Wednesday, December 21, 2011


A few years ago, hurrying to make a connection at Dulles Airport, I was struggling with a heavy carry-on, and I keeled over. I was soon up and on my way, but I felt weak and humiliated. A year or two later, I rebelled at Barbara's suggestion that perhaps I should take advantage of a wheelchair. Who, me? I was only 80. Sure, I can't walk as well as I used to do, but I'm otherwise healthy...

I began by just using a cane, but sometimes it's a long walk, and I began to need an arm, and it was hard to manipulate a "wheelie", and walk the long distances to be found at many airports.

Now, I don't own a wheelchair: not much use in the Berkeley hills. I do have a "walker", which I reluctantly use on level ground. But it wasn't easy to realize that it was as much for Barbara's sake as my own that I should stop relying on her arm and a cane, but should ask for a wheelchair at airports.

I do that now, and I have learned that there are compensations. Mostly we fly on Southwest, and we are both "pre-boarded", so we can choose seats in the second row. I take the aisle, and she takes the window. With luck, there's a vacant seat between us. We have met many interesting immigrants who push my wheelchair, and they are always grateful for the tip we give them. .

I have found flight attendants uniformly friendly, courteous, and helpful. Yes, having learned to accept my disability, I find air travel not that bad--although I do miss the "good old days" when I could check in a few minutes before take-off without having to go through "security".

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