We go back in.
We ask again if Lift 13 is working or not. He says it is working fine.
Up a lift, across to the other side of the station ( the side we’d left an hour ago ).
With trepidation I approach Lift 13.
It’s working. For Christ’s sake. It’s good obviously, but also it’s bloody frustrating.
The platform person is expecting me. Wow, things are looking up.
It’s about 5 minutes wait til the next train, and the ramp is attached for me to get on.
As usual there are lots of people on the train. I have to drive at speed up the ramp or I don’t make it to the top. I normally stay in that bit of the carriage for the whole journey. That’s the bit of the carriage you walk into at first before turning left or right to find a seat. Obviously I don’t use a seat and most carriages don’t have a ‘ wheelchair space ‘. I stay In the middle bit because I have to.
For some reason lots of people want to loiter In the middle bit for long parts of the journey, and of course people go to that bit when they are going to be getting off at the next station.
So when I want to get into a train, up the ramp, I obviously have to charge up the ramp to that ‘ middle bit’. I have to go at high speed to actually get up the ramp.
I always have to ask ( from 20 feet away ) repeatedly for those loitering people to vacate that area. Invariably my request is met with blank looks. After a few asks, I just go for it.
There seems to be no ability to connect the ramp/ my request/ a large and powerful looking half wheelchair half motorbike shooting straight towards you .. with move out of the way.
Mind you, as I crest the ramp at high speed with a ‘ I did ask so it’s your fault ‘ look on my face, they invariably scatter right and left… most of them in time…
It’s the ones with prams that surprise me most. I’ve actually had to resort to ‘ look, will you please move or your baby may die ‘. I mean it’s bizarre that I have to resort to that, isn’t it? ( it does work, that line btw )
Having got on the train, the rest of the journey was ok.( Ok in my world of crapness of travelling, that is. If you had to suddenly do what I have to do, on your trip to Barbados/ Tenerife .. you’d be traumatised )
Ok, I’ll try to tell it how it is.
When I book flights, I have to ‘ add special assistance’. You can try to do it online but it’s less tedious to phone up.
I’ve flown EasyJet from Gatwick many times. These last 10 years I’ve needed Special Assistance. Do you think they keep your Assistance notes on file? Of course they don’t. Every time, you have to go through it like it’s the first time.
I have a wheelchair, yes? Is it manual or powered? What’s the weight of it? What’s the height of it? What’s the length of it? What battery type is it? Do the batteries detach? What’s the voltage of the batteries? What’s the amperage of the batteries?
Can I walk from the gate to my seat? No? Do I need an aisle chair? Do I need help from my wheelchair to the aisle chair? Do I need help from the aisle chair to the airplane seat? Do I have someone with me who can help me get to the emergency exit in case of a crash? ( Ha! Good luck with that one mate ). Do the batteries detach? Is there a key?
I answer all the above questions at the time of booking.
Two days before I fly I get a phone call from the airport. What type of wheelchair do I have? What type of batteries are they ? What’s the weight/ height/length of the chair? Can I walk to the airplane seat? I answer them all again.
At the EasyJet check in desk ( now I’ve already checked in online but I still have to go to check in ) they say … wait for it… what type of chair is this? Can I fill in this form to detail weight/ height/ length and battery type… do the batteries detach with a key? Can I walk unaided to my seat or do I need help? No? Do I need an aisle chair? Do I need help transferring?
Then I have to go to the Special Assistance desk.
What battery type do I have? Do I need help transferring?
I then go through passport control… and get hand searched… and prodded. Probably everyone else does though.
I then have to go to Special Assistance on the ‘ gate side’ Do I need help getting to the gate?
That bit I sometimes say yes to. It’s just a more certain way of getting there.
At the Gate for the plane another agent turns up.
What battery type is this? What wattage and Amperage? Do they detach? Do you need an aisle chair?
As you can see… it’s not like it used to be. Taxi to the airport, wander around Duty Free for 2 hours, have a beer or two and amble to the plane..
They escort me to the Door of the plane. The next bit is always fraught. I have to get the Triride off. Then I have to get into the aisle chair. That requires the help of 2 people. The aisle chair is very narrow and my body always tips to the left out of it, as there is no supportive backrest. They strap me in as best they can.
I am then in the uncomfortable position of trying to ensure that my empty wheelchair then gets reattached to my triride. This ISNT straightforward at all and I can’t move at all to help it happen. It’s not possible for me to move the aisle chair at all so I have to tell people what to do with my triride to ensure it’s attached properly and doesn’t get broken/ damaged.
Gina has done this bit many times but seriously it’s technical. There are 6 things you need to do, and they have to be in the right order. There isn’t any other way of doing it other than in the 6 steps.
Gina knows all the steps but definitely doesn’t remember the sequence…
She also has to detach the batteries, remove the wheelchair bag, help with the transfer and carry everything to the airplane seat. Once there she has to help me from the aisle chair to the airplane seat. She’s much better at it than anyone else is. It’s a series of about 10 things involving my legs, 3 sets of armrest lifts,
( well you try Getting to the window seat when 3 sets of armrests are down when you can’t walk and have legs that are rigidly immovable in front of you ) the placing of a wheelchair cushion under my arse, and the stowing of luggage away.
The flying bit is usually uneventful. Obviously G has to do everything bloody thing for me, as I’m just stuck in the seat, but she’s ok with that, bless her.
When we land it the whole shebang in reverse. Out of airplane seat/ aisle chair/ drag down the aisle to hopefully find my wheelchair and Tri intact. We then need to get the Tri off so that I can be lifted into my chair. Then I need to get the triride on again. This is usually in a confined space at the aircraft door or sometimes in a special vehicle that pulls up to the side of the plane ( if there is no air bridge ). Both are uncomfortable experiences – lots of people surrounding me but none of them having any notion of what I heed to do ( not their fault, just how it is )
So We got to Faro airport ( Portugal ) and by then it was dark.
The next bit usually entails me ordering an Uber for Gina/ my companion and me going it alone on the road to the destination – my lil apartment there. When it’s daylight Its okay (ish ) to do the 8 miles on the major road … in my wheelchair… ( it’s like a dual carriageway ). In the dark it’s not so pleasant, because they don’t have road lights here anywhere near as much as we do in the UK.
This trip it was dark in Faro.
As I’ve never been here in the winter, I hadn’t predicted how dark it would be at 8pm. Trust me, it was dark.
BUT (!) .. this time G picked up a hire car at the airport.
So this time as I did the 8 miles on the dual carriageway in the dark.. I had a lady in a car driving slowly behind me with her hazard lights flashing..AND her headlights on to illuminate the road in front of me.
Let’s face it, it’s far from ideal, and it’s almost certainly illegal, but hey it worked.