2 min read
03 Apr

Don began requesting wheelchair assistance on flights when he started experiencing mobility problems.  To our delight, we discovered that special benefits come with that wheelchair - the biggest one being that we never had to wait in long lines with tons of other passengers for anything anymore.  We always got put to the head of the line.

My sweetheart has been gone four years this August, but now it was my turn -  I couldn't walk long distances comfortably in an airport, certainly not briskly.  Nor could I stand for any length of time in big lineups.  I needed a wheelchair. 

On the flight home from Manzanillo to Calgary, four passengers, including me, had wheelchairs. When the plane landed in Calgary there were only three pushers!  One took turns pushing two of us, but the other person had a connecting flight to catch, I didn't.  So the pusher left me close to the down escalator that took you to the luggage carousels and Customs while he carried on with the other passenger to her connecting flight.  He promised he would be back to get me in 15 minutes.

Time passed.  He didn't return.  

A WestJet flight attendant, rushing to the escalator, saw me and stopped to ask if I needed help.  I quickly responded, "Yes, I do", and explained my plight.  A colleague joined her, followed by the Captain from their flight.  She had a discussion with them then turned to me and said, "We'll take you to Customs".  

Because my connection to Toronto was the following day, I had to pick up my luggage, take it to the hotel and then check it in at the airport the next day when I got my boarding pass.  Off we four went, firstly to the baggage carousels.  While waiting there, we were chatting, and joking.  I told them my plans to become a Nomad, and why I was going to do this.  They thought it was a fabulous idea!  When the Captain located my bag, we carried on to the new Customs kiosks.  I had never seen these before and certainly didn't know how to use them.  The flight attendant did everything for me.

Meanwhile, the Captain had called my hotel and learned where the shuttle would pick me up. When we arrived at that assigned location, the captain pointed to a parking garage saying, "That's where my car is.   I'm going to get it and drive back around and, if you are still here, I'll drive you to the hotel - it's on my way home anyway." 

The shuttle arrived before the Captain returned.  The flight attendants and I hugged and said goodbye as I carried on to the hotel for a quick late night snack and a couple of hours sleep before catching the 7 a.m. flight to Toronto.

When I arrived at Pearson, I was to call Ray, the driver who was going to take me to Collingwood which is two hours north of the airport.  But, to my dismay, I discovered I had a huge problem!  My phone didn't work!  I had forgotten to replace the Mexican sim card in my cell phone with my Canadian one.   Pearson is a huge airport - how would I find Ray without a cell phone?  

Luckily, I spotted a Westjet flight attendant.  I approached her and told her my dilemma, asking if she could possibly call my driver on her cell and find out where he was parked.  Without hesitation, she did.  However, her call went to his message machine.   She left a message then told me that she was sure he would be waiting for me at the exit area where people waited to meet family and friends arriving from who knows where.  Thanking her, I headed there.  Ray was nowhere to be seen.  

What was I to do now?    I no longer was in a wheel chair, that had been left at the baggage carousel.  Fortunately my legs were feeling stronger, probably from the aquafit exercises and walking every day around Club Santiago for the past three months.  

So, pulling my luggage, I began to walk,  looking around, not knowing where to go next, when I spotted a sign over a small counter that read "Pre-assigned pick up". I explained my situation to the clerk at the counter. She looked at her list of drivers and said, "He isn't on the list, sorry!"  

I asked if she would to try to reach him on her cell phone.  Thankfully he answered that call.  He was parked at the opposite end of "Arrivals".  

When I finally reached him, Ray said that he returned the Westjet flight attendant's call but at that point she didn't know where I was.  However, she gave him instructions not to leave until I had located him.  He was relieved when he saw me, but not as much as I was to see him!

Gratefully, I sank into the passenger seat of Ray's car and we headed home to Collingwood.  I told Ray how wonderful the WestJet flight crews had been. I will never forget their kindness and their help.  

I learned a lesson from my experience on that trip from Manzanillo.  I learned to never again be too ashamed to ask for help when I need it.  

The next step in my journey to become a nomad would begin tomorrow - how difficult was that going to be?  

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