Despite my insistence that we leave Springfield at 3:00 a.m. for the 1 hour 20 minute drive to Peoria for our 6:00 flight, my great-aunt's "boyfriend" or whatever he is didn't show up until 4:10, then after loading the car left again to pick up his friend who would be doing the actual driving, and so we didn't leave until 4:45. For a 6:00 flight. Right.
Which meant three hours of sitting at the gate in Peoria with my grandmother in a wheelchair waiting for the next flight out. (Luckily, there was another connecting flight out of Chicago that we were able to get seats on.)
The 9:20 flight to O'Hare was fine, but the next flight was an intricate ballet of classism, sexism, ageism, racism, and ableism.
Despite my asking repeatedly, no one bothered to get a wheelchair so that I could get my grandmother on the plane before everyone else boarded. The flight ended up with a 45-minute delay, but in that time, the screen kept announcing that we'd be boarding soon. No wheelchair came. "It's coming," they said. Finally, when the plane was ready, I saw a young white girl flying by herself walk through the gate with an airline chaperon. I asked again--"It's coming." Eventually, while everyone was else was boarding, I had to flag an airport employee down on the concourse and ask for her help.
And surprise surprise. Our seats were several rows back from the door, and we weren't seated together, though on the same row.
My grandmother can't walk well, and she can only walk with a cane slowly. Very slowly. This meant holding up the line of cranky, delayed passengers while trying to put down our bags and get my grandmother into a seat. A tall white woman in her 40s complained that she was in her seat.
"She can have it if I can get bumped to first class."
First class was full, the snotty, Type-A flight attendant informed us, rushing me and my grandmother into our seats. First Class Lady shrugged and scooted into her window seat.
The older white woman on the aisle said, "Well, I have a dog with me, so I have to sit on the aisle." Apparently it's easier to fly with a dog than your 96-year-old grandmother.
A white man in the other aisle seat offered his, though he made sure to let me know that he hates sitting in the middle because "I get claustrophobic." The man who'd been sitting by the window near him kept his headphones on and ignored us completely as though none of this was happening. But fine, we could sit together now. I helped my grandmother move into her new seat.
A woman standing in the aisle waiting said, "You're holding up the line."
After days of biting my tongue, after hours of frustration, I finally couldn't help myself and delivered in a bright, Valley Girl accent:
"Oh, I'm really sorry. But one of these days, you're going to get old and not move so fast. Unless you die first, which I'm totally okay with."
She looked surprised, then ashamed, and then mad. Shot me a dirty look and headed to the back of the plane as we settled into our seats.
Now you might think that's where the horrors of the trip ended. But you'd be wrong.
While we were still on the runway, I looked down the row and noticed that First Class Lady was bent forward in her seat with an airsickness bag. As we took off, she reached up and hit the call button. She continued to vomit over the next 15 minutes into many, many bags, had turned pale and sweaty, and was shaking. (Claustrophic Man was now sitting in the middle seat next to her. I felt sorry for him.) A flight attendant came over finally, and an announcement was made over the loudspeaker asking if there were any doctors on board. Three came over--two from economy and one from first class, holding a glass of wine. He looked around and went back up front while the other two worked on her. From my guess, she had appendicitis--they were concerned about her abdomen. Of course, they couldn't get much done because Type A Flight Attendant kept interrupting their examination to check their credentials and get them to fill out paperwork.
We ended up landing in Omaha, NE to get her off the plane and then sat on the ground for another hour.
Instead of getting into SFO at 12:30, we landed close to 5:30. It took 25 minutes for a wheelchair to show up for my grandmother. Oh, wait. No, it didn't. The Woman With The Dog decided she needed a wheelchair and took it. We had to wait for another one.
As for the trip itself, and the fight I got into with my mother before I even left the the Bay Area, I don't want to get into it right now. But I'm glad it's over.