Customer service

Hmm, I just called up Air Canada to arrange wheelchair assistance through the airport.

First, I must admit – it feels strange asking for a wheelchair. Wheelchairs should be for people who are really sick, or much older, or unable to WALK. I’m a 28 year old woman and I can walk . . . I just can’t walk for very long. My legs start feeling thick, I get tipsy (literally tipping over), and of course there’s fatigue.

I can understand someone’s surprise at my needing a wheelchair. But what I do not understand is being made to feel like an idiot for asking.

Calling the UK Air Canada customer service line today, I requested a wheelchair. The conversation went something like this (following the conversation about my reservation number, which was difficult in itself but quite possibly my fault):

Me: When I fly on the 14th, I’ll have just finished chemotherapy and will be really exhausted. Is there any kind of assistance I could have through the airport?

Lady: What kind of assistance do you want?

Me: Maybe a wheelchair or something?

Lady: Oh, wheelchair assistance.

I think the idea clicked into her head here. Before she wasn’t certain where to place me.

Lady: Is there any medical reason you need a wheelchair?

Me: I’ll have just finished chemotherapy and will be exhausted. I can walk a little, but not for long.

Lady: But is there any medical reason?

This is where I start to feel like an idiot.

Me: I’ll just have finished chemotherapy. I’ll be exhausted.

Lady: So you’ll need a wheelchair because you’ll be exhausted.

What is going on here? How many times do I need to say ‘chemotherapy’ and ‘exhausted’? Thinking about this now, I probably should have said: ‘I’m in the middle of chemotherapy’ – but totally forgot that fact during our conversation. But regardless, to have just finished chemotherapy and to be in the middle is essentially the same, because the effects are still felt a week or two (or more) after treatment.

Lady: I’ll put in a booking— sorry, a request for a wheelchair.

Me: (in my head: a request?) So I won’t know till I arrive if I have assistance?

Lady: That’s right.

At this point I want to cry, and don’t stand up for myself. Instead I say ‘fine’ because I feel like such an ass for even having asked.

Isn’t that crazy? Being challenged really throws me off; I totally lose my train of thought and can only say, ‘yeah, okay, fine’ like a stupid lemming. Mind you, if Zsolt is being challenged and asks for my help – no problem, I can tackle that issue. I’m a tough woman in other people’s battles. Not so great with my own.

Essentially, because I didn’t receive any sympathy from the Air Canada woman, I didn’t know how to handle myself. She treated my request like a form to be filled, which isn’t horrible, but at the same time – I’m not a form, I’m a person. My medical reason (apart from having been stated four times) goes beyond ‘exhaustion and chemotherapy’  – it extends to the fact that I need help, and I need it badly enough to ask.

Who asks for a wheelchair unless they need the bloody chair?

But she’ll put in a request.

Bah! It pissed me off enough to write, and maybe it’ll piss me off enough to call back later, when I feel less sorry for my passive self.

Though honestly, I had expected better.