At the airport Joe and I stopped and had breakfast, we'd gotten there very early. We expect things to go wrong, or at least be difficult, so we go really, really early so that there's time for solutions. However, check in went fine, seats were assigned with a fair degree of speed. Not only that, security was also quick. So we had time. We went over to where we knew they served a good hot breakfast. I was done first so I told Joe I'd roll over to the entrance to the gates and we'd meet there. I wanted to get out and stretch my arms a bit, move about in the chair, before being stuck in an airplane seat for over eight hours.
I got to the entrance to the gates, even managed to get up the long ramp there, thinking how much that would impress Joe. And then. Joe didn't show. And he didn't show. And he didn't show. I stopped an airport employee and asked if I was in the main entrance and she assured me that I was. It was getting perilously close to time for boarding. Finally I rolled down the ramp towards two people in purple that were there to help passengers.
Approaching them, I arranged my face, I wanted to ask for help without looking like I was at all panicked. I knew that Joe would not take off without me. I knew that there was an explanation for what was happening. I felt panic but knew that I shouldn't. I told them of my problem. They told me they were there to help me. I stared at them waiting for help. They didn't do anything. I said, "Um, help?" They asked me my destination and my airline. One of them went away and came back to say that the gate wasn't posted yet.
They told me that my friend would find me.
That I would get to my gate.
That everything would be all right.
They were talking to me like I was a simple child. They were using an exaggerated way of speaking, like adults do when they think they are being charming with a 4 year old. They did everything but pat me on the head and say 'there, there.' I said again, "Um, help?" And they again told me ...
that everything would be alright.
that I would get to my gate.
that I would not miss my flight.
But they didn't do anything. I asked them to page Joe. They said they couldn't do that. I asked them to get me someone who could assist with pushing me to the gate. They said they couldn't do that. What they did do was reassure me that it would all be OK.
When Joe showed up, I was predictably angry. Where the hell was he? He was predictably angry. Where the hell had I been? We'd missed one another. We cussed and fussed all the way to the washroom and from there on to the plane.
I told Joe about the two people who spoke to me like I was a little child. That I'd tried to be very adult when approaching them for help but that they'd responded to me, each trying to out 'understand' the other, each completely patronising.me during the whole process. It was like they saw me as a lost child rather than a man needing some kind of assistance.
It is rare that I have to ask for help from a stranger. I don't do that often. I accept help when offered sometimes, but I ask for it rarely. I think I have always been afraid that my disability status plus my need for help would result in a loss of adulthood. And that's what happened.
All that was missing was the 'there, there, it'll all be OK snookums.'