Over the weekend I decided I’d write about the time I visited New Orleans with my best friend Em. Our introduction to the city was pretty tumultuous, but with hindsight it was actually fucking hilarious.
When we landed in New Orleans I was excited, not just because I couldn’t wait to see the city during Summer, or because my bum was sore from the shitty plane seat. I was also excited because I was glad that soon I wouldn’t have to listen to the two African-American ladies (sitting three rows behind us) flirting with the guy next to them. They’d been so loud throughout the entire three-hour trip from Dallas it had seemed like they were sitting right next to us.
Em and I were waiting in our seats while passengers left the aircraft complaining of sore necks and bad backs. When the two African-American ladies sashayed past me with their glittery heels I was mesmerised. Behind them I could see the skinny white guy they’d been talking to gawking at their behinds. He was so creepy-looking, he reminded me of Weird Al Yankovic. When he squeezed past us his bag got caught on the corner and he did a little one two hop in an effort to stay upright. I started laughing, he looked fucking ridiculous. Em kept nudging me and telling me to be quiet before he got angry and hit me. I couldn’t stop though; I knew I should stop but that made me laugh even louder. Luckily he decided to ignore me and not hit a chick.
After a boring twenty minutes, the flight attendant came and informed me that they didn’t know where my wheelchair was. Fuck. But it was okay they told me, they’d combed through the airport and found a spare wheelchair which I could use until my other one was found. What they didn’t tell me was it was an obese person’s chair. It was so large that I couldn’t push myself even if I wanted to. Both feet fit on one foot plate and both handbags sat, spread out next to me as Em wheeled me downstairs to baggage claim. However, the biggest problem arose when we got to baggage claim and realised none of our luggage had arrived either.
Someone from the airline told us to go inside a small office nearby and they would help us, but I couldn’t get through the doorframe because the chair wouldn’t fit. After a moment the lady working there opened a specially enlarged door for us around the side and we got inside. Em told the lady what the problem was, and when she found out our stuff was still at the airport in Dallas she informed us in a cool tone that it would arrive the following day and they’d contact us at our hotel when it got here. Em told her in an irritated voice that we couldn’t go to the hotel without my normal chair because the fatty’s chair wouldn’t fit in a bloody cab. We ended up calling my Mum at home in Australia for help, because she was our travel agent and we didn’t know what else to do. It was 2am at home and she sounded groggy, but she still spoke to the lady with authority (I could hear her speaking loudly on the other end of the phone from across the bench). When the lady handed the phone back to me I wound up having a moment with Mum while Em finished talking to the lady.
I’d been travelling with Em around the US for two weeks at that stage and I was just exhausted, I’m pretty sure Em was too but she seemed to handle herself so much better than I did. When I hung up the phone, still bleary-eyed, Em wheeled me over near the baggage claim to wait, she informed me that they’d found our luggage (including my wheelchair) in Dallas and put it on the next flight, meaning everything would get here in three hours.
It was way past dinner time by then and we were starving, but where we were in the airport was deserted and neither one of us knew where to find a place to eat so we ended up devouring stale tuna sandwiches from a nearby vending machine. The remaining time spent at that airport is still pretty hazy today, but I do remember trying to get the fatty’s chair inside the women’s toilet at one point – it was like trying to squeeze a circle through a triangle. Finally, our luggage arrived and I was beside myself with joy that I got my chair back. We caught a cab to our hotel in the French Quarter straight away.
It was past midnight when we arrived at the hotel. I couldn’t believe how many people were sitting outside smoking and drinking. In Australia it’s illegal to consume alcohol in the street so I was blown away by so many people openly drinking in the street. The people were incredibly friendly, offering to help me out of the car and holding doors open for us. Inside our hotel they seemed less friendly. The lady who was meant to check us in took an immediate disliking to me for some unknown reason and openly glared at me while Em checked in. The bitch told Em flat out that they’d given our ‘disabled’ room away (despite a call we’d made from the airport asking them not to give our room away) and we’d have to stay in a normal room down the hall. While Em asked her how I was meant to use the bathroom without railings, I sat with our luggage and began counting all the hookers I could see that were using our hotel as a brothel. I got up to double digits.
Eventually the lady managed to get us a disabled room, not the one we’d booked mind you – the new one was way smaller but we still took it because we were so tired by then. A dishevelled Em came over to me pushing a trolley. She’d barely moved when a deep and unmistakably male voice yelled at us in a Southern drawl to hold up! I watched in astonishment as this elderly African-American man ran across the lobby to reach us and began loading the trolley with our luggage. This man was completely bald, he looked to be about seventy, like someone’s grandfather, and it took me a moment of wondering what he was doing before I even registered his hotel uniform. He kept on chatting to us the whole time he was working asking us stuff like ‘where you from?’ and ‘you ever ridden a kangaroo?’ When he laughed at Em’s offer of help I could see he only had two teeth (or he might’ve had three or four).
Once the trolley was full Em told him she could push it to our room if he pushed me. So we headed over to the elevator with our full trolley and our gummy bellboy. As we approached the lift we saw the bitchy lady who checked us in waiting in front of us. It seemed she’d clocked off her shift and was also staying in the hotel. As the elevator doors opened people came pouring out and our bellboy declared loudly ‘HANDICAPPED FIRST’ and manoeuvred around her without waiting for a reply. I could see her surprised face when we passed her and I got a real uneasy feeling about what she would do. I told the bellboy over my shoulder that she could go before us and he laughed and said ‘Nah, man, handicapped first.’
The bitch shouted ‘what the fuck’ and grabbed the bellboy by the arm. ‘Oh hell no!’ I could see her in my peripheral waving her hands in the air and just generally causing a scene. I’d already figured out she didn’t like me but I hadn’t realised how much. ‘I am so tired, I just wanna go to bed! I’ve been on my fuckin’ feet all day, unlike her.’ I saw her gesture to me and caught her eye, it was like looking an enraged bull in the eye. She looked over at the bellboy ‘if you don’t move away I’m gonna beat on you,’ then she looked at me ‘and then I’m gonna beat on that disabled girl.’
While she was still ranting and raving the bellboy snuck past her and pushed me into the empty elevator. Em followed us in, looking a little shocked. As the doors started closing he began to laugh, not a quiet giggle but a noisy thigh smacking laugh. When she saw him her face reddened and she rushed at the closing doors screaming. When we started ascending her enraged voice filled the elevator. ‘I’m gonna find you, and I’m gonna kill you!’ We weren’t sure if she meant us or the bellboy, but the bellboy still responded. ‘Yeah, yeah, everybody says that but nobody ever does!’ He kept on laughing then, showing me his gummy smile. I met Em’s eye and we both supressed a smile.
I remember when the bellboy left our room, extremely large tip in hand, Em fell against the door laughing. ‘What the fuck was that?’
I laughed too, ‘I almost just got fucking beat up, holy shit!’
I remember we didn’t see the bitchy lady who worked at the hotel at all for the remaining time we had left there, but we did see the bellboy about. So maybe she’d been bluffing after all.
Despite that first night we had a great time in Nawleans and made so many memories I’ll treasure forever. One day I hope to go back and visit my good friend Big Dawg.