Why the airport is no fun

Why the airport is no fun for me, by Lili, age 29

I use a wheelchair at the airport, since I can’t stand on a hill to go through security (a requirement these days), stand in line for a long time, do a jig once I get up there (and they always ask me to), raise my arms, let go of my cane. If I could do all that, I wouldn’t need the cane! I can’t even push a manual chair, so once I’m in the chair, I’m stuck.

I always order a wheelchair when I get my ticket. I call the airport the day before to make sure they have it written down - they never do. They assure me it’s there. The day I go to the airport, they have no record and we have to start over. They complain I should have let them know ahead of time! They don’t know how to fill out the slip until I tell them, check the wrong box (CAN ascend stairs) until I make them do it right, try to not give the extra copies to me like they’re supposed to. I insist they confirm with me there will be no stairs on the plane, which makes them roll their eyes in annoyance. Then I have to wait 15-30 minutes for the skycap to show up. Often they have the extra-wide wheelchair, which I don’t need and hurts to even sit in. 90% of the chairs at the airport are broken - footrests won’t go up right or come down right, brakes don’t work, parts are broken off, etc. Then, half the skycaps don’t even know how to drive one. They go down hills forward so I almost fall out and when they get the chair stuck, they put their knee into it to make it move - except that means they knee me right in the spine! Then, if you don’t tip them enough they get all up in your face about it. My personal feeling is that if you want a tip for driving a wheelchair you should not assault the person in it. One guy was getting me after a flight and kept trying to go really fast so he could get me alone. He kept asking me if anyone knew where I was. Ugh! I tried to file a complaint, but neither the airport nor the airline would take it.

Going through security is fun. They have to make sure again that I really can’t dance a jig. I have to convince the skycap not to run away and abandon me there. They always ask me if I have any painful areas (uh, all of them), say they’ll be gentle, and then pat the heck out of me. Everyone in line stares while they’re feeling me up. They always ask if I have an insulin pump, but I don’t know what happens when you say, "yes."

At the gate, we go over this wheelchair thing again with the gate staff. I have to get someone to take me to the bathroom since I generally can’t use the one on the plane. 25% of the time, there are stairs on the plane anyway and either they let everyone on and I have to wait 30 minutes while they change it, or everyone has to wait while they change it. Once I had to go on in a shaky beverage lift. Once I get on, no one gets out of my way, so I have to sit down while I’m waiting for them to clear the aisle. The flight attendants always get mad at me for this, even though the seat was empty. I give them my slip and confirm there will be no stairs on the plane at the other side - 20% of the time there is ANYWAY so if I have a connecting flight I am in trouble. I always remind them about the wheelchair when we get there. They always tell me the wheelchair is ready and when I get to the door, it’s not, so I have to sit down again and wait 5-25 minutes. They always insist on trying to talk me into hobbling up the winding, uneven, steep jetway. Believe me, I wish I could! I might make my connection!

When it’s time for the last poorly executed push to the baggage claim, I feel all the aches, pains, and bruises. After the final payout (sometimes the fourth or sixth), I know it’s all over. Until the next time.

And I thought I didn’t like flying!! Yikes. Compassion should be more universal.

I don’t fly because of the security. Greyhound is better for me, although I guess the bathroom at the back of the bus is not exactly accessible.