27 October 2011

Home At Last! Part II

Our departure for the airport was imminent. I had no more time to inspect the machinations of the knight. My aunt took a wrong turn. I caught up to them, explained we were on a different level now. During the course of this conversation, another lady from our company joined us. She had been wandering and by now was so turned around she happily followed us back to our original starting point.

Upon our arrival at the airport, we had a bit of time going through security. I forgot about leaving out the laptop so my belongings made one more pass. My mother had to toss a five bladed grooming item that she'd had ever since I could remember. Our Tour Assistant had waited for us and he took over the pushing of the chair. When we arrived at the tram, he received a phone call requesting his assistance. After debarking, I told him to just go, we'd find our way. He pointed out where the elevator was and left.

We arrived at the departure gate and I plugged in the machine. Again, I thought it was working because she was getting air. So we waited the two hours for the plane to leave. No one wanted to relax too much or we'd fall asleep. Had to keep moving. The time arrived for boarding the plane. Not too bad. My mom and I arrived at the assigned seat. The flight attendant settled her in her seat and made sure the tank was where it was supposed to be. About an hour into the flight, the battery needed changing.

This plane was not as roomy as the other one. I couldn't lift the tank to change the battery. I thought it was cause the lady in front of us had put her chair back. No, it was because they had more seats in the plane with very little legroom.

After wrestling the tank to where I could reach the battery, I changed to the fully charged battery. Now is when I discovered that imps had joined the gremlins. Fifteen minutes later, the low battery alarm went off. We had no more batteries and an hour and half of flight time left. I discovered the skies were not so friendly as on our flight out.

After discussion with the Tour Assistant who was across the aisle from us, she left to find out what could be done. By now, my mom was having problems. When the flight attendant arrived, there was a bit of an argument. There are a number of items in my report to her superiors which I won't get into here. Suffice it to say that my temper was on a very short leash. Also, the principle of "treat others as you'd like to be treated" was in operation. The ruder she got, the less I wanted to inform her of the situation. They got one of their tanks for my mother.

Now began the worst flight experience I've ever had. Communications broke down. I received conflicting orders from the flight attendants [FA]. The one who strapped the tank in the seat between my mother and I was not the lead attendant. The FA checked on my mother a few times and I relaxed as landing neared. The FA came and took down my mother's name and address for her "Cabin Discrepancy Report" for the use of the tank. She was explaining things to me and when I told her that I understood rules and regs, she seemed to think I was still a child. Not good.

1. I've worked in a tightly regulated industry. I've done background checks. I've worked in Internal Compliance which has more regulations than she'd ever deal with. I've worked with law enforcement. I've had customer service training which I promptly forgot being on the receiving end of one representative's personification of all the wrong things to do when dealing with unruly customers which I was trying very hard not to be.

2. I've had some medical training. I'm familiar with my mother's medical needs. I do have some knowledge of how Oxygen Concentrators work having been around them for seven years, from the "dinosaurs" to the sleeker models out now. The tank they handed my mother was a smaller version of the 14 we usually use whenever my mother travels in a car. Huuuhhh.

Landing was the pits. The lead came back, very rudely unstrapped the tank and put it under the seat. No sooner had she accomplished this, when the FA for our section came and wanted me to hand it to her. At this time, I felt it best if I left the area. Unfortunately, the middle of a plane in the process of landing is not the best place to find a spot in which to calm down so situations can be dealt with in a calmer manner. When I realized this, I asked for T*** whom I kept calling T*** because it got stuck in my head from one of the other members of our company who thought that was her name. I really needed to get off that plane. We made it through the landing and out of the airport.

Upon our arrival at the motel, I really needed a cigarette, a cup of coffee and a few minutes to myself. I got my mother settled. As long as her machine is hooked into an AC outlet, the battery will charge. That worked. I checked out all the batteries we had and they were all low, out. There was a desktop charger which gave us the opportunity to charge two batteries at once. To fully charge the four batteries, we needed at the least, a 12 hour stopover, which we weren't going to get. So I made sure of at least two that should last for the trip to Fortune Bay whereupon I'd be able to use the DC. But of course, I hadn't planned on the gremlins activities. I thought only the imps had any energy for mischief. Turns out the gremlins had fully rested.

Upon our departure for the 5 hour trip to the home res, three of the Assistants asked if we had fully charged batteries. I assured them we had enough. Not. Our trip was delayed when we were about to depart. We had to wait for half an hour for our bag lunch to arrive. During this delay, I called home {yay, no roaming charges, didn't have to text} to let them know we'd be late. Now, I found out we didn't have a ride home. After setting plans for obtaining a ride were set in motion, I had another cigarette.

We finally left and were 10 minutes out when it was discovered one of our company had been left behind. We waited another half hour or so for the Tour Guides to bring the lost one to meet us. At this point, the low battery alarm went off. She had only been using it for 45 minutes. It's a 3 hour battery at the setting we had it on-pulse only. The driver set her up on the DC hookup and so we were set for the trip to Fortune Bay. Yay, the extra battery should get her home. In order to make up lost time, we missed one stopover.

Upon our arrival in Cloquet, I discovered that my mother's errant knight had some very harsh words for the lost one. Words which proved he was Not A Paladin due to the nature of the mostly FoUr Letter Words he used and the treatment he meted out to an elder. When we arrived, the lost one didn't talk to anyone at this stopover. The Duluthians left the bus at this point; we didn't make the planned stopover in Independence and were able to make up time arriving at Fortune Bay only one hour later than planned.

I met the lost one and asked if ** had said anything to him. "Yeah. Did you hear what he said?" "I didn't hear it but I heard about it. Don't worry about what he said. He's a bigger troublemaker than you ever were." I then proceeded to find my mother and brother who met us, thinking that that assurance to the lost one was enough. Not. This knight wasn't issued shining armor. A one hour delay for oversleeping vs. damage to a POC with it's attendant complications is the standard I'd use for whether or not something merited Harsh Words and/or Harsh Treatment.

We had to wait for my nephew to arrive. After a half hour stroll through the casino to stretch my muscles for the hour ride home, I discovered the full extent of the damage to the machine at our stop at the grocery store. I switched out the batteries and turned on the machine. Lo and behold, the charge on a fully charged battery had drained. Luckily, we could use the DC hookup. We arrived at home and my mother happily got on her very own trusty machine.

I surveyed the machine more fully. I think it's mostly the battery hookup that's damaged in some inexplicable manner. It most certainly needs a qualified Service Technician's attention. I don't know if trip insurance will cover human error. A simple push of one button, slide the battery out, slide the new one in til it clicks is all that is needed. Never did I have to take apart the machine to accomplish this.

All in all, I learned a valuable lesson to use for the trip to England's environs. The 31 hour ordeal happily was at the end of our trip. The Tour Guide and Bus Driver for the "Yellow Submarine" are much appreciated. Their assistance, knowledge and great customer service surely made our Trip Planner's/Assistant's job easier. I know my experience was greatly enhanced by their care and respect for my mother.

Here is a link for the "official" description of our trip. You'll need to read from the bottom up. Helen is the Bois Forte News editor/reporter.

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