Doesn't sound very long does it? Unless you're waiting for a train, or trying to hold your breath. But it's the difference, for us, between being nicely on time for school, or being late. You can't run with a power chair; top speed is a brisk walking pace, and that's that - unless you want to waste valuable seconds manipulating the levers to put the chair into manual, and then put your back out pushing a chair designed to push itself.
Three minutes is how much earlier the bus came today rather than yesterday. Enough time to kiss Mog goodbye, wave at the drivers, and then walk Little Fish to school. Enough time to catch up with other children also being walked to school at the same time. Enough time to arrive and stand somewhere in the middle of the drop-off queue.
Three minutes later, and we are struggling. Mog gets abandoned at the bottom of the ramp once we've ascertained that the vehicle reversing down our cul-de-sac is indeed a school bus and not the bin men or a delivery lorry. We meanwhile walk briskly, me pulling at Little Fish's joystick, trying to squeeze out extra speed, knowing this is futile but driven to try. It means we sit at the traffic lights and count the seconds before the green man lights up, we huff and puff our way down the road watching the wave of children in red recede ever further into the distance. It means we are last in the queue, or arrive after the queue has gone in. Children in the early stages of forming alliances with new classmates choose their partners before we can roll through the school gates, and the corridor is crowded with children saying tearful farewells as we try to reach the coat pegs.
And yet; it's three minutes. It's just three minutes. It's the time it takes to clamp Mog into her bus and drive off again (I know this, because it also takes us three minutes to get from our door to the traffic lights and when they're against us, the school bus catches up). It's the time it takes for a parent, earlier up in the bus pick-up timetable, to fasten a coat and tuck a note into a school bag. It's the time it takes for another child on the bus to pause and tie their laces. It's a set of red traffic lights, a queue at a roundabout, a windscreen needing to be defrosted before the driver moves off.
It's not late. It's enough time still to be at Mog's school (just) before the start of the day. It's just not quite enough time for us to get to Little Fish's school, or not with any kind of dignity. And I'm not sure what to do about that, short of asking wheelchair services for a faster power chair.