The Airport Package Dance

You’ve never heard of the airport Package dance? Just ask a blind person who is traveling alone, and she’ll say, “It goes like this.”

AP, (Airport person) approaches and says, “I’ll take you to your gate, assist you onto the plane, take you to baggage claim.” BP (Blind person) says, “May I hold onto your right arm?” AP looks befuddled, tries to figure out which is his right arm, then grabs BP’s left arm. BP repeats, “I’ll hold onto your arm.” AP grabs BP’s left arm again. BP stands still and in an exaggerated patient voice says, “Put your arm down. Good. Now let me take your arm.”

Next dance is when AP leads BP to a chair. Instead of saying, “A chair is directly in front of you, to your left, or to your right,” she puts both hands on BP’s shoulders and turns her around until her back is to the chair. BP says, “Next time, please just tell me where the chair is. You don’t have to put me in the chair.”

Next dance is when AP shows up with a wheelchair. “Right over here ma’am,” he says and gently pulls BP toward the chair. “I don’t need a wheelchair,” BP says. “I’d rather walk.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, I can walk.” AP looks disappointed and somewhat confused. Now he has a much harder task, guiding a BP instead of pushing her.

Another dance is done on the plane. A wellmeaning attendant says, “Here, you can sit in this seat up front. You don’t need to go back to your assigned seat.” Then passenger who has ordered the seat the BP is now sitting in says, “I am supposed to be in that seat.” Then flight attendant says, “Sir, you can sit somewhere else.” BP looks embarrassed, because she is just sitting where she was told.

Final dance happens at the end of the flight. “Just stay seated until all the other 9,476 passengers have exited, and I will assist you.” BP thinks “No way. When there is a break in the line of tromping passengers, BP standds up and walks to the front. Flight attendant, now worried, says, “Just sit here and wait. Someone will come to assist you, sometime in the next 45 minutes or so. BP says, “I can walk up the jetway on my own. My daughter is waiting at the gate.” Flight attendant says in disbelief, “Are you sure?” BP says, “Why would I prefer to sit here while my daughter waits at the top of the jetway, when I’m perfectly capable of walking up there myself?” No, BP doesn’t really say that, just smiles and says, “Yes, I’m sure.”

The reason I call it The Package Dance is that My friend, Deborah Kendrick, one of the savviest travelers I know, says “They want to treat you like a package. I’m not a package. I’m a person.” Deborah has an extra twist to this dance. Flight attendant grabs BP’s carry-on to stow it overhead. BP grabs it back to stow it under the seat in front of her, so she can get to it. Another AP takes her second carry-on and stowes it under the plane, without telling her.

My message in this post is, if you’re an AP, please don’t grab my stuff, or push me, stear me, turn me, or plunk me down like a package. On the other hand, maybe I should be a package. Slap a label on me, and stick me on a UPS truck next time. It would be a lot less stressful.

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