See You Soon, I Hope!
You’re probably thinking I’m saying goodbye to a friend – a member of the brettapproved crew or an old college buddy perhaps. Nope, It’s a wheelchair – my polished titanium freedom machine from TiLite.
At first blush it may seem odd that I refer to my chair as a “freedom machine” but that’s exactly what it is. Without it, I’d have to crawl everywhere! Not cool. Can you imagine? I sure can’t and I’m fortunate that I don’t have to.
My chair allows me to go where I need to go and do what I need to do. Needless to say, I keep a close eye on it when I travel.
Nothing, I mean absolutely nothing, compares to the pure terror that renders me useless (usually for about three to four seconds) as I hand an eager, well-meaning flight attendant my briefcase, climb aboard the plane and say goodbye.
What follows are just some of the thoughts that race around my mind like legendary F-1 World Champion Ayrton Senna:
“It’s happening. Crap! It’s really gone. Will the operations crew remember that it doesn’t fold? Not even the back! Why were they so eager to hand me my cushion? Oh man, I think they’re actually planning on losing it!
“What am I gonna do if I get there and it’s all jacked-up? I have a business meeting for crying out loud! A business meeting – noooooooooo! What have I done! Is it hot in here? Why am I sweating so much? I feel sick. For the love of God, breathe man, breathe!”
This is an anxiety not even complimentary peanuts and a cup of water can soothe. And so, as I fasten my seatbelt (low and snug across my waist of course) I try and think of the upcoming journey from my chair’s perspective.
For our purposes here, that is to say the remainder of this blog post, let’s agree that my chair’s name is oh, I don’t know, something dark and mysterious like Ronaldo. Yeah, Ronaldo works. OK, now that we’ve settled on a name let’s continue. Shall we?
“Is Ronaldo suffering from separation anxiety too?” I wonder. “Is he being treated with the respect he deserves or is he being thrown around like some cheap airport courtesy chair?” I can only imagine what’s going through his mind. After all, it’s got to be cold and dark in the belly of this beast!
All of the emotions I touched on were in full effect during an October trip to Demo, a three-day entrepreneur-focused conference in the heart of Silicon Valley.
Quick Sidebar: I’d like to take a moment and give a quick shout-out to the fine folks at Ubiquity PR in Phoenix for sending me to Demo and believing in brettapproved. Thank you!
Exhausted after spending the week networking and discussing brettapproved with potential investors and event sponsors, I was spent; emotionally and physically drained. Nonetheless, as I settled into my seat on my Southwest flight from San Jose back to Sky Harbor, I happened to glance to my right and out of the corner of my eye I saw him sitting alone on the tarmac – my beloved Ronaldo!
“Do they know he’s there? Someone has to put him on the aircraft. Does he have a claim at gate tag on? I know he does, but I don’t see it. Ugh!”
Just when I thought all hope was lost, I blew Ronaldo a kiss and wondered if we’d ever see each other again … a Southwest employee picked him up, gently placed him on a conveyor belt and just like that, he was in!
Letting out a deep sigh, the rapid thump of my heart became less noticeable and we began to taxi down the runway headed for home.
Being the social creature I am, I turned to the two gentlemen to my left and introduced myself after I heard one of the men, Mike, shout with delight as he realized he was sitting next to his brother-in-law who, was in San Jose completing training/new employee orientation for a job he’d just started about a month earlier.
Each man, completely unaware that the other would be on the flight, was thrilled to reconnect and conversation quickly turned to family after a brief, but powerful obligatory man-hug.
I was trying my best not to intrude on an impromptu family reunion, but then Mike shared that his 16-year-old nephew, more like a son to him he explained, had been paralyzed in a recent auto accident. That’s when I felt compelled to share a bit of my personal story and tell my new friends about brettapproved.
So for the remainder of the flight, while enjoying a few free beers courtesy of Mike, we talked about family, work, living life on wheels, and everything in between.
I can honestly say it was one of my favorite flights ever. And when we landed safely at Sky Harbor Ronaldo was waiting without a scratch.
Thank you Southwest Airlines for a wonderful flight and taking such good care of him! More importantly, thank you Mike and thank you to Mike’s brother-in-law (whose name escapes me) for a memorable flight home.