At Least I Wasn’t Standing On The Tarmac In the Rain This Time*

Let me tell you something. US Airways sucks at assisting disabled people. That is not a verb that I customarily use but in this case, I can’t think of anything more appropriate. You know how Delta has a bad reputation for taking care of pets that ship in cargo, sometimes resulting in a dead dog here or there? Keep your eye on the papers and I bet you’ll soon see that US Airways is the first airline to have a disabled passenger die from lack of attention on the ground.

First, I’m not disabled. I just can’t walk that far or stand in a two-hour security line so lately I’ve been using wheelchair transport in the airports when I travel. So I’m really more impaired that disabled. That way, I can save my best striding imperiously around moves for my business appearances. It’s a very organized service and usually goes very smoothly. Except on US Airways.

This isn't me. I don't look good in this shade of yellow. But those are the steps.

But that’s not the story here. The story is I was coming back from Nashville yesterday and I had to make a connection in Charlotte. Lo and behold, when we landed it wasn’t at a jetway but out in the middle of the tarmac. They made an announcement to the effect that we’d be deplaning via a very steep staircase so watch your step. So I waited to be the last one off the plane and when I got to the door the helpful stewardess said “Here’s the steps. If you can’t make it, then we can use that.” And she pointed to – I swear to God – a truck with a big tilting mechanical ramp/conveyor belt on it with handrails on the sides. I’m pretty sure it was a modified cargo conveyor that they use to get the baggage into the cargo hold.

It looked like this except it had handrails on it and the angle of tilt was much steeper.

As if.

It’s easier for me to go down steps backwards and that’s what I did in full knowledge that a big important somebody from my company was on the same plane. I was successful in keeping myself out of his line of sight until I had to waggle my saggy behind down the stairs while he was standing at the bottom of them waiting for his gate-checked bag.

Sidenote: when I was going through the security check in Nashville, I rolled up to one of those fancy new full body nudey scanners and as I was straightening the old bones to stand up, the TSA  agent said to me “Can you stand with like this?” and he demonstrated:  feet planted 3 apart, arms overhead with hands touching. I could not prevent my face from forming it’s WTF you asshole expression but I was able to stop my words from getting no worse than “Only if you come in there with me to hold me up.” Then he wised up and  let me go through a regular scanner so all in all, I guess I’m lucky that I didn’t get one of those pat down/butt tickle/boob pinch/rubber glove alternatives.

And so this is my glamorous life. Don’t be reluctant to comment because I’m not really disabled – just temporarily needy.

* Because once , that’s exactly what happened. Again, I was flying US Airways from Nashville to Washington DC. When we landed at Dulles Airport, it was the same scenario with the plane out on the tarmac and the steep set of steps that I had to go down. Backwards. In the rain. And I did have wheelchair transport arranged for the long march between plane and taxi but some old coot hijacked my chair for himself while I was still backing down the steps. The flight crew pleaded ignorance of the whole thing and were trying to hustle themselves out of the rain. Finally, the wheelchair attendant took pity on me and told me to follow her. There I was in the frigging rain marching** through the puddles with my cane, the fuel trucks and the ground crews. We walked past 6 jetways before we got to a ground-level door. Then when we got inside, I was abandoned and ignored. So I leaned against a post and started crying*** until a shuttle driver saw me and walked me to a seat. Anyway, blah blah blah. At least this time it wasn’t raining.


*** This is why I have to buy stupid shit on eBay to soothe myself from the indignities I suffer.

19 thoughts on “At Least I Wasn’t Standing On The Tarmac In the Rain This Time*”

  1. I hear ya! I can’t fly with my adult mentally disabled son because he won’t leave the house without his bag of TSA disapproved goodies. (Think Rainman’s quirky needs). Mostly it’s the 2 -16oz Pepsi bottles (not necessarily to drink, they’re his security just in case NYC or DC ran out), if an agent touched them, it would send son into a rage that would require an immediate lockdown of the entire airport while the local swat team talked him down from the ceiling. Sigh. We don’t fly, we take Amtrak, who are lovely, lovely people. If you’re not in a hurry, try that some time.

    Oh, and my other son is an air marshal. Sweet irony. 😀

    1. I take the train as often as I can – the problem is you can’t get everywhere on it conveniently. I usually use it for my trips to Baltimore and Washington DC.

      I agree – it’s a much more comfortable experinece that involves a lot less hiking around and being subjected to the whims of officious people. Here’s what I’ve found though – the air passengers are much more helpful that the train passengers. Train passengers are pretty much don’t involve me/subway rider types.

  2. I’m so outraged I can hardly type. You go to all the trouble to arrange a wheeled vehicle and they make you climb and walk! Can you say lawsuit? Scare the hell out of them at least!
    I’m disgusted with the whole air industry. They need to get a dose of reality. Instead the government will finish taking over completely and we’ll find out how they (don’t) fly in Kantstanditstan.

  3. My wife needs the chair services too, and we had a similar situation happen at one airport. To be fair to the airline, the airports usually handle all the “people moving”, and yes, it usually sucks.

    1. Then you know how dehumanizing it can be. I will say that you are treated more like a situation or a task rather than a person or a customer. At least you are there to monitor what goes on. Traveling alone, sometimes they just park you without a word and you’re left to wonder* what happens next.

      * I don’t wonder anymore. Now I know they are making arrangements for their assignations in dark corners with other airports workers.

  4. The last time I used a wheehchair in the airport the TSA assumed that, even though it was their own device, I was somehow a suspected terrorist and insisted that I get off the chair while they examined it and me for, ??, weapons of mass destruction or something.

    1. Yes, that’s what happens. AND they take my free from the Wynn Lost & Found department metal cane to run through the scanner, too so that you have to lurch through without touching anything.

      1. The entire experience is completely outrageous, but the cane part is downright insane.
        Do they think you walk with a metal cane for looks, like Victorian gentlemen used to do with their walking sticks?

  5. The Charlotte airport & US Air combined are The. Worst. Ever. for anyone, let alone the mobility impaired.

    I used a cane for some time a few years ago after the cast and brace were removed from my broken leg so I requested assistance between US Air gates in Charlotte. Instead of a wheelchair I was met by the motorized cart. No problem. Then, with a short time before boarding was to begin, there was a gate change. To a gate all the way on the other side of the freaking airport, which as Suzette will confirm is really spread out. When I requested assistance the gate agent just shrugged. Luckily, another passenger took pity on me and pulled my rolling bag to the new gate so I could move (limp) a bit faster with my cane and I made the flight. Barely. I avoid Charlotte and US Air like the plague.

    1. As long as it’s in my power, I will never darken the CTL airport door again. At first I was thrilled with the little cart service until I realized that it’s a series of relay carts and you can’t get from here to there on one cart.

      And if you are going from the C gates to the E gates downstairs, they just stop the cart at the top of an escalator, dump you out and tell you to go downstairs – a practice which I happened to photodocument here:

      How you like me now, CTL?

  6. When you live in Georgia, most flights involve Delta and go through Atlanta where mobility assistance is almost as good as in Fort Lauderdale. In Atlanta they use “transport chairs” that you can’t take into the restroom. But in Fort Lauderdale they use *real* wheelchairs and TSA doesn’t make you get out of them to hobble through the metal detector. They just have you raise up your butt and “wand” you in place. Very civilized when one has a broken leg and is a disaster on crutches.

    BTW, in our airport here in Augusta TSA does run personal canes through the x-ray machine, but they keep a wooden one for you to use when stepping through the metal detector. We have really nice TSA employees here–some of them have worked at the airport for more than 20 years. Before they became TSA, they were either local security people or some worked for Delta before they downsized here.

  7. Suzette, I’m so sorry you had to go through that trauma. I had to use a wheelchair when I flew to Albuquerque for a college reunion five years ago. Right after that I had a knee replacement and now I can walk 4 miles. I put it off as long as I could but walking was so much easier afterward, I wondered why.
    Somehow I think all this deplaning on the tarmac has something to do with all those requirements the congress passed which were supposed to help passengers but instead has had unintended consequences as you have described.

  8. “Only if you come in there with me to hold me up.”

    Why is it I can see you delivering that very same line in a slightly different manner if the TSA fellow looked like the Old Spice Guy? 🙂

  9. Suzette, I am so sorry for your troubles. The airlines know they have a captive audience and now treat passengers as troublesome objects, rather than people.

    Did anyone here see the interview with Jack Welch ? He expressed his outrage that Obama unionized the TSA workers, 46000 in number with the ‘stroke of a pen.’ Most of them are Black in my area, so I guess that explains it ?

  10. I was reading along just fine on my laptop ’til I scrolled down to the pic of the ramp-coffin, I lost it.

    Jesus, I’ve traveled all over and bee flying commercially since I was a tot, but lately I made a conscious choice to drive rather than fly because they’re just making it suck so. My point here is, if someone like me, a “seasoned” flyer with all the cards and points and VIP shit you can have, is deciding to drive now because of the security hassles and other crap with the flying experience lately, I guess the terrorists have won. Sad.

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