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Don’t Visit Florida without Friends

Author: Richard M.
Date of Trip: March 2006

I flew to Florida last year. The idea was to land in Tampa, rent a car, drive to Key West, and return to Tampa over two weeks. Plans were made online and started well.

Halfway through the trip, I visited an old friend and his wife in Miami. We went to dinner and entering the restaurant, I injured my knee stepping up to the curb. My friend drove me to the Emergency Room, they took x-rays, splinted my left leg and gave me painkillers. If you have ever tried to drive with a splint on your left “clutch leg” you realize that you can’t even close the door. The Hospital wouldn’t rent me a room, and I didn’t have a motel room and I couldn’t drive to one. My friend put me up for the night. I don’t know what I would have done without him.

There I was, on a “driving tour” and couldn’t drive. I decided to go home 1 week early. US Air, having sold my round-trip ticket (Cheap Tickets) for about $100, decided that a one way home the next day would cost $400. I balked and they offered one the day after for $300. I agreed.

I then called Budget Rental and asked if they could pick up my car. No, they said, we don’t care if you are crippled, and you can’t even get in the car, we can’t pickup your car and by the way, since it’s early and in another city, Miami not Tampa, there will be an extra change.

My friend drove me to the airport and left me at the ticket counter. I discovered that I couldn’t manage to carry my bag and the crutches (the airline had provided a wheelchair) so I tried to add my carry on (size of a cigar box) to my two pieces of luggage and discovered that the limit was two and there would be an extra charge. After a 15 minute wait, and 3 calls from the ticket counter, someone showed up to push my chair to the gate.

People with legs in casts can’t fit into airline seats. Eventually some seats were changed and we flew to Philly. The transfer in Philly (US Air hub) was not as easy as it had been flying south with two good legs. First there were, believe it or not, five people who required wheelchairs. One chair showed up. After a ten minute wait for the additional wheelchairs, the attendant suggested that we “crutch” our way through the flyway to the counter to wait. Have you ever tried to get crutches to go up incline ramps? They don’t. Huffing and puffing ensued and I took second in the “special olympic flyers race.” Exhausted, I waited for the “passenger trolley golf cart train” which eventually showed up about five minutes before the flight was due to leave. It then left me at the US Air gate at the head of a long stair (elevator not working). After hopping down the stair, I had to hop up into the transfer bus and hold on for dear life.

The DeHavelland Dash 8 is a wonderful plane that I have enjoyed using for years. But it is narrow and has door stairs that have chain hand rails and it took a while for the grand ascent, but I was soon safely set into a starboard side aisle seat, my leg sticking out into the aisle (no bulkhead seats) and no less than two people banged into my leg while seating. Getting off in Islip (Mac Arthur) field I realized that the chain rails wouldn’t support my weight enough to lean on them so I had to use the crutches for balance and hop down the 3 steps. The bright spot was, however, a flight attendant waiting with a wheelchair to push me to baggage pickup. I even recovered more when a friend that I had called from Florida met me there to drive me and my car home.

When I got home, I brightened up even more, knowing that I had purchased trip insurance. But continuing in the theme of “worst trip ever”, “World Access” denied coverage for the increased costs since the hospital neglected to specifically state “patient must not drive and must return home” on the forms.

LESSON LEARNED: Don’t visit Florida without lots of money and two really good friends.

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