It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Fun*Run Time

It's ALREADY that time of year again: The ADAPT Fun*Run for Disability Rights is April 22nd 2012. Maryland's fundraising goal is $8,000 this year. Yes, that's right, $8,000

Donate $1! Donate $10! Donate $100! Donate $1,000! JUST DONATE so we can FREE OUR PEOPLE! I thank you very much for your support!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

My Journey to Chicago: the ADAPT Youth Summit Day One

As all my readers know, I live in Baltimore, which for all of you not familiar with US geography is marked on the map on the left. I hope you can see the red dot. Well yesterday I of all people, who is scared shitless of going anywhere I don't know where I am due to my directional issues that go along with my disabilities (I have been known to go to the bathroom in a restaurant and become disoriented as to where the table is) flew all the way to Chicago ALONE. Chicago is marked on the map on the right. I have no idea how many miles are between them, but it is far and I have never been there before. Who woulda thunk it? And for that matter, WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING??? If you know me in real life you know that if I go to Target with my mom, and say she wants to look at stationary and I want to pick up a new belt (those sections of the store are nowhere near each other) I will start to exhibit minor symptoms of a panic attack in the process of finding the stationary section after I have picked out my belt.

Sorry for the run on sentences and the runaway paragraph, but I thought I should put my triumph into a frame of reference because I know that most people that read this blog do not know me in real life.

Anyway, I am very happy to report that my entire journey went off without a hitch *:D* And I wasn't even scared. I have been meaning to go to my shrink and ask her to tell me where the hell I have made any progress in the last 2 years? Haven't things actually gotten worse? I'd have to say in this instance though I have made leaps of progress in my development of independence over the last year. I'm sorry to say (she reads these) that this progress has nothing to do with anything we've done in therapy (my mom reads these too and I'm sorry to say this to her too, it's her $). I have to give all my thanks to 2 very special friends--and new neighbors--(who have expressed a desire for anonymity on this blog) for fostering my crip identity over the last year. It just dawned on me that I first met them 1 year ago almost to the day. I think it is fitting that the journey of the last year has brought me to this very spot right at this time.

I'm sorry this is all over. We've been kept busy for 12hrs straight today and my mind is more then fried. The original point of this post is to talk about my journey from my apartment at 9am eastern time until I arrived at the dorm (where I am right this second) on the campus of UIC at 3/3:30ish pm central time.

My biggest concern about traveling would have been my biggest concern whether I was traveling alone or in a group. My biggest concern was traveling with my Jazzy. Although I have had this chair for the last 6 years I have never flown alone and thus always flew with my Quickie. I had people to assist before whereas this time I did not.

Since I have never flown with my Jazzy I did not know the particulars of flying with a powerchair. I always folded and unfolded my Quickie myself and take the cushion and the leg rests on the plane with me. There's not much anyone can do to my frame. I have solid tires so I don't have to worry about them getting punctured or anything. However you kind of have to hand a powerchair over to a complete and total stranger in 1 piece and hope and pray that it comes back to you that way (notwithstanding the fact that the thing has been beaten up by me and is not in one piece to begin with). That takes some faith.

After some quick instruction on how to disengage the power steering, fold down the seat back, and oh, just in case you need to completely disconnect the batteries, the cord is that one down there with the yellow velcro, I had to get on the plane and sit back in my seat watching out the window as some guy I've never met before in my life is walking next to my chair with his hand on the joystick guiding it further and further away from me. There was a quick twinge of anxiety there but I'm happy to report that I did not have a panic attack or even one muscle spasm as I was able to stop myself. Frankly, what was I going to do? The situation was out of my hands, and the "Oh no" thought, "what if he rams it into a wall?" Is one more time really going to make a difference? (although that one more time could be the time that finishes it off). Another thing, my flight had a stopover in St Louis where I did not get off the plane and what if they take it off and dump it in the wrong city?

It took absolutely freaking forever to get the chair out of the bottom of the plane and over to me, but when we were finally reunited everything was in perfect working order (or I should say, as perfect as it was in the morning in Baltimore). It was even reengaged. I cross my fingers that it returns to Baltimore in this manner.

My next worry, or I should say my first worry, was finding my way through the airports. I can remember the utter panic when I tried to find my way through a major train station 5 years ago. But there is clear signage so that was 100% NOT an issue.

So anyway, I arrive in Chicago and my first order of business is to get something to eat. Although my new meds have screwed with my hunger signals intellectually I know it has been many hours since I last ate and I better grab a bite. I do, no problem.

Next order of business, I think I have to pee. I have to think this over. Do I really have to pee? normally in public restrooms I leave the chair outside the stalls, but this is an airport and my baggage is on the back. I have to take the chair in with me and I've heard some public accessible restroom horror stories. Thankfully I noted in both airports that there are both large mens & women's bathrooms (which I imagine have an accessible stall) as well as a 1 stall accessible family restroom. Very accessible to trans people I note, as well as dads with their crip daughters. I choose this because I will not have to maneuver around other people while navigating a stall.

I'm happy to report that I did NOT have my own wheelchair horror story. The restroom was very spacious with plenty of room to turn around and great clearance around the door. I also note that there are 2 sinks in there at different heights. There is however an armchair (why?) across from the toilet which could present as a big barrier depending how you need to approach the bars.

Next I have to find the train. This is something that would have caused me HUGE amounts of panic in years past, but like I previously said, proper sinage and past experience over the last year, piece of cake. For someone from out of town though, I could have had a major catastrophe. Train systems are all different it seems as far as the way you have to board. Amtrak is different from the DC metro which is different from the Baltimore lightrail which is apparently different from the CTA. The CTA is most similar to Amtrak where the train is not even with the platform and a ramp needs to be put in place. It looked even to me and I would have gotten stuck had a worker not walked past and noticed I looked a little lost/confused. I got on, he radioed someone where I was getting off & what car I was in & someone was right there so I could get off at my stop.

Lastly, I had to take the bus to get to the dorm on the UIC campus. The bus is something that used to cause me a lot of anxiety. I used to use the excuse that I cannot read a bus schedule due to my vision problem and that I'm afraid to get lost. While that is true, I have always known that for me to be able to use a bus I would have to be using the Jazzy and in years past I was very uncomfortable going out in public in my chair. In my mind (off of a college campus where things are obvious) I would be looked at as the retard girl and that made me very uncomfortable. Well thankfully over the last year I have come to realize I am never going to see these people again, so who gives a shit.

My biggest fear with riding the bus now is being on the wrong side of the street when the bus comes and not being able to cross the street in enough time to catch the one in the right direction. How it would suck to have to wait for the next bus. Thankfully, one of the organizers told us what store to stand outside of. I wish google maps would do that.

I got on the bus no problem and actually got my favorite model of bus. There are some models of buses where the lift is actually the bottom step and it comes out from underneath. In this model if something on the electronics is broken you're sunk. However my favorite model has a ramp that at the push of a button flips out from the floor. The bus also lowers to give an easier grade to roll up. Why I like this model so much is because it has a manual back up system in place. If the electronics do not work there is a little strap attached and out of the way. The driver can get out of their chair and pull on it and out it comes. No problems yesterday though, it flipped right out, I got on and off the bus, rolled a tiny bit further and found 2 crips in chairs sitting outside a building. This was the dorm. I was there.


Anonymous said...

You Are wonderful! I loved watching you roll through security at BWI and see the security team start to help you cut line. I knew you would be fine. We ALL feel the low, or not so low, level fears about watching our w/c's taken off by people who may like us becasue we help pay their paycheck by flying with their airline, but who do not love us and have no personal investment in our mobility. You were amazingly well prepared and ready. I'm so glad you had this breakthough personal experience with travel alone. Welcome HOME! G

Anonymous said...

SWA rules! they have the best ground crews for power chairs, the best folks in the air and on the ground. As a first solo flight, you picked the right airline to nurture your independance! g

RichardKS said...

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