First, let me apologise for disappearing for a few days. Our trip to California was packed, we stayed in a hotel in Emeryville and then drove to the three cities we worked in. It was great not have to pack and move every day but we had to leave early, because of traffic, and we got home to the hotel lateish also because of the traffic. By the time we were home, after driving and lecturing (while still coughing) and then finishing up all emails and questions from work, I was toast. There just wasn't much energy or room for much more.
But, I'm happy.
I'm happy because it all went well. I met wonderful people. Audiences were both receptive and appreciative. It felt, really felt, like the whole thing mattered. There's no better feeling than that of having made, even a slight, difference. And I had that feeling three days running.
The biggest challenge for me in air travel, now, is the ramp, in Toronto, at the end of the trip. Toronto airport is constructed such that there is a huge long ramp down to the planes. I know most airports have the same, but Toronto's is, in my experience, the longest and hardest ramp. At one time, if I took my time, I could walk the ramp up. I can't any more. My balance, my strength, just isn't enough.
As we checked in yesterday, I asked the woman who was helping us if she could get a message, somehow to Toronto, letting them know that I needed the 'pushing machine' with a wide chair. She said that she would do what she could. I sat and watched her type in the request and she said, 'Well, let's see what happens.'
I didn't think about it much on the plane because I knew, whatever happened. I'd get up the ramp one way or another. If it took me a long time, it took me a long time. When we landed we waited to get up until we saw the wheelchair being taken out of the hold and pushed towards the front of the plane. I got up and got to the front of the plane to see both my wheelchair and the 'pushing machine' (it must have a name) with a wide chair.
I'd never ridden in one of these before but I got it, got settled and with a push of a button we began a slow but steady ride up from the plane to the top of the last of the three ramps, two short, one long. It was awesome. Just awesome.
From where we were left off, it was an easy push to security and then to baggage and out. My arms and shoulders are at full strength because I've been in my manual a lot recently and have been able to push, really push, myself longer distances. Even over rugs!
Part of me, for a few minutes, though, felt badly in asking for this new service. I've known about the pushing machines for a long time, but I've never used them. Oddly, I felt proud of that. So, if I was proud of that, how was I supposed to feel about using them now? I'd just finished a three city lecture tour, I'd rolled myself miles in my manual chair, and I was feeling guilty - like I was lazy or something. But then, I realized that I need what I need and that's the end of it.
I'm glad I off-loaded the guilt before I got on the chair and rode up the ramp. Because if it's the new normal for me when I travel by plane, I'm gonna enjoy it.
And I did.