Sunday, 16 April 2017

Cancun, Stupid Cancun

It's late here in the Maya Riviera, the sky dark with only the pathway light to illuminate the near black shapes and shadows of bats flicking by in search of mosquitoes for a midnight meal. The air hangs humid, slung low with the dampness of the Caribbean slumping in over the sea, working its way landward to become the clouds of the morning. We are well away from the beach, perhaps a good thing with this the season of Saragasso, the rotting seaweed drifting on the current from the edge of the Atlantic here to the shore of eastern Mexico.

Today was a rough sort of a day, with patches of calm, long patches of calm, before the storms and struggles of what is inevitable when I travel. I am in a wheelchair. This, by definition, means life becomes a shit show on a regular basis. This, the first day of travel, with cabs and cars and airlines and airports and hotels, is a day rife with the opportunity for failure. It did not disappoint in that regard.

First there was the cab this morning. I had reserved it for 6:30 AM. I got out of bed on time, at 5:30 AM. Anne had stayed the night, so we were ready to go. At 6:37 AM, I called the cab company to see where our cab was at. They responded by saying he would "be here in two minutes". When he arrived a few minutes later, the cabbie let it slip that I was lucky he was nearby, that they managed to get him close and get him to us. I guess there really was no reservation, just an idea in someone's records that a wheelchair cab was needed somewhere, sometime.

Then there was the airport. Not the Calgary Airport. That all went smoothly. The real trouble began when we landed at Cancun. Despite several weeks of notice to all parties, concluded with confirming emails and messages, the Cancun Airport did not understand the concept of wheelchair. When the plane landed, the stair unit arrived to disembark passengers. Their plan was to put me in a skinny, aisle chair and carry me down 24 steps of steep aluminum steps, then transfer me to my wheelchair at ground level. I objected.

They, the ground crew, didn't seem to understand that my objection was not to the skinny chair; they tried suggesting a chair with actual straps and restraints on it, then they tried to put my into my own chair. Both alternatives still involved me having to be carried down a steep set of metal stairs in a barely balanced aisle chair held by four or five members of the airport ground crew. I dug in my heels. When they tried to grab me and go, I shouted "Don't touch me!" I then asked which of them would take responsibility if I fell, which of them would answer the questions should I be injured or killed in this process. Things came to a halt.

After nearly two hours of haggling and wrangling with Sunwing, with the Cancun Airport, with the ground crew; after being told flat out at least twice that there was no ramp available, that my only option was to be carried down, I remained up on the edge of the stairway. Then, suddenly, someone decided that there actually was a wheelchair ramp, that there actually was a safe way to get me down from the plane to the ground, one that did not involve me being carried down a rickety set of stairs on an even scarier aisle chair by a less than concerned group of Cancun ground crew. A ramp magically appeared, and we got off the plane.

By this time I was beat. Yet there was still our luggage to claim, our car to rent, our way to make to our hotel. Of course by the time we got here, our wheelchair accessible room had been given away. We came well after everyone else who might have been on our plane, or other planes. So, once here, we had to negotiate a room. We ended up deciding to stay in a standard room for the night. Tomorrow they will transfer us to a handicapped room.

The real blessing in our day was once again from the people, the staff of this hotel, and in particular Denis. My day had been filled with disaster, broken catheters, leaky Depends, wet pants. Then, this angel of a man shows up to help me. He helps me undress and deal with my wet clothing. He helps me dress and feel clean again. He pushes my wheelchair, me on board, to our dinner. Then, after dinner, he pushes me, while Anne walks along, to the edge of the sand, to the smell of the sea, through the scent of the evening air.

Now, let's see what happens tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. WOW, just WOW!! But I'm glad that Denis helped you and you got to the beach! Good luck!!