A trip to USOpen2018: Expected to run an errand without my legs

The labyrinth of New York

My worst experience ever dealing with hotels was in China Town, New York. Since I had stayed at the same hotel in 2017 I thought the journey planning would be a doddle. From experience it’s stress free and doesn’t cost much to travel if planned well. Having said that, to avoid the unforeseen transport issues that I had encountered earlier in May going to Cyprus, I made sure that I go to Manchester Airport early in the morning though my flight was departing in the afternoon, at 14:00. At the airport I checked-in betimes, as soon as the check in commenced.

Earlier that morning I had failed to locate my phone charger. Never mind I will buy one at the Airport, I thought. As I was being checked in, “make sure you empty all the contents from the side pocket of your chair… Also take your wallet and remember to take it with you into the plane”, said the lady on the counter. After the check-in the lady put my wallet in the side pocket of my hand luggage.

In the lounge I decided to go to Dixon’s, a renowned U.K. electrical shop. In there I took out my wallet from my bag, which was on my lap. The shop didn’t have an American or universal adapters but they allowed me to charge my phone and to keep an eye on it. When I left the shop the time was 12:40 which means I had roughly about 20minutes to charge it before thinking about boarding. I then went back to the lounge and soon after I was bursting for the loo. I couldn’t see no signs for disabled toilets on the ground floor, I asked someone and I was told to go upstairs. Aware that I was pushing it, I decided to take my phone from Dixon’s. In the shop, I was getting frustrated because I couldn’t see my phone where I had left it, let alone all the sales personnel were busy helping customers. Finally, “do you want your phone?” Someone asked me to my great relief.

He then went into the office at the back of the shop and brought it to me. Thereafter I went to find the lift to go upstairs. After the loo and in the lift I alarmingly heard my name being announced. “Mr Mteliso can you please make your way to flight number…” I assumed that the ground staff couldn’t find me where I was supposed to be. Trying to up my speed but to my frustration I was annoyingly in a lift seemingly slow moving. In the moment I forgot that I had left my crutches behind in the lounge. In the tunnel to board the plane is when I recalled and I asked one of the Aeroplane crew to go get them where I had left them. Instead of being one of the first passengers to board, as a disabled person, I was the last one.

After 30 minutes the flight arrived in London at Heathrow airport. One of the grounds staff came to me and suggested that they were going to load my chair in the connecting flight. So I was pushed to yet another check-in where the ground staff who was pushing me had an altercation with the girl at the check-in desk. The check-in was subject to stringent checks similar to American Airports. As the ground staff was pushing me towards the check-in desk, she whispered in my ear, “if she asks you to take off your shoes, tell her you can’t… As a disabled person they can’t force you to do anything”. “Sir can you take off your shoes” the lady at the check-in desk looking like Janelle Monáe cried out. I thought they looked alike, maybe it was the similar hair style effect. “Unfortunately I cant” I retorted, boy oh boy, she was lived. She said to me with a voice festered with anger “if you can’t take them off then you can’t go through”. Back in my mind I wanted to compliment her looks but after the unfriendly remark I didn’t. I therefore asked to speak to the manager and when the manager came, I was given a green light to go through without any further checks. Whence I was taken to board my flight. After around an 8 hours flight we landed at JFK Airport.

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