Michael vs. the Lion

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2005/07/14 06:30 -07:00, original URI: http://blogs.msdn.com/michkap/archive/2005/07/14/438762.aspx

It is common for people to talk about the connection between 'the Lion' and the Netherlands (see Order of the Dutch Lion for an interesting reference!).

Of course I am merely attempting to be poetic here; I have not declared war on Holland. And certainly I have not won such a war in some Wibberly-esquse sense.

I am referring to two "policies" at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport that impact me and my scooter.... I am calling them "policies" since they have been cited as the reasons for a particular type of non-service. And I am putting them in quotes as they do not seem to be documented in any of the actual rules. They are:

Since I was forced in a short time to go through Schiphol (arriving from Seattle, leaving to Dublin, arriving from Dublin), and each time at the departure gate or on arrival someone would eventually explain the appropriate "policy". Unfortunately, the people at the entry hall are not told of the policy (and help me by filling out the appropriate planeside checkin forms!) and I was even forced to go through customs back to the Netherlands, to baggage claim, and back through security again. And the folks who first meet the flight assume that the scooter will be brought up and that it was a mistake that it was sent to baggage claim (it is only there that someone tells me of the "policy."). Mike Hernandez witnessed this whole process on the initial arrival at Schiphol, he was as surprised as I was.

It is incredibly inconvenient though. I mean, if I arrive early (which I do) and have upgraded myself to business class (which I did, I had the approrpiate miles!), then I want to be able to ambulate independently. Go to the Duty Free shops. Hang out in the Business Class Lounge. Get some food. Buy a souvineer. Go to the bathroom (well, the toilet -- no one calls it a bathroom there!). And when I arrive, I want to be able to make my way to the baggage hall without requiring someone to push a wheelchair that forces my carry-on luggage to be put in my lap for the long trip through the airport.

It is a pride thing, maybe -- but having been in both situations, one with a brief dependence on them getting me a device and the other with me an invalid, unable to do anything but depend on others for the process, I can honestly say that the the former really and truly rocks, and that the latter completely and utterly sucks.

So on my way to Schiphol for my flight home, I decided I was going to beat this lion.

I had gotten a measure of the roar of this particular beast, and I knew that my conspirators (the entry hall personnel) were in place and eager to help, to give good service.

So when I went to check in, I explained that I would be disassembling the scooter planeside into four pieces, and needed to tag each piece for planeside checkin so that I could pick them all up on the other end at the side of the plane. I think the woman who checked me in knew why I was doing this; she implied as much when she said "they will have a harder time complaining about the weight, won't they?" :-)

I had time to get some breakfast. To pick up a scent that was recommended to me (Vera Wang for men -- I think it does the trick!). To pick up a few other things. To go to the toilet.

At the gate, I showed people how each part was documented approproiately for planeside checkin. They asked me a few basic questions (making sure it was a dry cell battery, etc.) and no one suggested I had to go back to the entry hall and start over in a wheelchair....

And when the plane landed in Seattle I put the scooter back together (the onlookers were impressed at the clever device!) and to make my way back to my car with minimal assistance (all based on people just wanting to be helpful, like the lovely couple who helped me get my awkwardly placed bag off the baggage claim belt).

I did it. I defeated a policy that was never clearly explained and which it seems almost every person I talked to from the airlines and the ground crew did not believe to be very good customer service.

So I had faced the lion, heard its roar, and made it through anyway!

Best of all, I got to feel like a non-invalid. Which is I think as important to my health and well being as everything else that people recommend in regard to diet, medication, etc. Maybe it is a silly pride thing. Probably it is. But for as long as I am able to function as an independant person, I am going to do so. And that is going to be for a long time, if I have anything to say about it....

# Daniel Garlans on Thursday, July 14, 2005 12:36 PM:

Have you ever, and if not, could you post some more information about your scooter? it seems like it must be pretty fancy, and it'd probably be an interesting bit of information for all of us who love hardware and technology of any type :D

especially when you describe it as a "clever device", curiousity is piqued!

congratulations on beating the system :)

# Michael S. Kaplan on Thursday, July 14, 2005 1:52 PM:

Good question! I hsve kind of posted round them without getting into it too much. I'll do something on this tonight or early tomorrow. :-)

# Laura E. Hunter on Friday, July 15, 2005 4:50 PM:

Well, it's red (errr...right?) and it's got a smashing cool basket thingy on the back of it. And I mean literally smashing, since there seems to be some sort of bizarre human-sonar attached to it that forces people to smack their knees on it as they walk past at parties. :-)

# Michael S. Kaplan on Friday, July 15, 2005 8:27 PM:

Hi Laura!

It is actually blue -- but the rest of the descripion is accurate....

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