Upon landing at the Orlando Airport, my nerves jumped like banjo strings, making me feel quite jittery. So far, this trip has gone freakishly well, which terrifies me as I fear the monster called chance. It feels like this move is a rubber band, and life pulls it farther apart as I simply wait for it to snap in my face. Sometimes I think it is a game of double dutch, and the Chance Beast is waiting for just the right moment to jump in and cause havoc in my life. I am more fearful of this than most can understand or even fathom.
It felt like only minutes for the plane to land, connect to the walkway, and for people to debark. When you are a person in a wheelchair, you are the first one to board the plane but the last to disembark. The pilot, Captain Jack, and his co-worker Mike, carefully picked me up and placed me back in my wheelchair. Trying to hide my anxiety about the negative possibilities of today, I loudly spoke up and proclaimed: touchdown, seven points, no need for a field goal. My statement led to much laughter and high fives all around.
Mike placed my carry-on bag on my lap and swiftly pushed me out to the carpeted area past the gate employee. We moved too fast for me to see the gate person’s name tag, but she had a bright smile on her face bringing sunshine to everyone. We moved quickly until the carpet ended, where I could see everyone waiting to get on the plane for its next destination. The gate attendant told me she would get some help and then called for assistance, taking me to the baggage claim and the transport. I waited for several minutes but had to use the restroom badly, which was just across the aisle.
As I rolled into the restroom, I noticed the facilities were packed with passengers since our plane had just landed. I cautiously wheeled through the room to the accessible stall with my hard carry-on luggage still on my lap. Unfortunately, the stall was in use, so I spoke loudly, explaining that a guy in a wheelchair was waiting, but I received no response. Since I was in a hurry, I left the bathroom and continued to sit and wait for the person who would assist me. After a few minutes, the crowd in the restroom emptied and left the accessible stall open, which I could use promptly.
I finished quickly and went back to waiting on the carpet of the gate our plane landed while they called for help for the fourth time. My time was up for transportation, so I panicked and called the transport company, hoping they did not leave me marooned. I spoke with the transport operator and apologetically explained my stranded situation of waiting at my gate. She told me I contacted them just in time as the bus was about to depart without me, and getting them to come back was difficult. She informed me they would only wait a little longer since I called.
After a 45-minute wait and my bus nearly leaving without me, I finally saw an employee for Southwest Airlines. When the employee, Sally, passed me with a wheelchair, she told me she would take me where I needed. Southwest Sally pushed my chair to the trolley where the Transport company called to say my time was up. I begged a little, explaining that I was on my way as they picked me up moments ago and we would be there soon. We rode the Orlando Airport trolley from one part of the airport to the other, with very few people.
Southwest Sally continued to push me with one hand through the airport, weaving in and around a few people. Finally, we arrived at baggage claim, and thankfully the luggage from my flight was still on the carousel, though very few bags remained. Sally quickly pushed me through baggage claim, where she performed a balancing/juggling act like no other. She rolled my large checked suitcase with her left hand while pushing me with her right hand, and I dragged my carry-on bag with my right hand.
Sally and I made our way through the airport until we arrived, where the Paratransit van was waiting. It was a large vehicle but appeared only to carry one wheelchair at a time while also taking the rest of the family if there was one. The driver, Lisa, put me in the back of the van, locking me in place cautiously like I was an explosive box on the back of a pickup truck. She next grabbed my luggage and tossed it in the van like a bag of marshmallows that would not break. Finally, Lisa had a clipboard to keep track of her mileage pickup locations and destinations, and once Lisa filled it out, she started the vehicle, and away we went. She quickly let me know this trip would take one hour and fifteen minutes to reach my final destination.
As we rode off into the sunset, her words rang ominously.