Maybe this makes sense to you. Maybe, like me, it makes no sense to you at all.

I was taking an elderly person to the Pacific National Exhibition. She hadn’t been to the PNE in decades and was excited at the prospect of attending the fair once more. A family trip to the fair is always an ordeal, but when you’re in your 90s, it’s like launching a ship. It’s also safe to say that, in your ninth decade, it might be the last time you eat mini-donuts on the midway.  

… but when you’re in your 90s, it’s like launching a ship.

Weeks earlier, I’d called the PNE and was told that wheelchairs were available for rent. There was a $50 deposit and a $10 non-refundable fee. The instructions were to check in with Guest Services a day before we were attending.

Well, the weather got a little dodgy on the final days of the PNE. Our plans hinged on the weather but by mid-day, things were looking brighter. I called to see about the wheelchairs.

On this call I was told that reservations weren’t possible. It was a ‘first-come, first-served’ basis, which to be fair, I now see is what the PNE’s website states. I explained that I couldn’t bring an elderly person to the fair if I wasn’t sure that a wheelchair was available. I also explained that I’d received different information on an earlier call.  My call got moved along to someone more senior.

“It’s a first-come, first-served sort of thing.”

This PNE representative explained to me that, when we got to the fair, we’d have to go to one of the Guest Services offices and see if they had any of their dozen wheelchairs available. It’s a first-come, first-served sort of thing.

I reiterated his plan back to him.

I drive to the residence of the elderly person who has gone to some trouble to get ready for the day. I get the elderly person into the car, which in itself, is not easy. I drive to the PNE. I pay for parking. I leave the elderly person in the car while I set off to obtain the wheelchair. I pay for admission at the PNE. I make my way to the Guest Services office that houses the wheelchairs. I discover that there is no wheelchair available.  I walk back to the admissions gate and see if I can negotiate getting my gate fee back. I go to the car where the waiting elderly person is waiting and explain that there are no wheelchairs available. I forfeit the $25 parking fee. I drive the disappointed elderly person home.

Photo by Steven HWG

“Hmmmm”, he said, “I see your problem”.

That’s when the first-come, first-served thing came up again.

“Look”, I explained to him, “It’s not as if you’re giving wheelchairs away. There’s a deposit and a user fee. Why can’t you pay this upfront and forfeit it if you don’t show up?”

“Hmmmm”, he said, “I see your problem.”

The fellow was sympathetic. He hadn’t considered the logistics of the situation from the user point of view. He said he’d check to see how many wheelchairs were available at that moment.  He came back on the line to say that, at present, six of the 12 weren’t spoken for. He politely ensured that my comments would be reviewed further up the chain.

Well, they were.

And swiftly … which is impressive.

I got a call back from Christina Mayo, PNE’s Manager of Guest Experience and Operations.  She re-stated the first-come, first-served policy. I restated that wheelchair rentals aren’t teddy bear giveaways; this was a critical mobility issue and that, for those who require this sort of assistance, it can’t be a jump ball. If you can purchase admission tickets a day in advance, why can’t you reserve a wheelchair? 

She suggested I contact the Red Cross. They rent wheelchairs.

(NB: The Canadian National Exhibition lets you reserve not just wheelchairs, but mobility scooters, as well.)

At that point there were only two wheelchairs left.

What would you have done?

Would you have kept on driving or would you have turned the car around and denied a 90 year-old her mini-donuts?

So much for fun for the whole family.

This week’s question for readers:


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Submissions to last week’s question:


PSL!!!  I must have been one of the first in the test marketing group  in North Vancouver.  I was hooked after the first gulp. Back then some of my friends and family would raise their eyebrows at my order – a short, non-fat, extra hot latte with one pump of pumpkin spice.  That’s been my only drink of choice over the past 20 years.  Being a  pumpkin spice fan I’m excited to see it arrive in my local coffee shop late August but sure do miss it when I hear the words, “It’s all gone”.

Sue Hope

I was living outside of Canada a few years back, missing Vancouver and the West Coast vibe. Some mornings I’d brew up a cup of strong coffee, top it off with hot, frothy milk, then drizzle golden maple syrup on top. Voila! Latte au Canada!

Pam Holley

I’ve long been a fan of bulletproof coffee.  A dollop of grass-fed butter in your morning cup of joe gives you vim and vigour on top of that caffeine boost!

S. Patrick

I add turmeric to my coffee every day.  Instead of cow’s milk, I use a nutmilk and a heaping spoonful of turmeric, as well as honey.  I swear my eczema and other health problems have benefited from this ritual.

L. Levy

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