Excerpted from John Kawie's column "Life At The Curb" in the November/December 2006 issue of Stroke Connection Magazine.The perfect outfit for airport security is a hospital gown. This occurred to me while I was trying to collect my coat, backpack, keys, belt, and shoes from all those little plastic boxes on the x-ray machine conveyor belt. I was grateful I still had my shirt and pants on.
Because I couldn’t retrieve my stuff fast enough with one hand, my little plastic boxes were being pushed by the little plastic boxes that contained the coat, keys, belt, and shoes of the guy behind me followed by his family’s little plastic boxes. I managed to create a traffic jam of little plastic boxes like the bumper car ride at an amusement park.
In many ways an airport is like an amusement park only the food is worse. It’s a daunting place anyway, but after a stroke it’s an obstacle course with booby traps, like escalators, elevators, tiny electric cars and even conveyor belts for moving people. Our plane was at gate B47 on the upper concourse. We tried to take the elevator, but there were hundreds of black SUV-size rolling suitcases lined up in front of the door like dominoes with a person standing next to each one.
The escalator was free and clear. Oh great, moving stairs. I must have fallen into a trance watching each step coming out of the floor trying to get that first one timed perfectly. I didn’t notice the line forming behind me.
Finally a kind, elderly gentleman broke my spell when he yelled, “Hey buddy, on or off. I got a frickin’ plane to catch over here!”
This traffic jam thing was becoming a trend with me. My wife, already on the upper concourse, was encouraging me on like a parent teaching her kid to ride a two-wheeler. I closed my eyes, took a step, and whew, I was on, leaving all those people behind me only to encounter more on the upper concourse.
There was a large crowd trying to get on the down escalator, and they overflowed in front of the up escalator. OK, now I had to get off. When I get excited or anxious my affected left elbow raises up involuntarily. I look like a motorcycle with a sidecar, but like a linebacker it came in handy pushing through that sea of people.
Marilyn was already on her way to the gate where Delta flight 1050A had two seats with our names on them. All we had was a carry on, but it pays to board early to ensure an overhead compartment. We had just discovered that people with disabilities board first.
As I approached the gate I could see Marilyn talking to the ticket collector and pointing to me. I don’t use a cane so I tried to look as bad as I could, bumping into walls and tripping over suitcases. If I wore sunglasses and held a cup people would have given me their spare change. While this was going on I almost got run over by one of those tiny luggage-carrying electric cars moving at the speed of light.
The ticket collector let us board early, not because of my disability, but because he thought everyone in the airport would be safer with me sitting in the plane!
Editor's Note: For information on booking John Kawie's one-man show about stroke recovery,"Life At The Curb," contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org