder to open than an ordinary one because it had a heavy door opening mechanism uselessly attached to it like a particularly uninspiring piece of installation art. Eventually we disconnected the mechanism and used the back door like any normal mortal would. This effectively meant that I could only use the door if someone opened it for me. Fortunately I had children.

Years went by. The original installer of the door opening mechanism went out of business. We had another door opener... er, child. Periodically some one would come out to suck more air through teeth and explain why their door opening mechanism wouldn't be suitable for opening our door. Then one day I realised something awful. Soon the 2nd baby door opener would be going to school full-time and not be available for egress facilitation. We redoubled our efforts and made a fuss until the man from the council found a company to install a non-biological door opener. For a while everything was fine. The door would open at the push of a button on a tiny remote control and I could come and go freely throughout the summer. But...

The wooden back door continued to swell in wet weather. The new, improved, non-humanoid door opening mechanism is beginning to feel the strain. The door is beginning to stick. The solution? A new door. Hence the presence of the two men in the living room this morning. The problem? The new door will be 3 to 4cm narrower than the old one because the door jamb will be larger.

3 to 4cm may not seem a lot but you can't make a wheelchair 'breathe in'. The man from the council has gone away to think. I'll let you know when he's thunk.

Oh, and just as he was leaving Polly pointed out that the electrically operated back gate is beginning to crack. The poor man winced. I think I saw a tear in his eye as he left counting the days to his retirement.