We landed. As the airplane became unpressurised, my blood pressure started rising. The steward had no idea what I was referring to when I spoke of a stroller at CDG airport. And when I asked for assistance unboarding with my baby, sick child and my bags he startled me saying, "we cannot assist you on the ground. Our job has now ended. Talk to the ground agents when you leave the plane, there is nothing I can do for you." I became red in the face, my adrenaline kicked in, and the only thing that kept me from lunging forward at his unsympathetic poker face was the baby in my arms.
This conversation was conducted within earshot from our row mate who immediately offered his assistance. I graciously took it thinking that I needed it only for the length of the airplane and jet way. I was wrong! The Air France ground agents were not any more helpful or any more polite than the air agent. As a matter of fact one of them decided he was done listening to me and walked away from me mid-sentence. His mate was just as unconcerned with my situation and brushed me off completely citing "there is no supervisor for you to speak to."
I became livid. I was helpless. JR was crashing before my eyes, Yousef was strapped to my front, the backpack with all our electronics to my back, and the rest of our things were hanging off the shoulder of a complete stranger. The situation was a disaster. The airport long, the wait for the next flight even longer. We had to walk to the next terminal. I had no choice. I hoisted JR on my hip and trudged along. There was no going back. We had to get our boarding passes and keep moving.
At the next Air France counter I pleaded my case again. I spoke part in French, part in English in the hope of a sympathetic ear. I lifted JR on the counter for a visual of her condition in the hope of a sympathetic heart. I near cried. I repeated my story over and over again, but I got the same response over and over again: "there are no strollers available. The agent in the US gave you the wrong information. There is nothing we can do for you." But, there is always something that can be done, I thought.
"A wheelchair. Can you send for a wheelchair?" "Mais, vous n'êtes pas handicapé," came the response. "I am not handicapped yet," I burst back, "but what if I fell down right here with the weight I am carrying? Then you would have bigger problems on your hands!" Speaking as such I had every intention of causing them bigger problems at that point. Between the 18 pounds Yousef, the 32 pounds JR, the 10 pounds backpack, the pressure of the Moby wrapped around me and the hunger and fatigue I was certainly bound to crash at any moment. I had imagined the trip to be challenging, but for it to be this physically strenuous would have required an act of imagination that I had chosen not to enact with the careful planning and packing I had done.
The lady remained unmoved. The people I have encountered must have left their hearts checked at the door when they walked in through security that morning towards their jobs. "Think of the girl," I tried next. "Elle a de la fièvre. She cannot walk. Do it for her, if not me." That seemed to hit a vague heart note with the agent. "One moment, please, I will see what I can do."
All along the gentleman from the plane was waiting for us on the other side of the counter. He had another flight to catch to Congo but had made a point of making sure we were taken care of before he walked away. "I will walk you through security and to your gate, if I must," he offered. I was glad he did, but hoped he did not have to. I was already indebted to his generosity and was feeling uneasy asking more of him and causing him delays and inconveniences.
"Madame." I perked up. "I have put in a request for a wheelchair for Jannah-Rae. I am not sure if there are any available, or if they will even accept the request. I have indicated that she is ill, but they may not honor the condition as she is not physically immobile. Keep in mind, though, that even if they do show up, they will not assist you with your bags. Please have a seat over there and wait. If no one comes for you by 7:15 come back and see me. " It was then 6:45, we had 30 minutes to wait, and I had a decision to make: should I let go of the help I now have in the hope of getting a means of transportation for JR, or should I muscle through it and get to the next gate? I was at another crossroad.