Yesterday I was driven across the length of Chicago’s O’Hare airport in an electric cart. My guide dog Nira sat beside the driver, smiling, enjoying the view. Old and young people pointed as we rode past—delighted at the vision of a big yellow Labrador who was in turn delighting. It was a Mardis Gras moment. I felt like throwing beads at the crowds like the firemen in New Orleans.
Most of my airport experiences are rotten, many have been humiliating. But yesterday was good. People were happy to share space with me and Nira on our flights. Airline personnel were cheerful. When I arrived home in Syracuse and was waiting for my wife Connie to pick us up, two young women who worked for Delta wanted to give Nira a biscuit.
Chances are good if you have a disability you’ve had a lot of lousy days while traveling. But once in awhile you’re treated like a citizen. You get home without the usual dignity scouring miseries that accompany public attitudes about physical difference.
So it was a good day. But there will be tomorrow. And the tomorrow after that. One has to cope on a regular basis with the inherent self-privilege of able-bodied people—whether they’re university professors or airline personnel—the moue of unhappiness, the frown, the overt expression of inconvenience, worn on the face without irony or shame, all because you’ve insisted on being treated like a citizen. It’s a hard knock life, indeed.