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    10th August 2010

    BAGS FLY FREE… wheelchairs, too, but no promises about whether it’ll get there in one piece…

    Last weekend I went to Seattle. My girlfriend’s parents live there and a few of her friends were getting married.

    (Some of you reading this – if there are any people reading it – might not believe that I really have a girlfriend, but I do.

    i have a girlfriend!

    i have a girlfriend!

    further proof that I didn't just steal a picture of some random girl and pretend she was my girlfriend

    further proof that I didn't just steal a picture of some random girl and pretend she was my girlfriend

    Her name is Mikaela and she’s awesome.)

    We flew out Thursday evening and then we had fun at her parents’ house hanging with her family, saw some of her friends, went lake kayaking and Wii bowling, and I Friday night I shared a bed with one of the grooms to be as he was also staying at Mikaela’s parents’ place that night. Saturday we went to two weddings back to back. The weddings were beautiful and even when we got lost en route to wedding number two we were able to make it there before it started thanks to a rain delay (surprise, surprise – that is the risk you take when planning an outdoor wedding in Seattle).

    playing with my camera in low light at a lovely wedding

    playing with my camera in low light at a lovely wedding

    We got back to the house at midnight Saturday night/Sunday morning, slept for a few hours, and then got up and headed to t he airport to fly back to Denver.

    Now let me back up just a little bit: When we arrived in Seattle one of the wheels on my wheelchair was a bit bent and wobbly but I wasn’t really sure what was wrong. I figured it wouldn’t be too much of a hassle and I would file a complaint with the airline on my way back to Denver to see if they would help me.

    Throughout the trip the loose wheel became increasingly annoying as it was rubbing against the sideguards on my chair so that I didn’t get much glide from each push. But I still figured I would make it back to Denver and either talk to the airline or just find someone who could repair it.

    So we had a wonderful weekend and then headed home. When we got to Denver I waited on the plane while they brought my wheelchair up from the baggage compartment. Once they brought it up I put my seat cushion on and headed up the jetway. Now it was obvious that there was a lot more wobble and bend to my wheel. As soon as we got into the terminal I started heading towards the airline desk to make a complaint about my damaged wheelchair.

    However, as I moved that way, the end of the camber tube, where the wheel axles are secured, broke off on the one side. That troublesome wheel was no longer attached to my wheelchair and I was spilled onto the ground in a busy airport terminal. Several men jumped over and attempted to assist me, but I asked them to allow me to sort my situation out first.

    Sitting there on the floor I saw a security officer. I politely got her attention and asked if she could bring me one of the airport wheelchairs so I could get over to the desk to make a complaint. No, she said, I only screen passengers. Only the airlines can give a passenger a wheelchair.

    Ok, said I. So I’m just going to crawl over to that desk there and see if I can find some help.

    I said this slowly and deliberately so she would be sure to understand it.

    She stared at me.

    I crawled to the desk, pulled myself up to standing so I could talk to the airline representative. He thought I was joking.

    I most certainly was not. My wheel fell off causing me to spill myself out into a crowded terminal full of people who were then staring at me. You think I’m joking?!

    Maybe they still do think I’m joking. I eventually made it to baggage claims to make a report, but because my chair was broken I had to be pushed on one of those people moving non-wheelchairs that big guys push grandma and grandpa through the airport in. They promised to send my chair to a repair shop in the morning and then sent me home with one of the big old clunkers from the airport – heavy, awkward to maneuver, unsightly. This is what grandma and grandpa are pushed around in at the retirement home. Or as one of my friends said on seeing it: It looks like it was stolen from a geriatric ward… in the 1970s.

    I tried to let them know that this was an unacceptable loan chair for me to use and that I needed a new one immediately. Apparently they thought I was joking again because, even though they promised to have a better rental chair the next day, it has already been 2 days+ and they said they might not have anything better until Thursday and that the parts they needed to order for my broken axle/camber tube would take a week or more to get to CO.

    The result of course is this: I’m writing a blog entry because A) this is an interesting and funny story that I think you readers out there will enjoy; and B) with this wheelchair that I can hardly get into my car and cannot easily get around in most places, I’m not going to go anywhere right now… why not write a quick little blog entry?

    I’ll keep you posted on the outcome of this debacle. The airline does not seem realize what an inconvencience for a person like me to not have a light, custom-fitted wheelchair. It’s like if they broke someone’s legs on a flight and then to make up for it said, Here, have some crutches so you can get around while your bones heal up. Sure you can still get around, but you’re not going anywhere fast – and you won’t be able to do many of the active things you would otherwise be able to do!

    I’ll be calling them again tomorrow to try to advise them on how much of a pain this really is for me.

    When I have more news I’ll update here. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of the sweet new ride the airline gave me…

    the sweet wheelchair that the airline gave me

    the sweet wheelchair that the airline gave me

    Copyright 2005 by Daryl Holmlund - All rights reserved.