Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My First Trip Without a Real Leg - Kathleen Delaney

I just got back from California. My middle daughter got her PhD and we were having a gathering of the clan to celebrate. I was really looking forward to this party, but, I must admit, I was also filled with apprehension. I can hear you now, so-what’s the big deal? Never been on a plane before? Actually, quite a few, but always with two legs. Only having one complicates things.

I left Atlanta with my youngest daughter and two grandchildren. We were meeting the rest of the clan that evening for dinner in California. At least, that was the plan. It didn’t quite work out that way.

Our plane left, or was scheduled to leave, at 11:00 AM. Plenty of time to get the kids up, make sure they had breakfast, get to the airport and leave the car in long-term park, and go through security, which now means I get hauled off to a corner and get patted down. All over patted down. They even take swabs of the wheelchair and off the metal bar that is now my leg, as well as both shoes.

But, we got to our gate in time to board the children, my daughter, me, and my wheelchair. Things take longer with only one leg. Of course, as I counted who had which carryon as we left security, I found I’d left the autograph hound I’d bought for everybody to sign on the back seat of the car, but at least I’d remembered the floppy bonnet that goes with the PhD regalia, so I wasn’t too upset. At least we were at the gate on time, and I’d think of something else for everyone to sign.

My wheelchair was safely stowed in the front closet of the plane and we were all seated, the kids next to the window, me on the aisle with the fond, but futile hope that I could prop my unforgiving prosthesis in the aisle. The plane loaded, all of the overhead bins were closed, and nothing happened. We sat. I kept looking at my watch. We only had 45 minutes in Dallas to change planes, a much too tight time frame at the best of times, and with two small children and a woman with a fake leg and a wheelchair, our chances were marginal at best.

By the time we finally made it off the ground I was sure any chance of making our connection was gone. I was right.

Dallas is a rotten place to try to make up a missed flight, even if it’s not your fault. The only place worse is St Louis. They close the terminal down around ten o’clock and you get to sit up all night, hoping you can get on a morning flight out.

Because there were four of us, we were doing a St Louis repeat. The best we could do, according to one not very helpful attendant, was a flight out the next morning. As it was about 2:00 in the afternoon, this was not a very appealing prospect. He then said he could get three of us on a soon to leave for LA plane. My daughter was getting a bit testy by that time and asked which one of us he suggested we leave behind, the six year old or her handicapped mother.

His only suggestion was to go out to the main ticket window and see what they could do. We finally got confirmed seats on the six o’clock flight, which left at nine that night. In the meantime, we went back through security three more times. Each time, I was patted down, twice by the same woman. Not once did they find traces of whatever it is they look for, but the soles of my shoes were sure clean.

Security is not the only place you get slowed down. Public bathrooms, I find, have only one handicapped stall and its almost always full. I have waited outside for quite some time, to find that the people using it walk out just fine. I never thought much about this before, but if you’re left wiggling in a wheelchair, waiting for someone who actually has a choice of places to visit, it can be more than aggravating. It can be downright potentially embarrassing.

However, the trip was overall a great one. The party was great, family came from all over the country, we invaded Disneyland and I found out I can go on Indiana Jones just fine, but the Log Ride is not a good idea. I also found out how much I can do, things I really didn’t think I would be able to master, I did, and I’m ready to go again. This time with a lot less apprehension.

One note a caution, however, for any of you who are also missing a leg. Try not to let small children wheel you. Especially at Disneyland. They have a tendency not to pay much attention and the trashcans there are pretty solid.

Kathleen Delaney
And Murder for Dessert


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Kathleen, this sounds like a real adventure! I think it's a little crazy, though, that you'd have to go through so much security. Sigh...just one of those things about the US that drives me nuts sometimes! I'm glad that the trip went well overall.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Lynette Hall Hampton said...

Sounds like a fun trip even with the delays and mishaps. I agree about security. I know it's important, but for the same woman to do it twice -- oh, well. Congratulations to your daughter and I'm glad you got home safely and are ready for your next adventure.