Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A wheelchair, a wedding and a hotel from hell

"You can move the chairs around ",  said a man at the front desk as we were checking into a hotel in Fort Lauderdale. I figured it was strange that somebody would tell me that I can rearrange the furniture in my own room, but as soon as opened the door I understood what he meant. The space was tiny. You could barely get through to the other side in a wheelchair. With the beds on one side and the table and TV stand on the other it was a tight squeeze. I was surprised how bad the experience was. Yes, it was Days Inn and not the Marriott, but I've been staying with them many times all over the country. It was not luxurious of course, but I was always comfortable. I always felt it was a brand I knew and could trust, affordable yet of a standard that I recognized and because of that familiarity I often went with them over an unknown hotel where I didn't know to expect. The room wasn't wheelchair accessible of course, but I'm usually fine with regular units. With this one I was glad that I brought a friend along- otherwise it would have been extremely difficult for me. It's almost as if somebody took a low class roadside motel, slapped some corporate colors on the wall and decided to call it Days Inn. Starting with the bathroom-  The sink was actually in the common area outside, next to the microwave and the very dirty fridge, because it was so small that I had to move my legs far to the side while sitting on the toilet just to close the door. It wasn't really worth the money I was paying, but they were sold out either way. My friend chose a weird week to get married. With the "snow bird" season, rates going as much as double what they usually are, Spring break ending, the Gay Pride and whatever else was seasonally happening there in March, if I didn't want to pay 300-500 dollars a night for something slightly better, this would have had to do. The hotel was loud. The floor path was so narrow, that getting by the housekeeping carts that were always standing in front of the rooms was extremely tricky without falling off.  See, that's the thing- all those disability access issues sneak up on me on my day off, if I'm resting, having fun or going to one of my best friends' wedding. It's not something I can stop thinking about at any time, because it is my life, not my job.

The front desk and the breakfast diner was in a completely different building. There was also some confusion about the breakfast itself. When I booked the room one of the confirmation pages said that continental breakfast might be included. When we got there we heard that if we got it after the 28th, then it wasn't. That it's 10.99 a person and it's cash only. Lovely. At least one thing they did have was an ATM, but they don't get  any brownie points from me for that. And the hotel was right next to the train tracks. Can you guess how many times we've heard a train in one night? Fort Lauderdale is a big city, and we didn't really know were anything was. I knew it was one of those places where it may take two hours to get from one side to the the next. The hotel's name had "Ft Lauderdale" in it, but it could have just as easily been one of the smaller towns. The big issue on my mind was how far it was from where we needed to be for the wedding. A friend of mine who misheard the name of the place  where we were staying on the phone  told me while we were driving up there, that we were nowhere near it. And I thought to myself: What did I get us into now. But as it turned out we were only 15 minutes away from the wedding. Yet, we still managed to arrive 15 minutes late. The ceremony was at a nature center, because my good friend, the bride is all about nature. Unfortunately, as you know nature and wheelchairs don't mix. There was no path to the grass area where the sitting area was set up so I had to watch from the sidewalk behind. And we were late, so it didn't make sense to even try to get somebody to drag me there. Our friend was surprised that there wasn't a concrete walkway for the little bit of a grass, we could have made it work. Somebody could have just brought out some plywood she said. They could have, but the didn't. And it's OK- that day wasn't about me, although I do wish I could have been included in my friend's special day a little more.

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