On my flight home today, ELEVEN people needed wheelchair assist onto the plane. All senior citizens, some more mobile than others, but all boarded the plane first, as is the norm.
I was in seat 2A, window and when my row was called to board, I got to my seat to find the middle and aisle seat were already occupied by two of the eleven coming aboard the plane needing assistance. Husband and wife, probably my age but looking far far older, the wife trembled with Parkinson’s, the husband unable to stand on his own without being pulled up and out of his seat and needing a cane to walk even a few feet. His hands were fetched up closed, maybe from arthritis or whatever disease riddled his body.
I could see that getting across the two of them to my window seat was going to be a tough task. I needed a moment to figure out what to do and stepped back to Row 3, an empty aisle seat to think a second. There was a woman right behind me who said snippily, that’s my seat. As I tried discretely to explain my problem, she barked at me You better move it fast. Honest to God, I wanted to deck her, she was so rude but I maintained my composure and gave her my best stinky eye. She didn’t care a hoot.
Meanwhile, the wife in the middle seat could see my problem and said she would help her husband up so I could get through. It was awkward for them, and for me. Once I was in, the wife said, I hope you won’t have to go to the bathroom! She added that she was kidding, but I knew what she said was the way it would be and I was glad the flight was only two and a half hours.
I got to talking to them, learned what disease he has, learned that he was a Vietnam vet too, and assured them I was good to stay put until we landed. They were a fine older couple and she was a good good wife making sure her husband was comfortable.
BUT, here’s what kept crossing my mind as we flew north. What if the plane had an emergency and we had to evacuate? No WAY the man in the aisle seat could rush to get out, even go slowly to get out, the wife was only marginally more mobile, so I figured I’d go down with the pilot. It was disconcerting to be thinking about this the whole way home but the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if airlines have safety guidelines? When this couple made their reservations, they must have had to declare they were unable to walk on their own. Or maybe not???? I don’t think I remember any instance in making a reservation online that asked me if I was incapacitated in any physical way.
Nonetheless, I was virtually trapped, most uncomfortable that I had been put where I might not be able to exit without climbing over the old couple. Had I died, I think my family would have the right to sue, saying my seat was a death trap and I should NOT have been assigned a seat that would require me to climb over two people who couldn’t get out themselves.
Thankfully, the plane landed without any issue. The wife leaned over to me and said you know, they take us who need a wheelchair to get off the plane out last. I told her I knew that, not to worry, I was in no hurry, I was home, had no luggage to gather, my car was in the garage and I was fifteen minutes from home. I would gladly wait until they got off.
The husband heard me and I guess it bothered him that he was causing me some problem (his thought, not mine) and he told his wife he was getting up and would walk with his cane off the plane into the jetbridge. But he couldn’t get up without help and a young man behind him offered to lift him. I said to the wife that she could go with him and I’d carry off his backpack and her small bag under her seat and follow them out. I did, noticing simultaneously that the woman in Seat 3C, the bitch, was already first in line to get off the plane, butting up in front of everyone else. I wanted to trip her, but I didn’t.
ANYWAY, I help the two off the plane (with ZERO caring or concern by the two awful awful flight attendants), the couple get in matching wheelchairs, she thanks me, I tell them I enjoyed meeting them and chatting with her, I started to the garage when I realized, damn, in all that frenzy, I left my carry-on in the overhead compartment!! One of the wheelchair attendants got it for me, easily since I was only in row 2.
I’m home, still thinking about what obligation an airline has to make sure its passengers all have access in case of emergency. There must be something in writing, no????
That awful thought-cloud disappeared quickly when I began to listen to the four messages on the home phone, one of which was from Citibank fraud alert, asking me if I used my MasterCard today to shop at Target in West Covina, California. Nope. The card was declined by Target, my MC account now closed, a new card will come tomorrow, but someone got my information and made a fake card with my name on it. Creepy.
I’d walk on the Florida beach to clear my head but I’m looking out my window and only see trees with no leaves and no beach. Drat.