Thursday, June 28, 2007

Most. Humiliating. Experience. Ever.

“Oh, hey, good luck with that phlegm.” (Said in the most insincere, mocking way imaginable.)

“Thanks a lot, jerk.” (Said in most indignant, shocked way imaginable).

And with those parting words at baggage claim, thus ended the most humiliating, awful experience I’ve ever had in terms of being a patient. Even several days later, my face flushes in anger and my heart rate quickens a bit.

Let me start at the beginning. My husband and I were returning from a weekend trip, a Thursday night to Sunday affair. We brought The Vest with us, as we always do, and we brought it as a carry-on item, as we always do. It cost nearly twenty thousand dollars, so we’ve never wanted it rolling around underneath the plane, and we’ve never had trouble stowing it above us. This time, our plane was a tiny commuter plane, the kind with only about 20 rows and midget-sized overhead compartments. The gate attendant Thursday night said our backpack might not fit overhead (which it did) but that The Vest would.

It didn’t. So we stowed in beneath our feet and while it did protrude about an inch or so, I still had room for my feet and the flight attendants made no mention of it. We did the same thing Sunday, figuring on the same airline and on the same type of plane, what passed muster Thursday would be okay Sunday.

It wasn’t. I should also add that by the time we were on board and stowing carry-on luggage, the plane had already been delayed by 35 minutes and we were still third in line for take-off. The flight attendant and a customer service rep told us that it wasn’t far enough under the seat and we’d have to check it. My husband asked if it would be insured if we placed it underneath the plane and something happened to it. We were told that it wouldn’t be because it wasn’t checked originally, and that we should have made alternate plans if we wanted it insured. We pointed out that we would have made other plans if we hadn’t thought we could bring it on the plane the same way we just had days earlier, but handed it over anyway.

The whole exchange lasted about three or four minutes. People on the plane were getting antsy—one man even pointed to his watch and said he had places to be—and I don’t blame them, but it was the airline’s inconsistency that caused the problem. I was mortified and really self-conscious the whole flight, even though we were still delayed several minutes while the backlog of planes in front of us departed and all of that had nothing to do with our four-minute exchange. Still, the whole plane knew I had a piece of medical equipment that needed to be moved, and that’s the kind of public notice I don’t like.

I had recovered by the time we were at baggage check. In fact, I was resting on a bench when I saw a man approach my husband and get in his face. Seriously. In his face.

“Hey buddy, we’re cool. It’s cool. I mean, I got my car towed because you wouldn’t check your bag, but really, it’s ok,” he said, shouting.

Because I am a hot head and because I didn’t like this guy yelling at my husband, I got in the middle of them. They were going back and forth, the guy (who was there to pick up his girlfriend) screaming that we should have made other plans and John explaining that the 35-minute delay prior to boarding is what made us late.

“You don’t know anything about our situation. We were allowed to bring it on the other day. It only took a few minutes to check it, and we were still third in line for departure, so it didn’t make a bit of difference in terms of when we took off,” I said.

John chimed in with, “It’s an expensive piece of medical equipment that helps keep my wife alive. It keeps her from drowning in her phlegm.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” the guy said. For a second, I thought he meant it. “But hey buddy, say my girlfriend has a health problem, I wouldn’t be able to take her to the hospital because my car got towed. If I hadn’t been waiting twenty minutes, I’d have a car, but it’s cool, I mean as long as you feel you don’t need to check your bag.”

“Wait, you parked your car in a tow zone and left it alone for twenty minutes and it’s our fault you got towed?” John asked incredulously. (At that precise moment, the airport security message warning that all unattended vehicles would be ticketed and towed immediately came on. It was too perfect.) “The plane was late before we even boarded it, so don’t put that on us. And don’t park in an illegal area and leave your car alone and then scream at me for it!” John added, motioning in the air towards the intercom.

All three of us went back and forth a bit longer, voices raised and faces red. When the guy finally walked away and spat at me“Good luck with that phlegm” several times, very loudly and meanly, I was shaking. Literally every muscle in my body was quivering, not from anger but because no one had ever made me feel so terrible. The way he yelled it at me in front of so many people basically felt like he was saying, “Die for all I care, my car got towed.”

I sat down on the baggage claim carousel to steady myself.

I regret so many things about that whole incident: I regret the airline’s inconsistency put us in the position of risking a twenty-thousand dollar piece of medical equipment. I regret that both of us lost our cool and raised our voices in response to this guy, something I have never done in public and hope to never repeat again. And I really regret that after everything I’ve seen and done, some jerk still had the power to make me feel like my existence was so inconvenient and worthless.

And I will never, ever fly on a certain airline named after the fourth Greek letter again!


Nathan said...

Oh Laurie how terrible :(


Bazookoids aimed at stupid airline attendants and morons who park illegally...

Anonymous said...

wow, I can't believe some people are so awful. So sorry to hear about this nightmare!

Never That Easy said...

That's so horrible - some people are ridiculously out of control. I'm sorry about the whole situation, and how it made you feel. That's a terrible feeling. Hugs!

Anonymous said...

I have one word for you: karma.

Don't believe for a minute that he won't have that come back and bite him in the ass.

I'm sorry you had to experience that.

Anonymous said...

What a doofus that guy is. I agree about karma. He certainly has it coming.
I always carry 2 Epi-Pens with me, along with my headache medicines... while the pills are usually in their bottles, I occasionally just put some in a pill box because it just takes up less space (who doesn't do that!). Sometimes I get really nervous when I'm going into a concert or a ballpark or somewhere that they do the quick bag-check, that someone's gonna actually say, "Hey, what's in there?" I would hate to throw away my pills, but nothing compares to such an expensive piece of equipment... airlines really need to get all of their employees on the same page!!
good luck in the future :-)

Anonymous said...

Bullies only understand power, and your anger was power and you stood up to him. I think I'm one of the nicest, sweetest people you could ever hope to meet, and I want you to know I was cheering you on as I read.

I wonder, was anyone with him? I can just picture that exchange being what finally gets the guy's wife/girlfriend to ditch her abusive husband/boyfriend (or someone else in the audience with theirs). You may actually have done someone great good, and not even known it, by there being such a stark contrast in such plain, public view.

Given that one of the airlines confiscated an asthma inhaler from a passenger a couple of years ago, and then had the passenger die midair of an asthma attack--whose family then sued quite successfully... The airlines are a little gunshy now if they know what that thing means to you medically (and especially if they think you might need it in flight.) As well they should be.

Anonymous said...

Can you get your doc to write you a note, that you can carry with you, documenting the need to keep this equipment by your person at all times? I have a standard letter I write for my patients' diabetic supplies. I'll bet your doc could write something comparable.


ms. Kookaburra said...

////dear Laurie, I am so sorry for your awful eperience! Unfortunately, their are all kinds of selfish, freaks of nature out there, who are so short sighted they see only what inconveniences them. I think its' a waste of time to try to talk to these people, and you're probably better off just walking away, and if the guy continues, call security or approach flight staff that you are being harrased. Your explanation is not going to be thoroughly listened to or understood, and will just drag out the confrontation. Remember, too, you are a valuable, loved person, and a total stranger can't take that away from you! Remember, God loves you! Don't let them (wacko strangers!) have the power! Consider the ugly source! You're a beautiful, valued person, and I truly am sorry for what you had to go thru! I hope you notified the airlines of the bad experience with your medical device, so they can get it together, and decide how they can adequately and consistently deal with this type of problem. AWlso, I like the idea of one of the bloggers; get a letter from your doctor identifying why you need to carry this valuable peiece of medical equipment with you. You don't owe strangers , other than the flight staff, any explanation of anything at all! Best of luck in future ventures!
Ms Kookaburra

Anonymous said...

That same airline confiscated my wheelchair, telling me that it absolutely had to be checked with baggage. They assigned me a generic airport issue one that was missing the footrests, as well as a bored airport employee to push it. I was deposited at my gate and made to wait without access to any facilities (no chair at all now).

Upon arrival at my destination, there was no gate agent, no wheelchair, and no obvious way to get to baggage claim to reclaim my own. Eventally, I caught a ride on one of those oversized golf cart shuttle things, having to hear other passengers grumbling about why a young (seemingly healthy) woman would need to use services.

I really love traveling, but I'm starting to think it's not worth it anymore.

Lisa said...

Oh, in my head I was visualizing the whole conversation and could see you between your husband and the man, that is what I would do. My husband wants to protect me and defend me and then I want to fight my own battles at the same time, and defend my husband. Oh, laurie, thanks for reliving it for us in order to make more aware.

Anonymous said...

I believe that the person who advised you to walk away had the best course of action. You or your husband could have just turned around and ignored this jerk. If he continued to harass either of you, you could have summoned security. There's no shortage of these people in any airport. You wouldn't have even had to walk away to do it. Just look at him and yell out at the top of your lungs, "SECURITY!" and he would have probably been so caught off guard, he would have just walked away of his own volition. However, if you wanted to fight him, the best way is to make him even madder than he was prior to getting in your husband's face. Your husband could have just told the idiot that you and he had entirely orchestrated the event in order to get his car towed and that you were so happy to hear that it worked. Tell him, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Tell him that if he thinks he's mad now; just wait until he gets his car back. Make him worry that the worse is yet to come. Just make sure to act happy about his misfortune. The louder he yells, the harder you laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. He doesn't have the power to "make" you mad. You and you alone are in control of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, or at least you should be. It’s harder to do than to discuss after the fact, nevertheless, it’s good advice to keep in mind for future transactions with clowns.

Iris Carden said...

I admire your grace, and how restrained you and your husband were. Just reading it, I wanted to hit the man, or at least start screaming for Security.

Aviva said...

I can't imagine someone who more deserved the outrageous fees for towing and "storage" of his vehicle. What an idiot!

Thanks for digging this out of the archives to share with us.

Powered by blogger. Customized by PinkDezine.