Sunday, 3 August 2014

Faulty Connections

Thank you to everyone who has welcomed my return to blogging, I've appreciated every comment, like, repost and retweet. I'm glad to be back, after all, if Li wasn't blogging I wouldn't be able to ask you this...

What, I ask you, would you consider to be the minimum requirements, the prerequisites, for a wheelchair repair engineer? An encyclopaedic knowledge of different kinds of wheelchairs? A familiarity with the various faults that wheelchairs can develop? A well equipped toolkit so you can fix the fault you have cannily discerned and identified? You'd think so, wouldn't you. Let me disabuse you of these foolish notions.

My wheelchair has electrically powered leg-rests. Each leg-rest can be adjusted independently using a setting on my hand-controller. For a few months there has been a fault on the right side leg-rest whereby whenever it is used it causes a short-circuit that locks up the controller and flashes up an error message. This is particularly annoying because it is very easy to accidentally find yourself knocking the joystick when cycling through the various options, particularly when trying to find recline or tilt, suddenly finding the chair disabled. To reset you have to switch off the chair, switch it back on, press the Mode button and cycle through the options again. Not a critical fault but an annoying one nonetheless.

We arranged for an engineer to visit from the company that has the local wheelchair repair contract on Tuesday morning. Tuesday morning was an ideal time because I have extended hours on the BiPap those mornings and am therefore not using the wheelchair. The engineer didn't come in the morning as arranged, he came in the afternoon instead. I demonstrated the problem to him. He sucked air through his teeth in the traditional manner and said "I wonder why that happens?" At this point Polly arrived and pointed to the exposed wires on the connecting cable. "Hmm," said the repairman. "I'll need a soldering iron." He was the expert so we nodded encouragingly. "I haven't got a soldering iron." Of course he didn't. After all, why would a repairer of electric wheelchairs ever need such an exotic tool? He examined the wires, unwrapping the worn electrical tape that had left them exposed and therefore able to touch each other. "The problem is these wires," he explained knowledgeably. Polly's eyes almost disappeared as they rolled in their sockets. "They need connecting." "I have a soldering iron," said Polly, helpfully. A slightly panicked look came onto his face. "But I don't think I've got any solder." Was that relief I saw in the young man's eyes? "We could pop down the road to the hardware store and get some," she suggested. At that point the repairman mumbled something about getting the right stuff from the depot. He then rewrapped the wires in the decidedly non-sticky electrical tape he had removed originally and asked me if that had fixed the problem. It hadn't. "Perhaps some fresh tape might make it more insulated," wondered Polly. "Err... I haven't got any with me." Later, with the engineer safely away and promising to arrange a return appointment, Polly examined the wires carefully and twisted the appropriate ones together. She found a roll of gaffer-tape and isolated each of the wires, wrapping them individually. Then, with a cable-tie, she attached the cable safely to the appropriate part of the leg-rest. It took less than five minutes and not a drop of solder before the fault was fixed. Meanwhile, we're still waiting for the company to contact us and make a return appointment. I imagine the young man is looking at the mysterious tool in his tool-kit and wondering why he needs a screwdriver that gets so hot at one end. Thank you for reading.