I was in Albuquerque this week. Here’s some random stuff that happened:
Called the hotel Sunday to make sure I had an accessible room. No, I was advised brightly, but I had been booked into a *suite*! I was clearly supposed to be excited about this, but I figured that being able to take a shower would be more exciting than having 2 televisions.
The work was at Kirtland Air Force Base. Getting on to base at the beginning is always an adventure, since no matter how hard your sponsor tries to get you on a list at security, it’s always lost or screwed up.
In this case, we were directed to a particular gate, the Truman gate. The Truman gate was in the process of being entirely rebuilt, so Visitor Control was in the middle of a construction zone – not really wheelchair accessible. The guard directed me to another gate, the Gibson gate. At the Gibson gate, I handed my papers to the airman, who read them carefully, then glared at me over the counter. “This says ‘Proceed to the Truman gate’,” she said sternly. “This is not the Truman gate.” And here I thought it was all one big happy Air Force.
The building where we had our meetings had no accessible restroom. The nearest building with an accessible restroom was a 15 minute push away (both directions). The weather was sunny and beautiful, and there was so little traffic on that part of the base that I just used the middle of the street rather than coping with the cross slope on the edge of the street. (I would have used the sidewalk, but there were no curbcuts – your tax dollars at work). It was actually fun, and I got lots of exercise and the perfect excuse to get outside a couple of times a day (kind of like the smokers).
Back in the hotel, the tub bench latched up against the wall, and was out of reach. The front desk clerk put it down for me. Later I called the front desk to ask them to ask Housekeeping to leave it down. Next day, it’s back up, but not latched, so I swatted it down, and called the front desk again. The day after that, it’s up again, but latched. I call the front desk and ask for someone to come pull it down for me. I’m informed that Housekeeping is gone for the day, and there’s no one available in Engineering. “This isn’t an Engineering problem,” I say, “I just want you (or someone) to come pull the tub bench down.”
She calls me back 15 minutes later to ask again what I want. “The tub bench. It’s latched up against the wall, I can’t reach it, and I want someone to pull it down. Not remove it, just deploy it. And by the way, how can I make sure this isn’t put back up again?” “Well,” she says, “you could call the front desk.” There is a moment of dazed (on my part) silence. “I did call the front desk.”
Eventually, a cute guy turns up, pulls down the bench, and promises me Marriott Reward Points (“for the inconvenience”). Points are nice, but I’d rather take a shower without having to call someone.
And then there was the aisle chair fun. It doesn’t seem to matter how often you request an aisle chair ahead of time, it’s always a surprise when you actually show up. And if the gate agent doesn’t appear until 5 minutes before boarding, there’s no one to tell.
So afterwards I called the hold-a-rama that is United Customer Service. After the first 1/2 hour, it emerged that the CR with whom I was speaking had no idea what an aisle chair was, and thought I was requesting an aisle seat.
After I tried to enlighten him, he spent the next 15 minutes not understanding the difference between a wheelchair and an aisle chair.
That’s when I asked to speak to someone else, who told me about 5 times that I should just request an aisle chair ahead of time, and didn’t have anything to add when I pointed out that a) I do, and b) there’s pretty much nobody at the airport to talk to, what with kiosk check-in and nobody manning the gate.