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.
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’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.