Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday 8th September: "A different mode of transport"

"10 minutes from Boston"
10" x 8"; Sepia pen and ink and coloured pencil in a Large Moleskine sketchbook
copyright 2006 Katherine Tyrrell

I hate the start of a journey when I'm on a 'big trip'. There's so much to think about - and this time matters were not made any easier given the new carry-on baggage restrictions at airports to combat terrorists. Anyway, there I was, in a foul mood as usual when setting off (having mentally run through all the check lists for the nth time in the last two weeks and repacked my baggage for the 3rd time). To reduce tension levels I now fly out from Manchester Airport which is near where my mother lives - as I'd be 'looping the loop' before I even set foot on a plane if required to go anywhere near the nightmare called Heathrow. I've always said how nice Manchester airport is - nearly as nice as Stansted which is my favourite airport of all. Until this trip.

I arrived at the airport not knowing which terminal the flight goes from as it was not printed on the e-ticket and there was no information on the website, there were no relevant signs on the roads into the airport, none in the terminal we went too, I couldn't find a member of staff who knew where my carrier flew from and when we did find out they forgot to say how long the walk between terminals was.

So what, you might think? Well I'd turned up an hour earlier than usual because of the extra checks but time was running out as I searched for the flight............and searched..............and searched. Then, walking as fast as I could from one terminal to another with all my luggage which took nearly 20 minutes, I arrived at the correct terminal and the end of a very long queue. By this point I was beginning to have major problems with my mobility. I have an extremely boring congenital disorder which means tissue in my feet (eg my instep) can tighten and snap if I'm not careful. Mostly it means that I have similar problems to people with arthritis - a tendency to fall and an inability to stand for any length of time. However, as a result of falling I have torn a lot of tissue between toes and knees at one point or another and there was no way I could stand in the queue - everything was beginning to tighten.

Long story short (as they say) American Airlines came up trumps and arranged a wheelchair for me and I was whisked through passport control and security - at both ends - in the wheelchair, which turned out to be a very fast process.

Mostly I manage my disability very well through taking sensible precautions - but Manchester airport proved to be one challenge too far for me that morning. It seems to me that its management have not given much thought to communication with passengers or disability discrimination.

I kept being told by airport staff that the airport was not allowed by law to have any signs up for non-UK overseas carriers as it was seen as advertising! Huh!!!??? I've never heard anything so ridiculous.

I'm currently investigating whether existing arrangements breach the relevant UK legislation around accessibility for people with disabilities having been told I certainly wasn't the first person who'd made a complaint about airport signage.

Anyway - once I'm sat on the plane and it's taking off I'm fine! I arrived in Boston without mishap, picked up the rental car, followed my cousin-in-law's impeccable directions and arrived at their house in time to bask in the sun on their deck. Driving up Route 2, my first impression of Massachusetts was 'what a lot of trees!!!' And, as it turned out, a lot of them seemed to be residing in my cousin's back yard!

How about you:
  • what do you hate about journeys or airports?
  • what were your first impressions of New England?
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