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The Flying Gimp 

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The Flying Gimp

March 1994

By Catherine Kitcho

The airlines are not well equipped to handle passengers who wear crutches. They can handle the passengers pretty well, but crutches, well, no. Crutches don't fit under the seat in front of you. Neither do they fit in the overhead bins of most aircraft. Which means that the flight attendant must stash them somewhere in the hidden compartments on the plane where they put all the odd-sized stuff that they tell you they don't have room for. Then what do you do when you need to use the lavatory? You push the attendant call button, and of course you don't get the same one who stashed your crutches. So then the one you called goes and looks for the one who you think stashed your crutches. She can't find her, so she starts looking for the crutches herself. By then, it's time for them to start blocking the aisles again with those lovely beverage carts. This is a delay tactic, because they can't find the crutches, but they know they will have to find them eventually in order to get you off the plane. So, after the beverage service (which you refuse since you really have to go now), they have a little flight attendant meeting in the back of the plane to talk about your crutches, except just when they think they've found them, it's time for them to do the walkthrough before landing. You of course remind them when they walk by your seat and they nod and wink and say "Yes, we'll get them for you. Just as soon as we land."

You also get the privilege of boarding early, along with the little unaccompanied rug rats and the wheel chairs. The first time is pretty neat, until you realize that you are the last to get off the plane. The next time, you settle in to your bulkhead seat and a 10-year old boy with a cast on his right leg sits next to you. Your cast is on the left leg, also knee to toe. Every passenger walks by and snickers, thinking you are mother and son. One says, "How did you two manage that? Matching casts!" You reply," I never saw this kid before in my life."

Regulations require that they remove you from the plane in a wheel chair; even if you have crutches. When they come and pick you up, this big, burly ex-football player says, "Where to?"

"Baggage claim and the Hertz counter", you reply. He chuckles, thinking you're not serious. He retrieves your bag from the serpentine carousel, then asks, "Are you sure you're renting a car?"

"I can drive", you reply. "The cast is on my left leg. As long as I get an automatic, I'm fine." He parks you in the Hertz line, four people deep. Everyone is staring at you, amused. You work your way up to the front. The clerk leans over the counter and says, "Oh there is someone down there in line. May I help you?"

You tell her about your reservation. She asks, "Are you sure you can drive?" You reply, "It's an automatic, right?" She walks around the counter and brings your paperwork for you to sign. She calls out to the lot and has one of the clerks drive the car out front for you. He loads your bag, you hobble onto the crutches from your wheelchair and you're off. Such service. It almost makes you want to keep using those crutches once the cast comes off, if you get such service. Almost.

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