It seems to be one of the main aspects of my disability experience. (You will note, here that I said, 'my disability experience' - I keep getting told by others with disabilities that my experience of disability is not the same as their experience of disability therefore my experience is not valid in their eyes. I have never intended to speak for the whole community or of a 'universal experience' - it's always just been my experience.) I am about to head out on a mini lecture tour to California. I don't fly for several days but the worries have begun to kick in. I am aware that every traveller experiences worry. Getting into a metal machine and taking off into the air may be common but its still vaguely unnatural, it would be weird not to worry a bit. But the things that I worry about go beyond the typical things for typical people. (I know, I know, there is no such thing as a typical person and nothing upsets typical people more than someone else suggesting that they are typical people. Give me a bit of breathing room while I write here, OK)
I find myself growing concerned about things like the temperament and personality of the person I will meet at the check in counter. Putting myself into another's care is always a risk, but one that having a disability makes unavoidable. Will the check in be staffed by someone who sees it their job to make my experience as a disabled traveller a good one, or will they see the extra time and energy it takes to get me in the plane and off the ground as a burden? Will they treat my needs with respect or will I be treated as an unnecessary and unwanted bother in their day? Will I be flying while fighting off self-hatred inflicted upon me by another's attitude or will I be relaxing into a book? I never know. It's a crap shoot. So, I worry.
Will my wheelchair make it off the plane? Will it be damaged by the experience of travel at the hands of those who see it as luggage to be tossed not 'legs' to be treated carefully? I've sat on planes while they run around an airport trying to find where the wheelchair was sent. I've had my chair stolen from the door of a plane by another traveller only to have it retrieved by an airport security guy who didn't know the get the footrests back too. I talk to the steward getting on the plane. I remind them while on the plane, shortly before landing. I do what I can to make sure it all goes well. But it doesn't always. So, I worry.
Then I worry about accommodations. I know I've called each place, I've asked direct questions about the rooms, I know what I need, I ask if what I need is what they offer. It amazes me how many hotel staff know nothing about their accessible rooms. 'Are there bars around the toilet?' ... 'Um, I don't know. Are there supposed to be?' But I persist and I get answers. But I've found out through horrible experience that sometimes I'm given answers to shut me up, not answers that reflect the true adaptations in the room. I don't understand why every hotel in the world doesn't have a fact sheet at the front desk on their accessible rooms. Surely I'm not the only disabled traveller who calls ahead to ask questions about a room. So, I worry.
I used to, before disability, worry only about the work. And I still do. But now I'm so distracted about the worry involved about getting to where the work is ... that I'm now much more relaxed about the work itself. I figure if I can get in front of the audience, I've already bested 90 percent of the concerns I've had. The experience of travelling with a disability has also made me reevaluate what I do and why. I now know, for certain, that I do what I do because I really want to do it - I really want to try and effect change. The disincentives for travel are so many and so real that I only do it because I think it's important. That's good. It manages to reinvigorate me in regards to the purpose behind the process. Worry, is said to be a useless thing, and for the most part it is. But it does, for me, motivate me to try to manage contingencies and to evaluate the 'why-ness' of what I do. And I suppose that's good.
So from here to back again. It will be a time of worry. (And I will worry about everything. I will worry about how this blog will be received and how my asides, written in a state of worry, will be interpreted. I will worry about offending someone. I will worry about boring others. I will worry about the fact that this posted late which really pisses off a couple of readers who write me every single time that I post late because it upsets their routine. I will worry about having written that and getting letters about my ungraciousness about having mentioned that. I will worry more about writing what I just wrote ... and on.)
I need to get this blog finished because, as it's still early as I write this, as it's dark out, it's quiet. It's the perfect time for a bit more ... worry.
(For those of you who do not blog, you will not know that when something is published a page appears telling you that the blog has published successfully. Then, over to the right side, there is an ad box with various links. It's like there is an instantaneous reading of the post and the computer guesses at links that might interest you based on what you've just written. When I posted this blog, there were ads for 'Toronto psychotherapists'. Do you think I should worry about that?)