Friday, September 25, 2009

"Congrats, you're an 'adult'!"

Here I am sitting in United Airline's flight to San Francisco, and bored with doing homework/college applications, I thought I'd write something to post on my blog later on.

If you're wondering why I'm flying out to California, early yesterday morning, I discovered that good friend, K's Mom passed away due to medical complications. K was not a close friend to start with but after meeting her through a mutual friend, we quickly bounded and became close friends. As I move all over the country and the world, both K, her siblings, and her parents would constantly send emails, calls, and even send cards for both Mom and me while Dad's deployed. They really took care of us and watch out for us like we're a part of their family. Truly, I would consider K and her family one of our closest civilian friends.

Colorado Springs Airport

So, upon hearing this sad news, I decided to miss Thursday's match and this weekend's tennis tournaments to fly out to California and be with the family during their troubled times. (and, of course, to to attend the memorial service on Saturday) After all, they were there for us when we needed 'em, now it's time to be there for 'em.

Walking away from that topic, as much as I want to be there for the family, I now face a dilemma. Those who require last minute travel plans to make it to a business meeting/emergencies can tell you how crazy it is to find a flight, place to live, and not to mention cars to drive once you're at your destination. Now talk to a disabled traveler and tell 'em to make plans within 24 hours, they'd think you're nuts! Being a disabled traveler adds onto the challenge of planning last minute trips.

Now...put those two together and tell an adult that he needs to travel that within the next 24 hours. Sounds simple? Not really, the "adult" is 18 years old.

I know that this isn't the first time someone tells me I'm nuts. No matter what was going to happen, how much trouble I need to go through to get this planned, I HAD to be in California within 24 hours. I just wouldn't know what to do with myself if I wasn't. So, as soon as I got home from school yesterday, I went on a mad dash to find a flight, hotel, and car for when I get to California.

I know what you're thinking, "oh good luck, you're going to need it..." And sure enough, I needed the luck. See, I knew about the flights, I knew about the hotels, and I can say that I knew bits of how rental cars work. Read on:

Reserving a flight may sound easy to the A.B (able-bodied, that's right, we got names for you normal people. You better watch your back! :P) but it can be a bit nuts for a disabled traveler. Most airlines these days are accommodating to your needs, but you do need to call ahead just for sort of a heads-up into this "situation". People can spend hours on the phone just to get hold of the airline's customer's service. Thankfully, the people over at United Airlines were extremely friendly and helpful so I didn't spend hours on the phone (I didn't have hours to spare!)

Now, onto living accommodations.

To most A.Bs, hotels are nothing more than the ratings they were given, their price, and maybe what the hotel offers. Talk to any disabled travelers and they can tell you how crazy it is to find a place that's accessible. Yes it's true that there are a lot of good friends out there who would offer you a place to stay on such short notice but not all of 'em have accessible housing. (i.e wide doors, accessible showers, etc.) So the best way to ensure you have that is staying at hotels. It is against the law for hotels NOT to have accessible rooms. HOWEVER, not all of 'em will match an individual needs. What do you do? You get on the phone and tell the people working at the hotel EXACTLY what you need.

Courtyard® by Marriott®

Sounds crazy? Ya it can be but on top of that, I must find hotels that will allow 18 year olds to check in without anyone over the age of 21 present. After hours of searching, I was glad to talk to a manager at Courthouse Marriott who is more than welcome to have me check in by myself AND his personal guarantee that my room will be exactly the way I requested (or else he'd pay for my stay! Awesome management!!)

Lastly, there was the problem of transportation.

Any disabled traveler can tell you how awesome it is when you don't have to rely on others for transportation. After all, independence rules :) Now, rental cars, believe it or not, are actually fairly easy to rent. You just call the rental car place and notify 'em that you will be needing an adapted vehicle. And they, by law, have to provide you with an accessible car. (i.e hand controls) Simple right? Not if you're under 25!!! After searches after searches, I just could not find a place that will allow 18 year olds to rent a car. Even with your perfect record, due to insurance and other issues, companies most likely will not let anyone under 25 rent a car.

So, to solve the transportation situation, I had to ask around for taxi service from my friends within the two days I'm in California. Thank goodness for good friends! :D Two out of three major "issue" went my way, so I guess it can't be that bad.

After that crazy planning, I got thinking. A lot of people say when you turn 18, you're an adult. You're legally an adult and can do many things that kids just can't do. But really, you're still a kid and you can't do anything without a real adult present. So when are we really "adults"? In a bigger picture do our age really define our adulthood?

Few examples of what 18 year old "adult" can't do legally: rent car, check-into most hotels, buy alcohol and so on. So, are we really adults? Or are we just "adults" under the eye's of older people? (And at the same time it's making me wonder why we can enlist at 18 and can't do all those stuff until later on in our lives...quite strange...)

Anyways, the captain just told us we're about to land in SFO, so turning off laptop till I get to the hotel. Stay tuned for more blogs about this trip.


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