It's such a pity. See, he had such a pleasant face. It was a face that he took care of, groomed it well, framed it in hair a lightly slighter shade than born with, cut in and exciting and fashionable wave. He had teeth that looked preternaturally white, teeth ready for display, teeth that should brighten a smile, not make terrifying a snarl. He did not want to serve me, so, he didn't, he served Joe next to me. He did not want to speak to me, so, he didn't, he spoke to Joe. He did not want to hear me, so, he didn't, he answered my questions as if Joe had asked them. There are times when I'm amazed by my skills, apparently ventriloquism is now amongst my arsenal of talents.
Leaving the gate with our boarding passes we head to security. The woman at check in, after asking if we needed assistance, informed us that our gate was 'really just inside security'. This must be code for, 'Its the furthest gate from here.' She didn't think I'd notice I guess, just being a disabled guy pushing himself over long stretches of carpet. But, I push myself all the way, I've not been lifting weights for nothing!
To get on the plane, a small twin prop ... I feel its important here to say that the airline had been informed of two facts important to this story and to my experience. 1) I use a wheelchair and 2) I can't climb stairs. So, they knew. OK back to my adventure. To get on the plane we ride down and elevator and then get on a 'medi-life' or an 'ambi-lift' I don't know which they call it ... why they can't simply call it and 'access-lift' I don't know, I'm neither sick or in need of an ambulance, I simply need access. We go to the plane. We are sitting in a little mobile waiting room. When in place, it slowly lifts us up into position. Now we can see the door of the airplane through which we will enter.
It's not a door, its the small baggage hatch, through which we had just seen two baggage guys struggle to get a tall piece of luggage through.
'I'm going in there?' I ask. A nod tells me I am. I am not sure I can. I'm not sure I have the flexibility to bend down to get it and the balance or strength in my legs to do so without falling or suffering a serious accident. I need to take some control here. I ask the man driving the lift if he can lower us a bit so I have a small step up but which would make it such that I have to bend less. He can. He does. I wheel out on to the ledge and get out of my chair. My heart is in m throat and my pride and dignity, which had been crumpled up by the guy at check in, now was simply tossed away. I get my head and shoulders into the plane. I see potential hand grips inside the plane. I grab hold and use my upper body strength to pull my lower body up and into the plane. Finally, I'm in my seat.
After take off I ask a flight attendant what will happen on arrival. I'm told another lift will be there for me. I can't imagine how I'll get out without the grips on the other side. Well, not to worry, there is no lift for me. Some airport guys come on the plane and talk to me. They don't want to take me out the baggage hatch. One shakes his head in astonishment that I'd been required to enter the plane that way. His eyes say, 'I'm sorry, man, that's awful.' I almost cry.
I got up and stated that I'll go down the stairs even though it terrifies me. I want to be off the damn plane, I want this experience over. I want, mostly, to be away from this airline. The stairs are steep. I will need to back down. There is a hand rail on the right but not left. I can't brace myself, balance, then step backwards and down. An arm appears and I grab it and step down. Now there is a rail on my left. Minutes later I'm in my chair, then the transport, then the airport being pushed along to meet up with luggage.
It must have been odd for people to see the unusual sight of luggage collecting luggage.