Before our trip even started we got fucked over briskly and efficiently by almost everyone who had the opportunity.
Let’s go back to the beginning. A few months ago, in the early planning stages of our trip to Boston, Hannah and I discussed how we were going to get there.
“I’ve heard tons of horror stories about wheelchairs getting damaged or broken when they’re taken on airplanes,” she said. “Every time I go on a plane it’s stressful. So we should see if we can take a train to Boston.”
We looked it up, and realized that there are no direct train routes between Toronto and Boston. Every single route went through New York City, which meant a twelve hour trip.
“That’s bullshit,” I said.
“I can’t go without peeing for twelve hours,” said Hannah.
We looked up plane schedules. Three hours from Toronto to Boston.
“I guess we’ll just have to do that and hope for the best,” said Hannah. We booked a flight on Air Canada.
About a week ago, Hannah was talking to one of her friends who’s also in a wheelchair.
“You have to phone and make sure your chair will fit in the cargo area,” the friend said.
“Some of these planes are really small.”
“But it’s a flight from Toronto to Boston. They’re both major cities.”
“You’d be surprised,” the friend said.
The next day I got a Facebook message from Hannah: “We’re in trouble.”
Oh shit, I thought, I guess we won’t be able to go to Boston after all. She’ll feel really bad about this. Maybe we can do a weekend in Niagara Falls or something instead.
“What happened?” I replied.
It turns out that Air Canada has no planes going from Toronto to Boston that are accessible for her.
They do, however, have some accessible planes departing from Ottawa, and also some accessible planes traveling between Toronto and Ottawa.
Later that night we discussed the situation.
“There are two options,” said Hannah. “Either we take a plane to Ottawa, and another plane from there to Boston, or we take the train from Toronto to Ottawa, and then fly to Boston.”
“Taking the train will be more expensive and will take more time,” I said. “But taking an extra flight will increase our chances of dying in an airplane crash.”
It’s not that I’m afraid of flying, it’s just that I have a respectful awareness of certain realities.
“I don’t think we’re going to die, and I don’t care too much about money,” said Hannah. “My main concern is that an extra flight will create more opportunities for something terrible to happen to my chair.”
“That’s true,” I said. “This doesn’t seem to be a well-run organization.”
So we opted for the train, which doubled the length of our trip to Boston.
Checking the schedules of both Via Rail and Air Canada, Hannah concluded that we’d have to leave a day early. Seven days instead of six days.
“We can stay overnight at my parents on the first night,” said Hannah.
Her parents are the only people we know who live in Ottawa and have a fully accessible house. It was lucky our trip didn’t start a few days later, because they were leaving for their own vacation.
Hannah did all the work. She’s a veteran at this sort of thing. She booked the new flight, she booked the train, and she booked the return flight and the return train trip.
I was a little shocked at how badly we’d been screwed right out of the gate, but the situation had been easy enough to manage.
Two days before we were scheduled to leave, Hannah got an e-mail. It was late at night, and we were getting ready for bed.
The e-mail informed Hannah that the return flight we’d booked from Boston to Ottawa had been canceled.
The new return flight was due to arrive in Ottawa late in the evening, hours after the last train had left for Toronto.
Hannah stared at the e-mail for a very long time.
Then she turned off the computer and we went to bed.
The next day we had another discussion. I hadn’t fully understood the content of the e-mail, and hadn’t wanted to ask Hannah about it, because anything capable of temporarily short circuiting her would probably kill me.
She explained that we had one option: we would have to spend an extra night in a hotel in Ottawa. It would obviously have to be accessible, with an elevated bed and roll-in shower. Fully accessible hotels are difficult to find, and are often prohibitively expensive.
There was another problem, too. Oftentimes people who work in hotels- and most other businesses, for that matter- don’t know whether their establishment is accessible or not. Sometimes they guess, which always leads to interesting situations.
“I hate calling these people,” she said. “With every fibre of my being.”
We got lucky- and it’s so depressing to me that I consider this luck- when the second hotel Hannah called ended up being accessible. Fully, unconditionally, and definitely. We were out another $120, but we had a place to sleep.
The only wrinkle is that one of Hannah’s siblings will have to drive to the hotel and leave a hoyer lift there for us to use, and that was another goddamn thing for Hannah to arrange.
Now we’re on the train heading to Ottawa. Hannah’s parents will meet us at the station. Everything leading up to our trip was a fiasco, but so far the trip itself has gone smoothly.
Although the bastards just gave me a lunch option of either salmon or curry. Why not just offer to throw up in my mouth? Jesus.