Traveling across the country with a blind guy and a guide dog 24/7 for the past (nearly) five years has been an experiment in tolerance! The experience is overwhelmingly positive – but full of extremes. We’re often asked what it’s like, so I decided to keep a diary of a rather typical 24-hour travel day.
After a full day of school & homework (Marcus) and writing projects (me) we head to a late dinner at a cozy joint within walking distance of our NYC apartment. We are greeted like old friends, escorted to our favorite booth, and the waitress asks if we’d like a bowl of water for Garrett. We walk home, finish packing and fall into bed.
We have a very early (5AM) lobby call. Still bleary eyed we make it downstairs pulling our luggage and are greeted by the limo driver. He drops us and our bags at LGA at the frequent flyer (FF) curbside check in. Luckily our fav skycap is working and he rushes over, grabs our stuff and we are headed to security in no time.
We head to the FF line, arrive at the ‘unloading’ belt and begin what I’ve lovingly dubbed the great ‘strip down.’ And man, we have this down to a science! Jewelry, sunglasses, iphone and beIt’s stay tucked in my purse until we reach “the other side” 3 computers are placed in individual bins, jackets and shoes (no lace ups!) are throw into a bin, backpack and carry on are secured and now it’s our turn. I help Marcus line up in the correct spot for the metal detector, I walk thru, turn to Marcus and reach out for Garrett’s leash. With the TSA it can go either way – but this person has a total melt down. He tries to grab Garrett’s leash (he isn’t allowed to do that), he tells Marcus to back up, he just – well he get’s it all wrong. Finally he forces Garrett and Marcus into the little walled off glass booth to wait for a “male assist.” Someone comes over, wands down Marcus (who did not alarm by the way) and does everything short of an anal probe on Garrett. Meanwhile, I load our stuff up, find the supervisor and explain very politely that perhaps the TSA agent we dealt with needs a quick refresher in guide dog procedures. He apologizes profusely. We head to the gate.
Thanks again to FF we are upgraded to first class – yippee! And, because of Garrett, we get to board before all the other passengers (score!). Step onto the airplane and the flight attendant tells us we have to sit in the bulkhead. Uhhh – no we don’t. We get to explain that Garrett likes to curl up under the seat in front of him, and we really prefer the seats we are assigned in the 2nd row. She begrudgingly allows us to take our seats where we instantly fall asleep.
We land, grab our bags, head outside and get picked up by our awesome client in an SUV. Taken to a fab lunch, meet and greet with key personnel, Marcus gives an awesome presentation to a packed house, he signs books, we hug and feel like we’re leaving old friends and head to another location for a 2nd round of speeches.
The person assigned to pick us up arrives in a tiny compact car. With a baby seat installed in the back. And a trunk that is full. We cram in, me in the back with a suitcase and backpack in my lap. Marcus crunched in the front with Garrett between his knees. The driver is sweet as can be tho, and it’s only 30 minutes. Hmmm.
Okay, repeat performance. We are worn out, but energized by all the great people we’ve met. Now we climb back in the clown car for a return to the airport.
Curbside drop off. This time a skycap begins to explain to us that because we have a dog we must go inside to the VERY long line and manually check in. We get to calmly explain why that is not correct and ask for his supervisor, who slowly comes over and then we have a nice conversation explaining the law regarding service animals.
We make it to TSA. This agent is great, basically asks me how to handle things, gives Garrett a quick pat on the head and we’re running to the gate just in time to board, crawl in our seats and I pass out before the safety procedures are explained. Marcus pulls out his computer and gets some work done.
I wake up just as we land. The pilot announces that due to the gates being full we will park by “the fence” which means we exit the aircraft via a rickety staircase, climb aboard a tram and ride to the airport. As we get off the tram there is a TSA guy directing everyone to a staircase to go inside. When he sees us, he leaves his post and runs up to me. “Come this way!”
Now, I know Marcus and Garrett are perfectly capable of going up stairs. We do it all the time. But this guy seems really intent to help – and frankly I’m curious as to where he wants to take us. So I follow. Which of course means Garrett follows me which, means Marcus doesn’t get a choice (sorry babe!).
The TSA guy leads us around the corner to an underground entrance, waves us past several lines of security and onto a private, rock star entrance elevator. He shoo’s us past pilots and employees. I’m fascinated and amazed. And feel like queen of the universe. I’m wondering if Steven Tyler has been in this very elevator… Oh the stories it could tell! He continues our escort till we are in the main level and we thank him and head to luggage.
There is a skycap available and, I’m so tired I let him grab our bags. We head to the taxi line. A line which is HUGE. However, this guy rolls the cart right to the front of the line, waves down the Taxi Stand attendant and tells him “Manhattan.”
We thank the skycap and the attendant waves over the very next taxi. Suh-weet!!!
I’m really feeling like a VIP now.
The taxi driver gets out. Looks at Garrett and says, “no!” Despite our explaining, the Taxi Stand Attendant explaining, even the skycap returning to explain this guy is no way no how allowing a filthy dog into his vehicle. I take a picture of his cab number, smile, and tell him we’ll see him in court. He leaves. Next taxi up also doesn’t want to take us. When we tell him he “has” to, he unhappily allows us in the vehicle and we are driven back to our apartment in stoney silence. It’s not fun.
We lug our bags up to our apartment and collapse in the bed. Okay. My OCD usually makes me unpack first and wash my face – then collapse into bed.
It’s all so glamorous eh?
Now please, please do not get me wrong. We have the BEST life! I totally love it! And overall we’ve found the world to be a warm and loving place filled with helpful and kind people. But there’s always “those.” So one moment we’re treated like kings and feeling oh so special. The next we’re being told we have to sit at the back of restaurant if we want to come in with “the dog.”
And this is what I’ve learned.
I can’t let what is happening to me at any moment determine my attitude – or steal my joy – or affect my peace. I can enjoy the moments of “perks” – and must brush off the moments of angst. If I give a TSA agent the ability to ruin my day – I’ve given away my power! That’s not something I intend to do.
Most of the time it is sooooo wonderful.
Sometimes situations suck.
My happiness tho? That’s my choice.
And I’m ever so grateful.