Standing impatiently on a line that snakes toward a check-in counter or security area at an airport, you have no doubt seen people like us: one passenger in a wheelchair; one traveling companion trotting alongside, like a dog chasing a car; and one airport employee pushing that wheelchair — unhooking the cordons and sweeping his or her charges ahead of everyone who waits.
My husband, Chris, was the one being wheeled to the front of the line on a recent trip, and I was the spouse briskly keeping up. The distances you have to travel between check-in and gate can be quite a workout, and he has difficulty walking much more than a couple of blocks. I noticed a few dirty looks thrown in our direction.
Under normal circumstances, the trip from Nova Scotia to New York City is a simple, nonstop flight of just over an hour. But our return from Canada two weeks ago turned into a weekend-long marathon. By the end of it, we were very grateful for the wheelchair service, believe me.
Impenetrable fog had settled over Halifax. Our Saturday afternoon flight was delayed, then delayed again, then finally, that evening, it was canceled. After a long day of hanging around, we made our way to an airport “inn” and to bed somewhat disgruntled. (Most carriers don’t pay for overnight accommodations when they are necessitated by bad weather.) We had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to make the alternate flight, which would take us to New York via Toronto, where we would change planes.
Chris tends to be singled out for a pat-down, as well as an X-ray, at security checkpoints because he has metal replacement parts in his body that set off alarms. This had happened at La Guardia at the start of our trip, and it happened again on the way home, when — after the short night in the so-called “inn” — we got back to the Halifax airport long before dawn.
Did you know that in some Canadian airports, you are processed through American customs before you even board the plane bound for the United States? And so we drowsily cleared U.S. customs, then flew to Toronto, where we had to deplane, pick up our baggage at a carousel, and then trundle