My sculptor friend from Nova Scotia put it this way: “Airline travel in Canada is pleasant. In the States, I feel like I’m a nuisance.” If a sighted, exquisitely independent Canadian feels like a nuisance, where does that leave me? I like to feel that my need for a little extra help does not make me a nuisance. And if I feel I’m being treated as such, I try not to internalize it. Blindness itself is a nuisance. I don’t need any extra baggage.
Randy requires accommodation, but I don’t consider him a nuisance. I simply nod and smile at questions like, “You mean that dog gets to ride in the cabin too?” But when a fellow traveler tries to pass off Frisky their pet ferret as a bona fide service animal, I get riled. I understand how people with disabilities come to be viewed with cynicism and distrust, like we’re all out to beat the system. Our needs become degraded to the level of the scammers, for whom each whim becomes an entitlement.
George said it best. George was the O’Hare skycap who escorted me from gate to curb. While we talked sports, George admonished travelers who blocked our path or distracted Randy from his work. “Some people got no respect,” said George.
Travel is stressful. So I practice patience and tolerance. I respect rules and regulations. I don’t blame the T.S.A. for making me get half-undressed at Security, nor to have my methodically packed stuff spread among nine plastic bins. Measures seem extreme, but then so are folks who blow up planes to make their point.
A little help and consideration get Randy and me safely home. And we’re grateful for that help, for those who came before, those for whom being treated like a nuisance was a call for change.