WHEELCHAIRS and the like …
I have discovered that there are all manner of wheelchairs throughout the world and due to my RA I find them a necessity when travelling – especially in airports ! I can walk, though slowly and not very far, In Gatwick you used to have to walk halfway to Ireland before getting on the plane, though they have recently shortened this distance. If you need a wheelchair when flying, do book it in advance and make sure it is booked for the way out and the way back! You will be asked a number of questions, such as can you make it up the aircraft steps or are you bringing your own wheelchair? As long as I am pushed from check-in to departure gate and possibly to the door/steps of the aircraft, I’m happy.
I can recall once arriving at Frankfurt Hahn on our way home to just being given a folded up wheelchair at check-in. Luckily Pat was there and able to push it, but several other disabled passengers had no one to help them and had to struggle through to the security check and departure hall clutching their wheelchairs ! In the departure hall, we could clearly see our plane just outside, so I folded my wheelchair up neatly and tried to go through the boarding gate only to be told by the stewardess that I needed a wheelchair! I pointed to the one I had and said I was quite capable of walking the 20 feet to the plane and up the stairs, but she refused to let me (or Pat, though I’m not sure why he was included) on board. She then summoned a sort of tilting cart with full body harnesses and strapped me into it. I was then formally wheeled the 20 feet to the plane steps and let go again, by which time all the overhead bins were full and Pat and I had to put our hand baggage on our laps and feet – not happy travellers at all ! Thank you Ryanair !
As a travel a lot on my own, I make a point of chatting to the poor person having to push me and give them a small tip if I can. They are, without exception, happy, cheerful people and have to come through all the pre-departure security with me. When the Shoe Bomber was caught and we all ended up having to remove our shoes in security, this originally gave me a problem as I have trouble putting my own shoes on and off. The trick is to travel in slip on shoes and bare feet ! Being a Bionic Woman with all my new hips, knees and feet, I certainly set all the alarm bells ringing ! This necessitates a full body check to see if I am armed as well ! What I really like is when they check the wheelchair too and I tell them it is their chair, not mine – all to no avail.
Some wheelchairs are comfortable, some are definitely not. Newer ones are made of hard plastic , really comfortable for my bad back and allow for your hand luggage to be put underneath. After the 2 and a half years it took me to recover from my botched knee operation, I could not have any hand luggage dumped on my lap, so it got put on my feet instead ! In Tunis one time, there were two wheelchairs to meet the plane and mine only had 3 wheels ! Undeterred the man pushing tilted it up on to its two back wheels and ran me down to arrivals – quite exciting really !
In Singapore the wheelchairs are motorised and you sit facing backwards clutching your hand luggage whilst the driver whizzes along at great speed weaving in and out of the other passengers hooting loudly ! Quite took my breath away!
I have more stories, but you will just have to wait till next week and the next blog for them…….!!