|Elvis' tomb at Graceland|
|Northern Star going through a lock on ICW|
But here's what I want to talk about. I had some "interesting" experiences while being dependent upon others for assistance over the past two weeks. I was a rehab social worker for much of my career but have had no experience myself, of being a wheelchair user. It was very educational. My readers will not be surprised to learn that I have a few observations to make. I think that in our country, we could do a better job when it comes to making our cities and our services more user friendly for folks using wheelchairs. So, anyway, here goes.
|Our new primary care clinic in Memhis|
|One of the dog parks at Shelby Farms, a 4,500 acre park in Memphis.|
|One of the pandas at the Memphis Zoo|
|The Big River Crossing, at Memphis, the longest pedestrian bridge crossing the Mississippi River.|
A woman in some sort of airport uniform came by and I flagged her down. "Would you help me please. I need to get a wheelchair so I can get to my gate." She looked about, saw the empty podium nearby and said, "I don't work in this area. I'll see what I can do." She returned in just a few minutes, "The woman who works here is at supper. She should be back soon." She lingered, looking around us. We were at the end of the terminal. Very little action was happening there. Finally, a man in a uniform (maybe a pilot, for all I know) came down the hall and she nabbed him. "What do we do about getting this woman a wheelchair?" He turned on his heel, grabbed a folded wheelchair that was sitting across the way and brought it over to us, then continued on. The woman caught him again. I could hear in her tone of voice she was thinkin' 'not so fast, Buster.' Turns out she was not particularly happy to be saddled with me because it was not her job to push people in wheelchairs and the airport does not have job sharing. (ie. Okay, on Tuesdays I'll push passengers in wheelchairs but the rest of the week I get to fly the planes.) They don't do that. I got into the chair, waiting. She returned and without saying a word, pushed me about 75 yards to a similar seating area with wheelchair symbols on all the chairs. She said a few words to the young woman in charge of that seating area who had not abandoned her little clutch of wheelchair passengers by thoughtlessly going to dinner. Neither of these woman looked at me or said anything to me. I was just parked there, helped out of the wheelchair and left to ponder my existence. Had being in a wheelchair rendered me invisible?
|Mississippi at Memphis. Memphis Pyramid on the horizon, now home to Bass Pro and boutique hotel.|
There was just a half hour left now, until they would start boarding the plane to Memphis. I looked across at the young woman at the podium. When I could catch her eye, I mouthed, "What's going on?" She smiled and mouthed back what I think was, "Someone will be here soon." Sure enough, in another ten minutes or so, a very frail looking woman was delivered to the seating area in a wheelchair. Her ESL attendant helped her vacate the wheelchair and be seated. The attendant then brought the wheelchair over to me. The young woman at the podium handed her my boarding pass, which had been taken from me earlier (!) by the first woman to give me a push in the chair.
|One of several great museums in Memphis|
And......... we were off. Zoom--down the corridor. Right turn. TSA wanted me to walk, if possible, through the metal detector. I obliged. Then zoom, down the next corridor, up an elevator, onto an elevated train car, then down an elevator. As we were going, I wanted to report to her how difficult it had been to get a wheelchair. I said, "Cuarenta minutos antes de recibo la silla." (40 minutes before I receive a chair.) She laughed and said, "Oh, no no no, ees fine." Clearly my Spanish left much to be desired. I tried again while meaningfully jabbing myself in the chest. "Esperanzo cuarenta minutos para la silla." (I wait 40 minutes for a chair.) This did the trick. "Ay, no, Usted esperanza...lo siento." (Oh, no. You wait 40 minutes. I am sorry." After a couple more straightaways, and turns, we were on the home stretch-- the corridor leading to my gate. There was nobody there! The plane had boarded. I was the last passenger to board the plane to Memphis. First seat, first row, First Class. The door was closed a few minutes later. Well, that was exciting. Not.
It was really rather sweet how the wheelchair attendant "reported off" to the UBER driver, the condition of her patient, er, passenger. "She's in a lot of pain, so you want to drive carefully and help her with her luggage" which he was already doing. As I said, a stream-of-consciousness monologue. She wished me well and I thanked her for her attention. It's nice to see people take pride in their work. The UBER driver was careful and inquired about my comfort in the backseat. His mama raised him right. When we pulled up to the house, he carried my luggage to the door and extended his entire arm for me to hang onto so that I could pull myself out from the backseat where I was sprawled. What a gentle and kind man, I thought.
|Oriental, NC. Known as North Carolina's Sailing Capital. A very cruiser friendly little town.|
May 11 Thursday. Carl called me this morning from Oriental, NC. Northern Star had already arrived after three days and nights on the Atlantic, going from Jacksonville, FL to Oriental, NC. He is relaxing this evening and then making arrangements to rent a car. One of the crew goes to the airport on Saturday and Carl will drive the other crew member home to Washington D. C. Then he will drive to our car (where it has been stored in Maryland over the winter) and then on to Memphis with Jax. Arrival in Memphis, perhaps Sunday; more likely Monday. He'll be here for my surgery first thing Tuesday morning.
What a weird, weird winter and spring it has been for us. First the lightning. And now this. But you know, since arriving in Memphis, I have talked with a lot of people-- UBER drivers and nurses at the clinics, etc. And every time I've chatted with someone and they find out that I live on a sailboat, they say, without fail, "You live on a sailboat? How awesome is that!" Or words to that effect. And I smile and say, "Yup."