Over the past few months, the Handicap This crew and I have been
traversing this great land of ours both by automobile and plane,and
I’m really looking forward to train, (ha-ha). Full disclosure here:
I am not the biggest fan of travel all based on the fact that I am
stuck in the chair due to the cerebral palsy that I have. I guess that is the catch-22 when having a successful stage show and speaking career. However I do have some suggestions that will make your travel experience more enjoyable if you are in a similar position. Keep in mind that this is all based on my personal experience and my particular physical situation so you can adjust accordingly.
Let us begin with driving. If you are going to be stuck in a car for more than six hours this
is where my tips may come in handy.
If you have the means or the inclination buy yourself an
attachable DVD or Blu-ray player. Keep a stock of your favorite
films in the car, like Last Tango in Paris–that will really
distract you, trust me–or anything starring Ryan Gosling so you
will have a lot to choose from.
Suggestion number two (kind of obvious): make sure you have snacks,nothing too messy, pretzels, granola bars, Gatorade–you gotta keep those electrolytes up. Oh yeah, this is very important. Food
allergies: not so much for you, but for the person who is giving you
the food, because the last thing you want is for one-fourth of your
motley crew to go into anaphylactic shock in the middle of rural
Kentucky, or as I like to call it, ‘Deliverance’ country. So always
bring an Epi-pen, which we have had discussions about more than once.
This next tip is very important: if you have an iPod and you can’t control it, please, please, please, for your own sanity and for those around you get a book from iTunes. Make sure you don’t download the book itself by mistake. I did that and it’s frustrating. To clarify, an audio book. Never do music, of course if you can’t control it yourself, because if you don’t want the song you’re going to have to get someone to change it every three minutes and you really have to think about what kind of songs you want to listen to. It can become a whole big thing, and when it comes to traveling you want to make things as simple as possible.
If you’re not much of a reader you can pick out a few podcasts. Some of my favorites are “How Did This Get Made” on ITunes and Kevin
Pollack’s “Chat Show” on KPCH on iTunes.
Noise-canceling headphones are another good choice because in my
experience it’s kind of annoying to hear other people talk when
you’re driving through South Dakota and there’s nothing to look at
except land and the occasional roadhouse and/or adult book store.
Let’s move away from the car, shall we? The car is all about passing the time but when you go on a plane it’s a bit more complicated. You have to be diligent.
First thing about air travel: try to get a bulkhead seat. In
non-plane terms, it’s the fist row of your section, which means more
room. The more room you have, the easier it is to maneuver. You’ll
never get it, but try anyway. If you can’t get a bulkhead seat, try
to get the seat closest to the front of the plane as you can, because
where the fun starts, the aisle chair, aka the Hannibal Lechter/Steve
Buscemi in ConAir chair. If you are unfamiliar with this medieval
contraption, it’s a really narrow seat with nowhere to put your feet
and the longer you have to be in it the more it hurts, and believe
me, it hurts. Here’s the thing: find out what part of your body you
can control the most. For me, that would be my arms. So tell the TSA
people who are pushing the chair what part of your body you can
control. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told them to watch my
feet only to have my lower extremities wedged between the cockpit
door and the drink cart. (To see what I
am talking about exactly, check out our Webisode to see what I am talking about!)
And I saved the most important thing for last. Before they wheel the chair to the cargo hold take off all parts of the wheelchair thatare removable, i.e. head-rest, foot plates, and pummel(the thing that goes between your knees). If you don’t, something’s going to break or will be sent to Trinidad and Tobago while you are heading to Tuscaloosa. Which reminds me, remind the people who are handling your chair that it is not collapsible, because believe you me, they will try to collapse it.
Last thing: if at all possible, fly Jet Blue. You will have lots of legroom, and if you are uncomfortable in the airplane seat, which I’m sure you are, they have Direct TV in your headrest to distract you from your pinched nerves, pulled groins, what have you. Trust me, you sit down, you watch three Law and Orders, one My Three Sons, and half of Midnight Express and you have reached your final destination.
Hopefully, Handicap This! roll through your town soon. Next stops: Dubuque, IA, Mason, OH, Boston, MA and Skokie, IL!
Rollin’ to a town near you,