Air travel poses innumerable challenges even to the least physically challenged among us. When Sir Thomas and I fly, we add four giant legs to the already crammed space called Leg Room (which is tight with my two legs). Delays, angst, discomfort all add to the stress of flying.
So it’s safe to say that stress was on board the USAir flight that is in the news regarding the blind passenger and his service dog.
Blind-man-with-service-dog causes one to, well, look. Whether it’s blindness, chronic disease, birth defect, mental illness, baggage or botched surgery, we’re all dealing with something that places us just this side of normal. My ‘something’ happens to show in the way I walk. Add a handsome, four-legged cane to the scene and we, well, we make for quite a scene. People look. They watch, comment: “Beautiful dog” or “What’s he do?” or “Are you training him?”
Even though the remarks are typically positive, they remain as judgments, others’ perceptions on something they catch a glimpse of but don’t know of the daily, hourly, moment-to-moment details. Those are private, yet it can be difficult to maintain a sense of privacy on the walkway of public places, especially while being eyed, judged.
It’s even harder in those public places that are disguised as personal space such as an airline seat. USAir staff reportedly asked the blind passenger and his service dog to leave. As much as my stomach does a flip-flop at the notion of being escorted off a plane because my dog stretched his legs, I don’t know the details of that situation.
What I do know is that this public story touches me personally. USAir has been a positive supporter of The Service Dog Project where Sir Thomas was raised. That much I know. Regarding the rest of the story, I can relate to the cramped legs but as for details, I wasn’t there. When I am there in that public/private space, I do not want to be judged. So I will not judge this man, his dog or the airline.