Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Silence: What Happened Next

As is my habit, upon arriving at the airplane door, I spoke to the lead flight attendant. I pointed out that I was using my own chair, that it would go down to the belly of the plane and then be brought  back up for me. I told her that twice before people have attempted to steal my chair and asked her to keep an eye out when the chair comes up. She, as people do, dismissed what I said telling me that no one would do that, I assured her that they would and they have.

Our seats were in row 43 of a 42 row plane. I'm not kidding. We landed and waited for every single other person to get off. When I get to the front my chair is not there. I talk to the people who brought chairs up, I was told that my chair was taking by a woman with long hair and a man travelling with her.

Panic.

I pointed at the woman who I had spoken to when boarding and told her that I held her responsible. I had informed her, she was at the front the whole time and she simply watched as my chair was taken away. The folks who work in accessible services at the airport bring me a kind of chair that I can't sit in. Finally one is found and I am taken up to the gate area. Several people surround me, I am extremely distraught. My chair is new, I love it, it was my first custom built chair.

People are sent running down to baggage to see if they can find the chair down there. The come back empty handed. I don't know what to do, I'm a long way from home. I don't know how to get to my hotel and what I'm going to do when there. I ask a manager type person if I could use the airport chair for a few days and bring it back. He calls and speaks to a director.

I await her decision.

Sitting at the conveyor belt watching luggage come up I am suddenly overcome and overwhelmed and I break down. I am sobbing in the airport chair. I know people are staring. Joe puts his hand on my shoulder and just lets me grieve for a few minutes until I can put myself back together.

I speak to a manager from the airline, a voice from Winnipeg trying to figure out if I need a new chair to replace the others how she could facilitate that, and then it comes to filling out the forms for both my chair and our luggage which hadn't arrived. Before the forms were filled out, our luggage was returned.

It's been a long time, there is no sign of my chair. Joe goes and gets a rental car, from a company that had lost our prepaid reservation, and arrives after they find a car that I can get into. I have been allowed to take the airport chair with a promise to bring it back when we fly home. It weighs about 35 pounds, versus my stolen chair which weighed 8 pounds.

We get to the hotel, we'd requested an early check in, and are told our room isn't ready. The check in time is 4:00 and we don't get the room until after 5:pm.

After arriving in the room.

We both sit quietly.

No TV.

No Internet.

Just silence.

10 comments:

Jenni said...

Oh no! I'm so sorry. You were right to blame the member of staff who ignored your warning and let the thieves take it while she watched. I hope the airline processes your insurance claim quickly so you can get another chair as soon as possible, but I know it won't be the same as if this never happened. How awful.

Lauralee said...

That is just incredible. WTF are you supposed to do when you get home, levitate on your magic carpet?

FFS!!

I am so sorry this happened to you.

leslie sobel said...

I am so so sorry! I hope this gets resolved in a good way in a hurry!

clairesmum said...

Oh, no! All of your travel nightmares in one flight. And to lose your chair, the one made just exactly right for you...that is a cruel blow. That woman was irresponsible, it's as if she was supposed to watch a baby in a stroller and let someone just push that stroller right up the gangway back into the airport.

And there is a special circle in "heck' for anyone who steals a WC or mobility scooter!

I'm so sorry this happened to you, and Joe,

Unknown said...

Oh, no!! Dave, this is truly awful!!

Louise in Edinburgh said...

That is awful. Words fail me

Oh, and one more thing... said...

This is so awful! I assume you have reported the theft to police. Did they give you copies of airport security videos? Could we try and make it go viral for you to help locate the thieves and your chair?

Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

It is heart breaking that, not only does this terrible thing get done to you, but that it keeps happening. And when you explain that it has ALREADY HAPPENED, your concerns about it happening again are dismissed. Only for it to happen again. There have been at least two more separate incidents involving stolen, damaged, or otherwise inappropriately handled wheelchairs just in the past week or two that I've learned about via Twitter (both involving JetBlue, one happening right after JetBlue said they had now revised policy to keep it from happening again).

I am hoping that it gets resolved -- for you, and for others.

Sometimes I wish I could take the entire staff of the entire airline industry, lock them into an auditorium, and force them to listen to some of the many stories from wheelchair users (and other people with other types of disabilities) about the terrible stuff they've experienced during traveling that they could prevent by doing better. Starting by, not disbelieving people when they share their own lived experiences.

wheeliecrone said...

Let me add my voice to those who say, "OH, NO!!!" Not the new chair! The lightweight, custom-made, comfy chair! How utterly horrible! I hope that you are able to get a replacement chair quickly. Oh, Dave. This. Is. Terrible.

szera said...

Excellent idea, honestly I wonder if any of this is in their training! The raw callousness is (no words),
air travel should NOT INCLUDE collateral damage as a norm!!