After sleeping basically all day yesterday, it was finally time for Melody and I to take to the skies and return to the Great White North. Checking out of the hotel and catching the bus like pros, we made it to the airport in amazing time. Unfortunately, this would be the last “easy” thing that happened to us all day.
Upon arriving at the airport, we were ushered to a thin Air Canada line to get our boarding passes and drop off our checked baggage. In no time at all, we were all checked in and good to go, but something was a little strange–for some reason they didn’t tag my wheelchair. For those of you who know me, you will remember the last time my chair wasn’t tagged it was accidentally sent to Memphis (rather than Detroit) and nearly destroyed in a controlled explosion on suspicion of being Osama’s new horrible plan to strike at the American Infidels (little did we know his real act of terrorism was funding Million Dollar Baby–Hiyooooo!). As such, I was a bit suspicious and asked again if they were absolutely sure my chair would be tagged at the gate, which was again confirmed that was the case.
Moving onward to security, things still didn’t feel right, especially when we asked a security guard where the wheelchair accessible security check-in station was and he told us there was no such thing. Uh oh. As we scrambled around trying to find a metal detector wide enough to fit through, the man from the Air Canada desk caught up with us and explained a mistake had been made, obviously, and the chair did indeed have to be tagged. Unfortunately, the chair also had to be taken at that exact moment, leaving me in an oversized and unusable manual wheelchair for the next 2 hours. We attempted to negotiate with the guy, begging and pleading to let us keep the chair until we load on the plane, if only to ensure the chair is put on the right plane, but it was no use. In the words of the Air Canada employee “I don’t care how it is done at other airports around the world, in Barcelona you don’t get to keep your chair.”
Because I no longer had my electric wheelchair, we now needed a staff from the airport to push me around to ensure Melody had her hands free to carry all of our luggage. This lead to several awkward moments, as the woman assigned to us didn’t speak a lick of English and we were once again forced to do interpretive dance to communicate. You don’t even want to know our sign for “bathroom.” After bumming around in the duty free shop for about 30 minutes, it was finally time to board.
But not so fast, enter mass chaos. As it turns out, the airport was surprisingly unorganized this morning and, unlike every airport I’ve ever been to in the past 20 odd years, they decided it would be best to just load up people in wheelchairs at the same time as everyone else. While this choice was perhaps a great step forward for the disability equality movement, it made for an absolute horrible mess of aisle chairs surrounded by hundreds of scrambling travellers climbing over one another to get their bags away and into their seats. To make matters worse, for some reason people all over the plane had given up on the “assigned seat” system and were just sitting wherever they wanted, leading to even more chaos. Furthermore, no one really seemed to be “in charge,” leaving each of these little emergencies to be resolved after 10-15 minutes of intense group meetings (in spanish of course) that never really seemed to resolve anything. I never thought I’d say this but at this point I was beginning to miss Pearson International. Anyway, the end result was the plane being delayed so long that we missed our slot to take off, forcing us to sit at the gate, in the plane, for over an hour waiting for a chance to get airborne. It was around this point that I fully expected to see one of the crew out on the tarmac doing donuts in my chair before lighting it on fire and pissing on the ashes.
Eventually we did get airborne and I provided anyone who would listen with my best impersonation of a Bronx Cheer and clapped sarcastically. Once airborne, things seemed to straighten out a bit and we were back on the smooth path to Canada. Despite seeming like the longest flight in the history or aeronautics, we finally touched down in Toronto at 3:30pm EST. With bags in hand and wheelchair seemingly fine, I parted ways with Melody and set off to London.
So all in all, despite the insanity, everything went fairly well. I was just about to celebrate my huge victory when a minor disaster struck–my wheelchair stopped driving. Upon further investigation in my apartment, it appears someone has been tampering around with the underparts of the chair and it now cuts out every few steps, requiring someone to switch it into manual and back into drive mode in order to keep going.
If nothing else, at least this happened on the way home and not on the way there. But still…damn you Air Canada!!!
Anyway, I’m too tired to be angry right now…stupid jet lag…so I’m heading to bed in the next hour or so and will be back with my normal spit and vinegar tomorrow.
Good bye Barcelona, hello rainy London!