Taken – The Prelude

June 11 2011. Saturday morning began early for me, I couldn’t sleep. I always say I have my good days and my bad days. I could tell this wasn’t going to be one of the good ones. It had been a long visit and I was ready to get home. I started the day with a diabetic breakfast drink. My son-in-law drove me to the airport and dropped me off at the doors.

Once inside I made my way to the check-in counter and asked if I could get some assistance getting to the gate. I wasn’t going to be able to walk that far today. A wheelchair was produced and my bags and I were whisked off towards the Security checkpoint. Wow, that was pretty cool getting the VIP treatment at Security, being taken right to the front of the line.

Well, except that all of a sudden there I was, at the front of the line. People were standing there with their shoes in their hands, ready to go through, that were held back to allow me to go through first. Everyone was waiting, watching me as I rushed to get my belt and boots off, empty my pockets, give up my cane, hold my pants up so they don’t fall down, forget the cell phone in my shirt, have to go back through, all with little grandpa steps. I went just as fast as I could and I was quite winded by the time I got my stuff all put back/away.

Okay, now was time to enjoy the ride to the gate. Only the person pushing my chair was only using one hand while talking on his cell phone with the other. The chair constantly veered left and right as he barely kept it under control. Is this really what people who have no choice are subjected to? I had plenty of time before the flight so I just relaxed and waited.

When they boarded the plane I was listening for the “people who need extra time boarding” part at the beginning. Either I missed it, or they skipped it, because we were suddenly boarding frequent flyers and Military in Uniform. I grabbed my bags and shuffled through the line. As they scanned my boarding pass I asked if I could have someone meet me at the plane to help me get to my connecting flight, as there was only a 40 minute layover. They said one had been “ordered”.

When I got off the plane there were two wheelchairs on the jet way, but no one around them. I wasn’t sure if one of them was for me so I started up the jet way. I kept to one side so people could pass me by as I pulled my bag with one hand and steadied myself with my cane in the other. It was a very very long jet way that seemed to go on forever. In some sections the intense heat from outside would overwhelm the forced air inside. By the time I reached the gate I was spent. I picked the first open patch of carpet outside the line of traffic and dropped in a pile.

Several people stopped to ask me if I was okay, if I needed water, if they should call a paramedic. I assure them all that I was “Okay” and that I just needed to catch my breath and cool down. More than one of the gate crew talked to me and knew that I was looking for a wheelchair to get me to my connecting flight. Time ticked by as I sat there on the floor waiting. Twice I went to the counter to ask about the wheelchair that never seemed to arrive.

At one point one of those Handicap Golf Cart things stopped at the gate and a gate attendant said, “There’s your ride!” I struggled to my feet and drug my bag over to the cart and started to sit down. The driver stopped me. He said, “This ain’t your cart”. I told him the gate attendant said it was. He replied, “I guarantee this ain’t your cart” and walked off. I went back to my campsite on the carpet.

Now other people at the gate were asking the gate attendants to do something for me. I added that my connecting flight was already boarding and I was still sitting there. A Supervisor was summoned and immediately went for a wheelchair. The Cart driver showed back up and an argument broke out between him and the gate attendant over why the he refused to take me. The cart driver lost and was offering to take me just as the Supervisor came back with a wheelchair. I took the Supervisor.

We sped through the terminal, skillfully dodging traffic and quickly made the gate. We breezed through the gate and began the long zigzag down the jet way. We get to the bottom of the jet way and wheelchair comes to a halt. The Supervisor takes my bags and hands them to a flight attendant. She flips up the footrests on the wheelchair, reaches out her hand, and says, “Would you like some help up?”

Then it happens. My stomach suddenly turns over and I say, “I’m going to be sick!” There was a garbage can right there. I stuck my head in the can and let loose. I felt so sorry for anyone on that jet way, but at least the garbage can had a lid – for after I was done.

I was removed from the queue of passengers, held to the side as they passed by staring nervously. My bags were removed from the plane and set next to me on the jet way. My escorts stayed with me as the door closed and the plane left without me.

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