Traveling While Disabled: Part III, Wheelchair Dis-Service
This is the third installment of the surprisingly rollicking adventures of a courageous disabled traveler going it alone. Here are links to the first two installments in case you missed them:
Upon arrival in Toronto I was greeted by that sight that every disabled person dreads...the total absence of a wheelchair at the bottom of the jetway. I started to try to walk up the ramp. It reminded me of the swing bridges on the Swiss Family Robinson tree house at Disneyland. At the top of every rubber matted hill was yet another vertical tilted ramp in a new direction. Half way up this ridiculous "exercise in the unnecessary", I passed a folded wheelchair with no attendant in sight.
At the top of the maze stood an attendant. I mentioned that I had expected to see a wheelchair at the airplane end of the jetway. He said that he was in charge of that and I must wait, as in just stand against the wall and hope I don’t fall.
Seems Air Canada’s union bartered to keep the wheelchair service as a part of the airline, not sub-contract it. The rationale is that they can keep more union jobs that way. Great, except the person who was to wheel me and several others off the plane was also in charge of signing the airplane off as empty and locking it.
Once I was finally in a wheelchair, the attendant wheeled me about 10 feet and told me to wait for the airport jitney. There I waited for a van of sorts where I was told I had to hold one suitcase between my legs and balance the second one on my lap. Seriously? I have pain...think sunburn with bee stings from my chest down. And they want me to "just pile that luggage on your lap, honey." It was that or walk 100 gates. I did note that the woman with the sari on did not have to put the suitcase between her legs. Note to self: wear a sari on the next trip.
I guess they are trying to encourage people to check those bags for an extra $25. I wonder if they had a staff meeting. "Okay, today's meeting is all about making that carry-on nigh unto impossible to bring with you. Berniski?"
"How about we make the bathroom stalls too narrow to drag bags into?"
“Okay, that will take some infrastructure, but you're on the right track.”
"Jenkins, you have an idea?"
"Yeah, ya know those totally lame, ur , um lame people? Make them carry their own bags between their paralyzed legs. That'll teach 'em."
“Good work Jenkins. We need more out-of-the-box thinkers like you!"
I had them take me to the Air Canada Elite Club, where I was informed, "this is a members only club" (that would not be me) but I could be admitted if I had purchased my insider card 24 hours ahead of time or had a platinum Diners Club or frequent First Class Fliers club card. However, the Toronto Airport, I am happy to announce, has a middle class lounge that is free for platinum card holders and will accommodate the rest of us for $35. I paid the admission, ate my "free" helping of salad, fruit, chicken fajita something, and cookies. I think if I have 16 espresso coffees I will break even. I am on number four as we speak.
To be continued . . .
Sally Franz is a former stand-up comedian, motivational speaker, and radio host. She is a twice-divorced mother of two and a grandmother of three. Sally has a degree in gerontology and several awards for humor writing. She is the author of "Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey," and "The Baby Boomers Guide to Menopause."