25 Feb 2010

Orlando Holiday: Part 1 The Flight

We rose early on Tuesday morning and piled cases, wheelchairs and bodies into the car bound for Dublin airport. Once parked and in the airport, we'd only a short wait to drop of our bags then through security. So far, so fantastic. Duncan used his wheelchair (occasionally recreationally- see video!) though he did jump out every so often before sprinting after whatever took his fancy. No doubt folk observing were wondering what we were about, but sure, we're used to that!

We were delighted to spot my sister at the departure gate. Now we had the full crew the holiday really was on course. When the plane was ready we were allowed to board early. Duncan sat at the window, me to his right, his dad and Thomas in front (in case he kicked the seat!) and Lady and my sister across the aisle from me. It was just right. Best of all each passenger had a personal entertainment system in the seat back. Duncan started to watch Disney films straight off, with his ear defenders over the ear phones.

The Aer Lingus crew were fantastic. After take off we were told that the empty bulkhead seats were ours for the taking if we wanted them. We decided to stay put, even though they had more leg room, since it wasn't worth disrupting what was working so far.

Before long Duncan opted to simply listen to children's TV theme tunes and soon after that he set his screen to show the route map which he followed for hours! The journey took over 9 hours and in all that time he was just as perfect as I could possibly have hoped for. As always, Thomas and Lady were helpful and relaxed, and enjoyed the films and games on offer.

Just one incident marred the experience. Sitting behind me were 2 elderly men whom I presume from their accents were from the USA. They both slept for a few hours. Unfortunately I was assaulted at regular intervals by the most foul stench of someone's intestinal gases escaping and the pungency and direction of the attack strongly suggested one or both of these dudes was the culprit. But hey, when you're on an aeroplane you have to put up with whatever you're next to so I set the air blower things in my row to maximum and tried to breathe through my mouth. Then a couple of hours before landing Duncan started to move the window shutter next to him. He put it up, then a minute later shut it, and for a while he played at opening and closing it. He wasn't making much noise and the shutter wasn't shared with another row. He wasn't causing any harm and I was keeping a close eye to see if I needed to move him on to something else. Then I heard the men behind us talking and they were complaining to each other about the shutter thing, saying they wished he'd make up his mind and leave it alone. I was a bit surprised and caught my sister's eye. She sighed and rolled her eyes at the cranky old guys. Then I heard something I couldn't ignore. The one behind Duncan said (and I didn't catch it all exactly) "...I'd choke him..." and I knew he was referring to Duncan. I said to my sister who looked outraged, "did I just hear that right?!" She said that yes, she'd heard him too. I turned around and looked him in the eye, "excuse me, what was that you just said about my son?" He wasn't so forthright when he was challenged; "oh, nothing...I was just talking about the light. It's OK."
"You were talking about my son. He is disabled, he is autistic and he is doing the best he can. In fact, he is being bloody fantastic."
"Yes, yes. It's OK."

I wanted to say something to the crew but since I wasn't sure what else he's said, besides I'd choke him which I'd heard loud and clear, I left it. But I was a bit shaken. It was extra nice when a few minutes later another old Irish man who was queuing next to our seat for the sandwich sale, started chatting and asked about Duncan saying what a great boy he was. Better yet, 2 of the crew approached me to chat and commended Duncan in the most complimentary way saying he had been just wonderful and he was such a credit to us and what a lovely, happy child he is and it was a pleasure having us on board. Mr Nasty can't help but have heard.
My sister told me later that she'd heard the whole thing clearly. He'd said, "if he was my son I'd have choked him by now." Cruel sod. I pity the children he may have had and hope karma bites him hard on the ass.

But onwards. The descent was hard on Duncan. His ears hurt and despite our best efforts (together with kind offers of sweets and olbas oil drops from the crew and other, nicer passengers sitting close) he couldn't or wouldn't take anything. I just held him and whispered comforting words and he cried until he were almost down. But this too passed. We disembarked and were able to go follow airport staff through the disabled passengers' line at immigration. We even had a friendly immigration officer! We were all tired out but managed to keep it together until we'd got our cases (both times) and picked up the hire car.

We'd more than survived the journey, we'd enjoyed it.


Lisamaree said...

9 hours would be my husband's limit exceeeded for happy flying so I think Duncan did great.

Feckin old bastards behind you. I hope they have really miserable lives.

WELL DONE for not killing them and causing an air rage incident!


Sharon McDaid said...

Yeah Hammie he was a total star. He did ask often if we could "go down now" and I repeated each time that we were still over the ocean or over the wrong part of America.

I did have a day dream about dealing with the brutes behind me that had I enacted it, my welcome to the USA would have been very different ;-)

Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

It's AMAZING how great he did! We have yet to take a plane trip with my son and don't plan on it for a while! Good job, mama!

bullet said...

It sounds like it went really well. We are hopefully getting the lads passports very soon (have forms and photos ready to go), so hopefully we will be able to take them abroad soon as well. But no planes I'm afraid.
Looking forward to reading about the holiday :).

Club 166 said...

Glad to hear the trip was (mostly) good.

My apologies for my brutish countrymen (since it was an Irish plane you were in, if you did do something to them over international waters, I don't think the US could do anything to you. Keep in mind for future reference).


Ruth said...

I would have said the gas from your exhausts have been choking everyone. What prats. Well done to Duncan tho;)

Sharon McDaid said...

@Brenda, thanks, he was a star.

@bullet, it went than I hoped was possible. I love it when there's a pleasant surprise, but I must also adjust my expectations now. I'd like to travel by ship of through the tunnel but it's not possible to get to even mainland Europe from here. Those ways of travelling are much more pleasant, well I have never been in the Tunnel but I've heard it's OK. Enjoy your travels.

@Joe, darn it, if only I'd known about that loop hole! No need to apologise, I met loads of USAians on holiday and only those 2 were unpleasant. (There were a few horn beepers but people change behind the wheel!)

@Ruth, I was so surprised I didn't really know what to say. But they're prats OK.

AnnB said...

Well done to all of you - sounds like the military planning paid off. I'm so glad it went well - you all deserved a special holiday.

Venus said...

That was great to read, apart from that idiot sitting behind you. Theres always one.
Im going to show Luke your video, I think he will like it and it may encourage him for our trip in June.
Thanks for the chat tonight, was really nice to hear from you again, and very encouraging too.

Unknown said...

Wonderful story and inspirational for so many autistic families that are afraid of going anywhere.
Feel free to contact me about publishing your travel adventures on www.autisticglobetrotting.com