Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Room for Three

Well, that was something else. Disability gives you such way cool experiences - if you choose to see it that way. We arrive at the airport in Dublin and wait until everyone else gets off. When I make my way to the front to see if my wheelchair was there, I found a small group of people gathered, waiting, looking concerned. As it turned out there were three wheelchair users and their friends and family. I asked what was up and found out that there was no jetway, all the other passengers had gone down an enormous set of stairs that had been pulled up to the plane. I was stunned, this was a big, big, plane holding hundreds and hundreds of people, the ground was more than a shout away.

I expressed my concerns and was told that they were going to take us down in a cherry picker. A cherry picker? I pictured one of the cherry pickers from my youth in the interior of British Columbia ... a scruffy faced, skinny, boy. I thought to myself, 'After throwing me over his shoulder and carrying me to the ground I willing to bet he never picks a fucking cherry again.' The two other wheelchair users were women, one with wild hair and a whiskey tenor voice, the other with perfect hair and Betty Boop lipstick. We were an odd grouping but we were all feeling tense.

I was the second off. As it turned out it wasn't a cherry picker. What it was was kind of strange. It was a room, complete with chairs and spaces for wheelchairs that was raised high in the sky. You accessed the room by walking across this ricketty looking metal walkway over to the room. Luckily I could walk over, one of the women had to be carried, I can imagine the fear there. It was a long drop. But as she was set in her chair she said, 'Nah, I wasn't scared, so what's the worst that could happen if he dropped me, I already can't walk.'

Then once we were all in, the room slowly decended. We were then driven over to the terminal. But to get out of our mobile room we had to wait for them to attach a porch to it. This porch was also on hydrolics and would lower us to the ground. Then two women, wearing vests with a variety of disability symbols on them, wheelchair guy, blind guy, guy with ear, kind of a hieroglyphics of crippledom, showed up. They assisted me right through to where we could get a rental car.

Overall I was impressed. Where there was inaccessibility built into the system, creativity created another way of doing things. I reminded myself that though my body may not be flexible, my mind and expectations must remain so ... perhaps a hidden benefit of life with a disability ... learning to adapt, adapt, adapt. And besides, who else gets to drive around the Dublin runways in a motorized room?


Sharon said...

Welcome to Ireland Dave!

I was going to ask for a link to your talk schedule but I got off my but and Googled it. For other readers, it's the WDSC 2009 (an honour for Dublin to host this!) and there's a PDF of the programme here.
I wonder how you keep this astonishing pace up!

I hope you enjoy your time in Ireland and have a couple of brews to suit your fancy, be it a good strong cup of tea (Barry's is a favoured brand) or something with a little more kick.

Wish I could make it to Dublin to hear you, especially for your sexy talk on Friday!

Anonymous said...

Céad mile fáilte O Baile Atha Cliath Dave and Joe!
Love LinMac (Linda)

Tamara said...

Did you by any chance take any pictures? :-) Have a great time at the conference. Say hi to Victor and Emmanuel Bishop for me if you meet them. Emmanuel will be performing. He may be speaking too - not sure. Have a wonderful conference -

Anonymous said...

Now you've got me really curious, Dave. I get the impression you do a lot of travelling so if this is your first experience in a cherry picker, how do you usually get on board? I know that some planes can be parked next to the special corridors that stick out of the terminal building for people to get on and off, but that hardly ever happens. The only thing I can guess is that you usually use a ramp of some kind?

You find cherry pickers amazing and innovative, whereas I'm wondering what amazing and innovative alternative you usually use. It's funny how different peoples' perspectives are isn't it?

Anyway I hope you guys have a great time in Ireland, top o' the mornin' to ye!

Meredith said...

Anon, in America, generally there are extended motorized ramps for everyone to get on and off the plane, sort of motorized versions of the corridors.

Kristin said...

Have a wonderful time in Ireland. It sounds like a really cool way to get on and off the plane.

FridaWrites said...

Most of my flights have been with the corridors; I've wondered what would happen if I took a commuter flight and it was a bad day (i.e., couldn't do stairs). And how would they get my scooter down without destroying it?

Take lots of pictures!!

Andrea S. said...


I'm guessing maybe you mostly use somewhat small airports. (Or at least "small" compared to the airports I'm used to ;-) ) Or maybe just in a different country from where I am.

In larger airports, such as National airport in Washington DC, and airports at other major cities I have been to, those corrider things sticking out from the terminal that can connect to the airplane door are commonplace. I have only needed to climb up airplane steps in a few places, usually at smaller airports or when taking very small planes to some remote location.

I admit I am "spoiled" by the fact that I have pretty much always lived near some major city and have done most of my traveling to other major cities. As you say, it is funny how different how perspectives can be, isn't it?

Not being from Toronto (nor having ever been there) I've no clue what kind of planes or boarding mechanism he's more accustomed to, though! :-) So we'll have to wait and see if he decides to make this one of his rare occasions in which he posts a comment :-) (He usually doesn't because he, understandably, prefers to preserve his time and energy for polishing the next blog post and tending to the rest of his life.)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Anonymous, most airports I travel to have jetways so entry and exits pose no problems. I did once in a small airport have to ride in a contraption up to a plane, I did not know if this was called a 'cherry picker' or not. You've given me much more to think about and when I travel to new airports I am going to always ask about the landing and disembarking procedures. Who knew? Thanks for your comment - I learned something new.