Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Segways in Florence.

Mr Tabubil and I have just returned from three weeks holiday – a week in Holland, so that I might see a bit of his country and meet his family, and two weeks together after that in Italy.  Right now, we're in Florence. 

On our last afternoon in Florence, we rented a pair of segways from a little shop across the street from the Pitti Palace.  A Segway is second in fun only to a barrel full of puppies.  When you know what you’re doing, control is very near telepathic – the subtlest shifts in balance and inclination are transmitted directly to the wheels and that barrel full of puppies starts looking as if it has a very VERY narrow lead.  It’s the next best thing to flying. 
Presuming you’re doing it right.
We weren’t. 

The rental shop gave us exactly thirty seconds of instructions, than aimed us at the door and sent us buzzing gently out into the street. 
In a corner of the palace wall we made a few experimental swoops and curvettes, and then we were off – we had our eye on the Piazza Michelangelo, a hilltop overlooking the city, whose approach is a series of steeply raked switchbacks that would be rather less pleasant in the summer heat on foot than on two wheels –
It wasn’t quite as much fun as I’d expected.  I didn’t appreciate how subtle the steering control really was, and I had some idea that I had to horse the machine around by main force with my upper body, shoving it hard into the curves and throwing myself forward and to slow myself down and to speed myself up – I could hardly manage the weight of it on the turns, and as I leaned into the hills the thing accelerated like a good Italian racing car and it was all I could do to hang on for the ride. 

We took a trial run straight up the face of the Costa dei Magnoli. Despite the heavy handling, it was an absolute JOY to go whirring up the steep stone streets, buzzing past the walkers and climbers puffing along in their drooping sun-hats and hiking boots, smiling magnanimously at them as we came rocketing in and out of view, dipping daringly into the turns without a breath or a hair out of place, and leaving sighs of appreciation and rueful envy in our wake –

Horsing the segway through all of those turns was exhausting.  At the top of the hill, as we turned out of the last switchback and onto the promenade of the piazza, I lost control of the machine and drove head first into a lamp-post.  The segway recoiled and shot off sideways.  I flew off in the other direction.  It was a busy road and I was falling toward a group of elderly ladies –
            “If I land on THEM” I thought, “I’m going to take out at least three hips -”
Throwing myself forward and sideways, I missed the ladies, but landed hard on the pavement on my left hand.  It hurt.  Coming up for air, I took stock - I'd sprained my wrist and dislocated my thumb.
The elderly ladies were impressed.  Descending on me in a mass, they picked me up and carried me into a café and demanded ice – 
            ‘Lots of it!  Your husband will take care of that infernal machine, you sit, cara, sit and rest. Are you bleeding? No? Oh, your poor hand-”
They petted and soothed, darting and fussing and around me like a flock of small birds, till one of them pointed at her watch.  Bird-like, they shrieked and with a profusion of final pats, fled out of the café and onto a waiting bus.
Exeunt Omnes.
I sat in the café with a bag of ice on my wrist, and a bag of ice on my knee, which had begun to swell, and felt rather lost.  And, I suspected, rather foolish. 

Up on my feet again, my thumb put right, the view from the top of the hill was worth quite a lot of the bother.  And on the ride back down the hill, I couldn’t use my hand at all, and I discovered just how subtly and elegantly the segway had been designed.  Control was effortless when I was no longer trying to control it.  I forgot my hand and dipped and soared and FLEW down the hill – a bird myself.

After we had returned the segways, I began the process of lying my head off to Mr Tabubil about just how much my wrist hurt.  I wasn’t going to waste any of my holiday in a doctor’s office – my goodness, no!
Lying to Mr Tabubil became lying to myself.  My wrist refused to improve, but I refused to notice, and it wasn’t until I was back home in Santiago that a friend bullied me into seeing a doctor.  The eight weeks since have involved a parade of X-rays, CAT and MRI scans, threats of surgeries, hand, thumb and wrist immobilizers, and a lesson in just how badly you can bruise bones.

Keeping up with this blog has involved spurts of typing, followed by protracted periods of serious discomfort, during which Mr Tabubil looks righteous, puts his nose in the air and makes vaguely religious pronouncements about the karma of lying one’s head off to a Loving Spouse about a Serious Injury, and wouldn’t it all have been easier if we’d just Come Clean and had it seen to when it First Happened? And have we learned our lesson yet? 
And then he cuddles me, and feeds me chocolate.  So that’s all right. 
And the immobilizer splint came off a week ago. 
It’s almost all better now.

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