Williamsburg Trip: Disability Moment #2

Flight from Washington DC to Denver

A 777. Widebodies are good, because they have to have certain amenities (a semi-accessible lavatory, an onboard wheelchair to get to the semi-accessible lavatory), and bad, because they are so large, boarding starts really early, and when you have a tight (and late) connection, it can be hard to get there early enough and get anyone’s attention to get boarded before the first class and other entitled passengers start breathing down your neck (or stepping over you, which is what actually happened). But this isn’t about boarding, just about the trip to the lavatory.

I really do try not to have to pee on airplanes, but sometimes…

During the movie (because far fewer people are trying to use the lavatory at this time), I ring the call bell. A flight attendant appears within 10 minutes (this is really good – my record is 4 hours, on a flight to Europe – and by then, I really, really had to pee).

Me: “I need to use the restroom…” I pause, see that she has no idea why I would announce this to her, and continue, “and will need the onboard wheelchair.”

Onboard WheelchairInstant deer in the headlights look. Flight atttendant: “Um…just a minute.”

Me: “Thank you.” (Always be nice to the people who have the power to keep you from the bathroom.)

Another ten minutes. Another flight attendant (we’ll call her FA2) comes to me seat. She also looks very apprehensive. “We’re working on it. It’ll just be another couple minutes.”

Me, calmly: “Thank you.” This means that either they don’t have it on board, or they do have it on board but it’s busted, or they do have it on board but nobody knows how to get it out. (Cut to the end: it’s Door #3.)

Eventually yet another flight attendant (YAFA, or FA3) comes trundling down the aisle with the onboard wheelchair. Other flight attendants (it’s a big aircraft) are hovering about. They all look very anxious. I try to exude confidence. Oh, yes, inexperienced flight attendants, I have done this many times! It is a piece of cake! Please do not concern yourselves! I am a professional!

I look it over before committing myself to it, make a few modifications (unfold the foot rest, untangle the velcro straps, and so on), and then leap aboard. FA3 pulls me backwards down the aisle, not running into very many things. The 777 has an accessible lavatory, which means the onboard wheelchair actually fits in there next to the toilet. FA2 is worried, and asks how they’re going to know when I’m done. It’s still a very small lavatory, and I assure her that I will open the door (just like everybody else) when I am done.

Getting the onboard wheelchair out of the lavatory is a whole ‘nother project, because nobody can get behind it to push it. FA3 asks FA2 to sort of pull on the strap around me knees, in order to get the whole affair going. FA2 gives it a try, then stands, turns her back to me, and says, “I can’t do this.” I can’t tell if she’s distraught (why?) or disgusted.

“Then don’t,” I say, realizing that what was in my brain actually came out of my mouth before I could stop it. Between the two of us, FA3 and I manage to get me out of the lav and back to my seat. Mission accomplished!

As I deplane, FA2, relieved that the Ordeal of the Onboard Wheelchair is over, says in a rush, “I’ve never done that before. Thirty two years and I’ve never done that before.”

I think of a number of things to say, and settle for “Thank you for all your help.”



  1. fridawrites

    Sheesh–seems like this should be part of regular training.

  2. Katja

    It is – but how long ago do you think a flight attendant with 32 years of service was trained?

  3. Maris

    They never thought that they could put their training to use. And when the time came, those wide eyed stares of surprise means they were digging up old lessons long-buried in their already droning minds(droning because of the routine involved with their job).
    .-= Latest from Maris: At the Mercy of Anxiety? Check Your BP (blood pressure)! =-.

  4. Christiane

    Hahaha, Katja, I can so very much fully understand what you are talking about. I also try to avoid going to the restrooms during a flight. And I hate it to look into a face of a flight attendant who is panicing if I ask for the aisle chair.
    .-= Latest from Christiane: Fraport statt Tatort =-.


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