During November, I wrote the first draft of the book version of Modified Flight Plan, the true story of an amazing friend, triple-amputee pilot, Brian Thomas. One thing I have learned telling his story–and just having him as a friend, is that you need to be prepared to find ways around the random road blocks life throws in your path.
Case in point, Friday night, we were preparing for his very first television interview. Wardrobe? Check. Reviewing script and book notes to prepare for interview? Check. Putting a spit-shine on the Cessna 205 he planned to take the reporter flying in the next morning? Check. Charging the hook that died while putting the spit-shine on the plane? Check. We had it covered…right?
Or something like that.
Brian mentioned he needed my help to sew the webbing on his wheelchair where it was tearing loose. I have done some upholstery work in my time, and heck, I’ve sewn wedding dresses. No problem.
I don’t know what the heck they make wheelchair webbing out of, but that stuff must have some magical charm protecting it from needle penetration. Good grief. The material thickness should have whizzed right through my sewing machine. HA! Not even close. I didn’t even know my machine could lock up the way it did with the wheelchair webbing stuck with the needle buried in the bobbin channel. Yeah, that was fun to try to get out without breaking my rather expensive embroidery-capable Brother sewing machine.
Hand sew it.
It’s one simple straight seam, and I have heavy-duty thread, an upholstery needle, and a thimble. What could possibly go wrong?
Uhhh huhh… I also did not know pushing a THICK needle through a magically impervious but deceptively thin sheet of…is it fair to call it fabric?? could snap it right in half. Well, huh.
So here we sat, at nearly 11 pm, with a looming interview first thing in the morning, a disassembled wheelchair, and a CURSED piece of material I had no idea how to fix. There aren’t any urgent care centers for wheelchairs, I am fairly certain.
We both stared at the mess for a few minutes, and Brian grabbed the staple gun out of my (hot pink) tool bag. “Staple it.”
It’s not like upholstering a couch, I don’t have a wood frame to staple it TO.
“Shoot the staples through the material, into the carpet, then bend the staples with your (hot pink) pliers.”
Why do I suspect this is not going to end well? “Hey, we need to cancel the interview. I inadvertently stapled Brian’s wheelchair seat to my floor…”
Oh what the hell… It wasn’t like we had much for other options. With great trepidation, I pulled the trigger and shot the staple through the dreaded wheelchair fabric and into the carpet. Ka-pow. Then I gently lifted the edges. Low and behold, it pulled up cleanly. I grabbed the pliers and bent the sharp ends over into a tight metal stitch.
This just might work.
Ka-pow, ka-pow, ka-pow. I managed to finish repairing the split seam without inflicting bodily damage to either of us, and Brian reassembled his wheelchair. Whew. I commented that he really should take the thing in and get a proper repair. He reminded me of the screw he’d had in his tire since this summer (it’s still in there) and said his dad would be proud of his innovative repair idea. I suspect the staples may be there a while.
Somehow, this is all fitting. Brian’s story is really one about finding creative ways around roadblocks–no matter what they may be. If he wasn’t truly an expert at doing this, he would be sitting at home collecting disability checks every month, and likely being miserable. Instead, he was back at work six months to the day from his illness, and he soars with the eagles when he flies.
Besides… I was out of the good duct tape.