“You should come to the Expo in Denver this weekend.” That one simple message I received from an IG user would have a much larger impact on me than he could ever know. What he was proposing was bigger than anything I have done since shooting babies out for my vagina. He was suggesting that I make a last minute, spontaneous trip, by MYSELF. This may not seem like such an off the wall idea for some, but for someone living with Multiple Sclerosis, even the thought of the trip and event led to complete and utter panic. It goes against every comfort zone I have in place to try and manage the crazy ass and annoying symptoms that this disease throws at me.
As I lay in bed I kept thinking… I don’t travel by myself. I haven’t since I was diagnosed 11 years ago. Airports, crowds, confined spaces and being surrounded by strangers are all triggers. They ALL put my symptoms into overdrive and it becomes extremely difficult to remain focused, which makes the whole traveling thing uncomfortable and heightens my anxiety. To do that without the support and encouragement of my kids or husband seems an impossible task…and yet I WANT to go. I WANT to again be that spontaneous person that likes traveling and meeting people. I WANT to fly the “friendly skies”…by myself again!!!!
Shawn dropped me off curbside at the airport. We had left the house in PLENTY of time and as I struggle to manage the cane while pulling my bag along behind me I have a good solid two hours (closer to 2.5) until my flight. This might annoy some people, might make them feel as if they are wasting precious time in their crazy hectic lives to arrive to the airport so early, but for me, where crazy and hectic equals shit vision and a foggy mind, the MORE time I allow myself, the better it is likely to go…
unless I am flying Frontier Airlines out of Seattle International airport….
As I approach the line of 5 self-help kiosks across from the Frontier counter, I prop my cane up against the side of the machine…only to have it fall to the floor five seconds later with the dreaded loud crash. I lean over to pick it up and grab my credit card out from my wallet. I prop “BOBO” (the name the kids gave my blue cane) up against the side again and tap the screen. I am trying to focus on the words, on what information it is asking of me, but the brain fog has already settled in, my vision is blurry, and the milky/cloudiness is slowly creeping in as well. I glance down at my phone. I have been on my own in the airport for less than 10 minutes and I am already feeling like a complete and total mess. As I look back at the screen, the cane falls, again. Now I remember what I hated MOST about having to use a cane…never knowing where the fuck to put it when needing both hands. No matter where or how I prop it up, it falls – guaranteed – and more than likely some kind, caring good citizen will come to my “aid” and reach down to retrieve it from it’s less than glamourous resting spot. Which is exactly what happens next, the cane falls, cue the nice older gentleman stepping in to save the day and rescue a damsel in distress. I thank him, but really I wanted to just scream
“DO NOT TOUCH THE FUCKING CANE!!
Just leave it!!!’
…because I know it’s just going to fall again.” It’s not his fault that everytime it falls, every time I hear it crashing to the ground my symptoms get a little bit worse and I become a little bit more disoriented and anxious. He is just someone trying to do something nice, trying to help me. I silently remind myself that I have promised to ask for and accept help from people on this trip. I have to….otherwise there is no way I am going to make it.
Having completed the check-in process, I neatly fold my boarding pass in half and put it in my pocket. I grab my bags and turn to face the terminal, squinting to try and read the signs. Where the fuck do I go to get my wheelchair? I’ve just checked in at the self-help kiosk, do they KNOW that I am here? Has some alert gone out that the disabled woman in front of the Frontier counter that keeps dropping her cane is in need of her wheels? How does this work?!?! What the fuck am I supposed to do now?
There is a HUGE line at the Frontier counter and there seems to be some sort of a hubba-ba-loo going on with raised voices and guys in suits stepping in to help. Panic and anxiety are settling in….I just NEED my wheels….but the idea of trying to navigate my way through the crowd, the thought of getting closer to the loud voices and commotion seems like a terrible, horrible, no good idea…..but I do it anyway because I need my wheels.
As I stand off to the side of the counter – waiting for a break in the conversation, I desperately try and make eye contact with one of the two women wearing Frontier nametags….but neither one will look over in my direction. I try using my words – repeating “excuse me” a number of times, but either they can’t hear me, or they are choosing to not listen. It seems like I have been standing here forever, although I do realize that it probably has only been a minute or two – but when you can’t see and you are desperately trying to keep your mind focused on the task at hand (which is standing and trying to get these bitches to pay attention to me) a minute can feel like an eternity. I resort to waving my cane out in front of me. I want to scream
“excuse me, a disabled person here…can someone PLEASE pay attention to the cripple?!?!”
Ok GRANTED…waving the cane MAY have been a bit pathetic of me but it worked, and one of the women made eye contact and seemed to mouth “wheelchair?” (Although what the fuck would I know because I CAN’T SEE SHIT!) I vigorously nod. She makes a gesture as if she is on the phone and then points back to the area where I have just come from. She is going to call and I should wait over there. Got it!
So back over there I go – and low and behold there is a section of seating right in between the two entrances from the street that is labeled “WHEELCHAIR WAITING AREA.” It is completely empty as I enter the space and plop down my bags, confident that I am in the right place now. But that confidence begins to waiver a bit as the minutes’ begin to tick by. I have been waiting about 10 minutes and I am getting more and more anxious….how long do I wait? Did the gal ACTUALLY call someone or did she just make the gesture to get me to stop waving my cane around? Or maybe she didn’t say “wheelchair” at all – because I really wouldn’t know – because I can’t see anything clearly anymore!!!
As the clock continues to tick, I am working myself into a complete and utter mess. This is supposed to be the more relaxed and easier way to go (“get a wheelchair, it’s the best” said my peeps on social media) but I am beginning to doubt it being a good decision because time is passing by, I have no wheels and I am growing increasingly worried that if a chair doesn’t show up, I won’t have enough time to make it through TSA and to the gate.
I wait another 5 minutes and then gather up my bags and Bobo and head back through the crazy ass long line and park myself directly in front of the counter this time. The minute I see the gal that made the phone gesture I call out “when did they say they were coming?” She shrugs her shoulders but again makes the phone gesture. I take this to mean she will call AGAIN- and she waves me back to my holding cell.
So me, my bags and my cane head back to the “wheelchair waiting area” where I now have company. In my absence, while I was trying to hunt down my wheelchair, a couple has arrived. She has a cast and boot on her right foot – and I make the huge assumption that she too is waiting for her “wheels.” Just as I enter the space and drop my bags (and cane) to the ground, a man pushing an empty wheelchair appears. He doesn’t have a name – he isn’t looking for someone specific, he’s just shown up with a casual “someone looking for a wheelchair?”
UHM…WTF We are SITTING in the “WHEELCHAIR WAITING AREA” so yea, pretty good bet that someone is waiting for a wheelchair?!?!
I respond with “yes, me.” To which Booty McBoot responds “we were here first!” You have got to be kidding me….I know that isn’t true, and that I only left the “holding cell” to go and inquire as to the whereabouts of my wheels, but in her mind, they were first because I wasn’t there when they arrived. It’s a technicality but still, it’s true…I was HERE FIRST! But really, am I going to sit here and argue with another person that just needs assistance?!? Am I really going to pick a fight with someone that is wanting/needing the same thing as me – a fucking wheelchair? But if I don’t argue and she gets the chair, what does that mean for me? Are there any other guys or gals out there just randomly pushing chairs around looking for people that need a ride? Because that is kinda how this feels – he just happened upon us and has decided to do a good deed for the day.
As Booty climbs into the chair I ask the chair chauffer – “is there another chair coming?” To which he responds, “I will be back.” As he turns to push the chair and Booty McBoot out of the holding cell I ask “in time for my flight? He says “Yes,” but it’s what he says as he is walking away that starts the alarms in my head, it’s what makes the full-blown panic hit and it is what makes the last remaining bit of focus slip from my mind. Just before he is out of earshot, I hear him say “I hope…”
What am I supposed to do with that? He HOPES that he is going to make it back? He HOPES that I will make my flight?!?!?!? I am now a complete wreck. I can’t see jack shit and my mind feels like I have just thrown back four shots of whiskey, but sober me is on the inside just desperately trying to keep it together and not completely fall apart.
I gather up my bags, grab Bobo from his resting spot on the floor and head towards the TSA line – which is really fucking long. All I can think is, I am going to be an absolute mess if I have to stand in that line. Already the pain has kicked back in – any remaining traces of the relief my last puffs of my pain strain I had curbside while saying goodbye to Shawn are long gone. I’m going commando on my meds and it’s not feeling good.
I see a separate entrance to the TSA line – one with no one in it and surrounded by a few men in business suits. I have NO idea who they are, but when they give me a kind (yet somewhat pitiful) look, I immediately ask for their help. I explain that I am in need of a wheelchair – I’m told that I need to make that request through my airline and when I tell them that I have DONE THAT and then share the story of Booty McBoot STEALING my ride AND the chair chauffer’s last words – they say “oh, are you flying Frontier?”
Like literally WTF??? They aren’t shocked, appalled or even surprised. Nope – and they could even guess which airline I am flying!!! This does not sound good….any hopes of getting wheels of my own seem to be going down the drain.
BUT these nice men want to help me – they seem to empathize with my situation – or maybe they see the look of sheer panic in my eyes and figure they best do something to get the crazy-eyed lady her wheels before a full meltdown occurs….but motive aside, they aretrying to help, and for that I am appreciative.
At just that moment a younger gentleman wearing a blue jumpsuit with the word CLOUD on it’s back walks by. One of my “heroes” yells out to him and he stops and comes over to join our little pow-wow.
“Ed, I know you are on your break, but could you help this lady? She is flying Frontier and needs a wheelchair.”
Edl’s response…”let me guess, it never showed up?”
How is it that it is KNOWN that this airline SUCKS at providing handicap assistance and yet no one has done anything to fix it. This has got to be one of the most fucked up things I have ever heard of?!?!?
Ed assures my other “saviors” that he will help me and we turn to head BACK to the “holding cell”. As I slowly follow behind him, I wonder what exactly he is going to do. Is he going to hijack a chair and bring me to my gate himself? I’m pretty sure TSA isn’t going to let some random dude in a CLOUD costume push me through to the other side of their checkpoints, but I don’t see him calling anyone and he doesn’t have a walkie-talkie or other device that would allow him to communicate with the people that actually have the authorization to push me around in a wheelchair. He doesn’t stop to speak with anyone at the Frontier counter – he just walks straight into the WHEELCHAIR WAITING AREA and proceeds to plop down on one of the molded chairs that run along the perimeter of the space.
As I put my bags and cane down, he starts with “let me tell you just how fucked up this company is, see cause I know, I used to work for them and shit like this was always happening.” He then proceeds to tell me a story about another time this happened…I can’t give you any of the details because I am far too consumed with the time and the fact that it is becoming more and more evident that I may well miss my flight. After wrapping up his story, Ed gets up, tells me he will see what he can do, and walks away – like out of sight away. Again, minutes ticking by….there is now 45 minutes until my flight and I am still only about 50 yards from where Shawn left me over an hour ago. This traveling alone thing is NOT going so well….
(to be continued – join me next post to find out if my wheels ever arrived and what TSA found in my luggage!)
In the meantime – check out my latest post on California Weed Blog – My MMJ Adventures continue….
**This is my personal blog and all opinions are my own. I am not a doctor, nor do I play one here on my blog. The content here is for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of medical professionals. Be sure to contact your doctor before trying any new medications/vitamins/supplements, physical activities or therapies **