Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reflections on the NFPW Conference, September 10-12

This year's conference of the National Federation of Press Women was held in San Antonio, Texas, this year. This is the second national conference of the group that I have attended (the other was in 2007), and I basically enjoyed the experience. However, I was reminded that traveling is tough for us elders. Here are a few observations (not really meant to be complaints).

1. Must the airport experience be so difficult? I understand about security, but the time it takes to personally examine my whole body with a wand because my two knee replacements set off the alarm seems a bit unnecessary. I certainly can't look like a dangerous terrorist, especially at my age. This process may deter me from flying again for a while.

Then there is the long walk from terminal to gate. Of course I'm old enough, though not visibly impaired, to request a wheelchair, and I often did so before my knee operations. Now I consider myself reasonably healthy and fit, but that walk is a real challenge. Whatever happened to those carts that used to ply the aisles to transport anyone who requested a ride? I only saw one, and it was marked for special VIPs, some of whom looked young and vigorous when they passed me. Can't we older commoners have some help? I've discovered that brisk walking for long distances makes me short of breath and in need of a seat, and often there is no place to sit until I reach my gate, or the baggage claim area when I arrive.

What's with the baggage fees? This is my first time having to take out a credit card once each way to pay $15 to transport my small bag. Many carry similar bags aboard, but I'm not strong enough to do that. And the size and number of bags carried onto a full plane are mind-boggling. There have always been too many carry-ons, but the charges seem to encourage virtually everyone to carry on as much as possible. The loading and unloading of those overhead bins is quite a process; one seems to risk life and limb avoiding having a large bag fall on one's head.

2. We stayed in a nice enough hotel, but I was not especially comfortable. For one thing, the shower was in a slippery bathtub without grab bars, and I did not dare take a shower. One slip (and I'm not very sure-footed) could have disabled me for the rest of my life. I had to make do with what my mother used to call "sponge baths," so I hope I didn't have B.O.

Most of the lamps in the room apparently had burned-out bulbs or other problems. Since there was one good working lamp for reading, as well as a ceiling light, I didn't register any complaints. Actually, the most annoying feature of the place was the toilet. I'd always thought that all toilets are pretty much alike, but then I had my knee replacements. My condo toilets were both rather low, so I had to buy a raised seat. Those here at The Clare are of more reasonable height, and they've given me no trouble. Those at the San Antonio hotel hit a new low. They were too low for all but the smallest child. Getting both down and up provided me with real challenges, and when possible, I used the handicapped stalls in pubic restrooms (not very useful in the middle of the night). What was this hotel thinking? I've never seen such low toilets anywhere outside a child care center. Apparently all the rooms were so-equipped.

All this made me ponder, as usual, the "joys" of growing old. Do I really need to request airport wheelchairs and handicap-accessible rooms when I travel? Or should I just quit traveling altogether? I don't think of myself as a fragile old lady, but this trip make me wonder. It's nice to be back home!

(As I said, I did enjoy the conference, although I ate too much. See my other blog, "Write Your Life!" for an account of my awards.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Marlys! Your post on "Write Your Life" makes me think the trip was worth taking. If I was you, I would indulge myself with airport wheelchairs and handicapped accessible rooms--and anything else I could think of. Keep going! We need your example.
--Pat (Ann Arbor)

Nancy said...

I found your post interesting...My 78 year old husband and I (77) spent 3 weeks traveling in May. I was the sherpa, since he's had 3 major back surgeries and has leg neuropathies. I found that the strength training I have been doing in recent years was a tremendous help, and I had no trouble lifting suitcases etc. It's always hard to discipline myself to work out, as I don't especially enjoy it, but it's paid dividends for me.