Everything was finally packed away in my shipping crate, except for the two suitcases and a backpack with my computer that I intended to carry-on. And now, finally, I was ready for the twenty-two hour flight(s) from Maui back to Ecuador.
OK, here's where I share the "Ultimate Travel Secret" with you. And there is only one prop needed ….. a cane. So here's how it goes.
Just before embarking on a previous flight to South America, I had stumbled down a flight of stairs (well, only two steps to be exact) and severely bruised my heel. I'd been given a cane by the local health clinic to ease the pain of walking and was using it as I approached the airline ticket counter to check in. As the agent was peering down into her computer monitor, trying to find my reservation, she suddenly glanced down at my cane, then up at me.
"Would you like assistance", she asked. Now I remembered that every time I flew, an announcement would be made just prior to boarding …. "We are now boarding our First Class passengers and those needing assistance.". So I said yes, thank you, I'll have some of that. I hate to wait in line.
The next thing I knew an elderly man, even older than me, came shuffling up to me with a wheelchair. "Hey", I said, "I don't need a wheelchair, just a little assistance." With a weary sigh, the old fellow told me to just sit down and enjoy the ride ….. especially through TSA Security, he added with a twinkle in his eye.
So off we went to the security checkpoint, where what looked like thousands of harried travelers stood waiting to be checked through. However, just as we reached that line, the airline porter made a sharp right turn, ducked under a security rope, and wheeled me into a special area to be checked and scanned in what seemed to be less than ten seconds. There was no one else there at that check-point, just little old me in my wheelie and two TSA people, one on the X-ray machine, the other to make the required security search.
I offered to get out of the wheelchair to be patted down, but the TSA guy said no, he could "wand" me right where I sat. The fact that I might be sitting on a bomb didn't seem to occur to him. And for once, the X-ray person did not even pause upon seeing my sleep apnea respirator (which does look like a VERY suspicious thing to be carefully checked. I was simply hurried through.
At first, I couldn't figure out why the TSA people didn't want to give me the usual pat-down, etc. Then it dawned on me: no one likes to touch sick people. And if I was in a wheelchair, I must be "ill". Hm-mmmm!
Next thing I knew we were at the gate, checked in, and taken directly to the door of the aircraft where I got out of the wheelchair and "limped" aboard …. even before the First Class folks. They had even given me the front bulkhead seat with plenty of extra legroom, the one usually reserved for the lame, the halt and "those needing assistance".
OK, to make a longer story shorter let me simply say that at each terminal I was met at the aircraft door with someone with yet another wheelchair and shuffled off to the next gate for boarding. Now here is where it get really good. When I finally landed at the Quito airport and was wheeled to the baggage area where I was met by my hotel driver …. a miracle occurred!
I got out of the chair, stood up, folded up my cane, took a tentative step forward and then walked quite briskly over to fetch my luggage. I was seemingly miraculously healed! Hallelujah , hallelujah.
The poor Ecuadorian porter who had pushed me through what seemed like miles and miles of corridors could not believe his eyes. He crossed himself and muttered a couple of "por Dios", then pushed the empty wheelchair off to be used by someone else who really needed his services.
To be perfectly honest, EVERYTIME I fly, that's what I ask for, a little bit of assistance. And if you want to avoid the indignities of TSA body pat-downs and the miles of airport corridor traipses, then I would suggest that you do likewise. Metal, fold-up canes are cheap!