I’ve been so busy the past few weeks that I haven’t had time to update you all on my wonderful trip to New York City with my Mom and my great-aunt. This was my first time in NYC and so I was super excited but also quite a bit anxious. A lot has happened between now and then so I’m going to try and remember most of the details but forgive me if I miss a few.
We had to get up at 4am in the morning, to be out of the door by 4:50am to catch our flight. We took a SuperShuttle to the airport and it went well. SuperShuttle has always been so accommodating. We get checked in and then take Makiko outside to use the restroom one last time. I did feed her that morning and give her some water, but not a whole lot, because she would have been starving if I didn’t. We then went off through TSA security. It always amuses me that I have to educate them about how to properly send us through the machines, etc… they never know how and for all they know, I could be telling them something wrong. So we get through and then get my great-aunt to the pre-boarding area and then leave her there while my Mom and I go to Starbucks to get the three of us drinks. We get back and these two people who did not have visible disabilities nor a pre-boarding slip, were sitting in that area. There was one seat not occupied next to my great-aunt but the lady had her purse in it. Even when we came up and started talking to my great-aunt and then started talking about where to sit, she still didn’t move it! That was so rude, I thought. We boarded the plane, but they didn’t pre-board. We chose not to sit in the bulkhead this time because Mom doesn’t sleep as well and if we have three seats next to each other, that gives Makiko enough room to spread out if she wanted. She ended up just curling up under the seat in front of us so it wasn’t a problem whatsoever. When that other couple boarded the plane, they sat with one seat in between them, hoping that nobody would come sit there and they would have that whole side of the row to themselves. We laughed when somebody did come sit between them.. oops! The flight went fine, but the headrests didn’t fold like most of them do to help support your head more so it was a little difficult to sleep.
We arrived in NYC, put everything down at the grandmother’s house of one of my sister’s friends. This was where we were staying for the week and it was in the perfect location. The grandmother was out of town and graciously let us stay in her beautiful home. They had doormen and housekeepers.. it was very fancy. 🙂 After putting our stuff down, we had planned on getting a nap but by that time Mom was hungry so she convinced us all to go out walking. We found a cute Chinese restaurant to eat at, then took a nap, and then got ready and went to meet up with my sister. It was Family Cocktail Dinner night. As soon as we got to my sister’s dorm, we were informed that they were about to have a fire drill. They were making everybody cross the street but luckily they just made us move down the block.. I mean, just picture this.. Mom, my great-aunt who has an intellectual/developmental disability and mobility disabilities, 83 years old and using a walker.. and then me with my guide dog. We got to meet a lot of Mackenzie’s friends as they were exitting the apartment complex. We were finally let back inside and got to see her really cute apartment and meet some of her roommates. She changed and then off we went to the Cocktail Dinner. It was pretty nice.. then we went to dinner with one of Mackenzie’s good friends and her parents. That was a lot of fun! What was really cool was this family actually raised a puppy for the Guide Dog Foundation. Sadly, that dog did not get to become a guide dog (neither did any in that litter) but they got to get it back and have that dog as a loving member of their family now.
The next day we went on the Staten Island Ferry, which was beautiful. We got to get fairly close to the Statue of Liberty and between using my glasses and my camera on my phone, I could get pretty good views of it. We also got to see the beautiful skyline, etc. It was really funny because as we were boarding the ship, I asked the two policemen at the front, “Where should we be if we want to be able to see real well? I am visually impaired so it would be great if I could get as close as I can.” These two fine police officers escorted us up to the second floor and then to the proper side of the ship where we would be able to see the Statue. They even cleared a space by the railing for us. After we arrived in Staten Island, they took us directly to the entrance of the next ship for us to get right back on, rather than waiting in line and getting on the next ship. It was a really great experience and I got to see what I wanted to probably see the most – the Statue of Liberty. One thing I found interesting where you boarded and exited the ferry, they had bomb sniffing dogs. They sure have a very loud bark and would bark whenever they saw Makiko. The handlers/cops would then start taking them away so I wasn’t able to get a very good picture.
Makiko sure guided like a champ everywhere we went.
We then ate in Battery Park and walked around. It was beautiful. After that Mack took the Subway back to her apartment to get changed and Mom, Betty, and I went on the bus. Guess what happened? The bus that we were on was trying to squeeze by this other bus, but they weren’t successful and they side swiped each other.. as they moved in opposite directions you heard more clunking and the vibrations got more intense. So then we were stopped for awhile while different transportation authorities figured out what to do.. we were finally told to get on this next bus, so we got off our bus and hurried to the next bus, which then left us. Luckily another bus was coming and we got on that and then eventually made it home. It was a very long bus ride though.
We then changed clothes and got ready for the BIG EVENT – her White Coat Ceremony. We arrived at the Hospital and luckily Mack had contacted the people in charge and saved us seats up front so I could see. That place was packed by the time we got there. The ceremony was wonderful. One part I particularly enjoyed was the keynote speaker – Dr. Rachel Levine. She was a graduate from the program and was now the Physician General in Pennsylvania. When Dr. Levine was going through the medical school program though, she was Dr. Rich Levine and in the past 5-10 years she has transitioned into being a Transgender woman. She had a very powerful and very cool speech. After the Ceremony, there was a really nice reception where several of Mack’s friends from Yale joined us. Mack had me following her around, like she always does, taking pictures. Isn’t that ironic? The blind chick following her around taking pictures – but I do take pretty good pictures if I do say so myself. So then we went to a Mediterranean restaurant, which was very tasty, and then back to the apartment.
The next day was my birthday! How cool is it to celebrate your 26th birthday in NYC? We got up pretty early and went to the 9/11 Memorial. The Memorial and Museum were fabulous – very moving, emotional, and very well-done. There were two parts that really touched me. On the wall, you could see quotes of people in the planes calling their loved ones and telling them that the plane was hijacked. There is this one quote that really stuck with me and my sister both, “Hey Jules, It’s Brian..” He goes on to say how the plane has been hijacked and if he doesn’t make it out of their, he wants her to go on and live a good life. (It’s making me tear up just thinking about it). You could read the print of this voicemail but you could also pick up the phone and hear it.. you could do this with several of the messages. The other really memorable part was the videos. They had audio/visual videos where you could see where the person was in the Pentagon, in each of the World Trade Centers, etc., and then hear what they heard, saw, felt, etc., on that horrible day. It really gave you more insight into what it was like that day. By this point though, my feet were exhausted from all the walking. I will definitely go back there again and spend more time in the parts I couldn’t because I was so sore.
I can’t remember what we did right after that but at some point we went back to the apartment, took a little nap, and then got ready for dinner.. and then off we went!
I had an anxiety attack at dinner on my birthday .A full out anxiety attack. I’ve been having more of those as my vision has degenerated. My Mom has seen a few but my sister hadn’t ever seen one. It was just NOT a good situation.. and it happened within 10 minutes of sitting down. So, we found this really cute Italian restaurant to go to for my birthday. It was pretty booked so our reservation wasn’t until later that evening but that’s okay, we were fine with waiting. We got ready and there about 30 minutes or so early but they were able to seat us. Now normally when Makiko and I are seated at a restaurant, we ask to sit in a booth. This is just the best solution for us because she can go under the table and just be comfortable down there. We don’t have to worry about others stepping on her, she is protected. But they didn’t have any booths at this restaurant we were pretty much at a table in the middle of many tables. It was pretty dark so I was already having a harder time than normal seeing. I had Makiko positioned in the best place possible, between my sister and I, partially under the table, but still sticking out a little. We thought she would be protected because she was at the corner of the table and between us. We were wrong. A waiter came up really fast, stepped full force onto Makiko, Makiko jumped up in pain, scared the waiter, it was hectic. He apologized and we asked if he could tell the other waiters in the area about Makiko. He agreed to do so. We retucked Makiko as best as we could but a few minutes later another waiter did it again and I wasn’t able to catch it before it happened because it was out of my field of vision entirely. So then every time somebody came by, Makiko was anxious and would get up. I would put her back down but then she would rearrange/adjust herself, and then she would want to move.. she just didn’t like that spot anymore.. at one point she tried to get BEHIND my chair.. which really didn’t make much sense but she just had enough of being in that spot and being stepped on. So that is when I had the anxiety attack. It wasn’t working.. nothing was helping.. I just wasn’t able to handle this. After I calmed down, we pulled another chair beside us to block Makiko in more, and that seemed to work.. until a waiter came and pulled the chair away, to which I said we really needed that and it was put back. The food at Tres Otto was amazing, we had this really good beef carpaccio, a pasta, and something else that I’m not remembering. Really good food. We got chocolate cake for dessert and I got a Statue of Liberty charm bracelet from my family for my birthday. I absolutely love my Charm Bracelet — wear it all the time — and this was absolutely perfect.
After this, I gave Makiko to my Mom and I went walking with my sister to a bar because as part of my birthday, I wanted to be able to go out with her friends. I was a little nervous about how this was going to work because Mom had to take a taxi with my great-aunt, who can barely walk, and Makiko, who is in harness. Technically, the taxi driver didn’t have to allow Makiko because she was separated from her handler and therefore not being a service dog right then but as Mom said, they didn’t know that. They didn’t know she wasn’t there for either of them. Now yes that’s a little deceiving but I didn’t want to take Makiko to a really crowded bar after the experience we just had at the restaurant. So the taxi (or uber?) was called, they got in, and off my sister and I walked to the bar. Her friends were so sweet and all went out with me. I got to know them and learn more about med school. It was a lot of fun.
Throughout this entire trip, we used several modes of transportation – Taxi, Uber, and Subway. We only had one issue with a taxi, where he didn’t really want to take Makiko but eventually he was fine with it. It’s amazing how much easier a NYC native can hail a taxi than a Texas native. We were trying to hail a taxi because Uber was surging and was really expensive. This really young cute businesswoman had walked to the store and then 30 minutes later had walked back to her office and noticed we were still out there, looking like we needed help. We explained to her at that point that we had requested an Uber but they couldn’t find us. She tried to help the Uber find us, he couldn’t, so she hailed us a cab in no time and we cancelled the Uber ride, for which we were charged a $10 cancellation fee. We eventually got this back in credits once we complained. Other than that, the taxi and ubers were good! Some didn’t want me to sit in the front with Makiko, etc., but whatever.. I can handle that even if it is a little annoying. The Subway on the other hand… that was another anxiety inducing event. I almost had several panic attacks. Everybody is trying to get on the subway at the same time, with little respect for others. Eventually somebody offered my great-aunt a seat but Makiko and I were stuck standing. So I had Makiko lay down and I put one leg on either side of her and then held onto a pole. We put the walker for my great-aunt right in front of us and then they stood in the back of us so we wouldn’t get stepped on. We had to rush off.. Makiko did great, but man was I a wreck. The turnstiles also were a bit of a problem. You use your Metrocard to get through the turnstile and onto the subway platform. I found online it said if you used a service dog or a wheelchair, you could use this specific gate with a special ADA metrocard that you had to apply for. Obviously that wouldn’t work for us. The first time we tried this, I sent Makiko through to my sister and then followed her through. This freaked Makiko out. So the next time, I had Makiko sit and stay on the first side of the stile, I went through, and then called her through. This went much better. I also read online that if you have a disability you can sit closer to the conductor and ask for help, but we couldn’t figure out how to do this so we just went with the flow.
On the day we were flying out, we went to Central Park and had a beautiful lunch in the park (food supplied by a local food truck) and also got a really cool tour of the medical school. How fun! One thing that I found particularly interesting is they have a “Sabbath Elevator.” Because individuals who observe the Sabbath cannot use electronics and the button to the elevator is considered such, it stops at every floor so they do not have to touch any buttons. How cool is that?
The flight back was nice. No real problems. My boyfriend picked us up from the airport, dropped us off, gave me time to shower and get ready and then came back and picked me up for a nice date night.
Guiding in Denton and guiding me in New York City are completely different. Makiko handled guiding me in NYC like a champ and it was such a blessing to have her there. I would NOT want to live in that city with a cane and I do not know that I could even live in that city at all.. too many people. As I lose more vision, crowds of people give me a lot more anxiety. However, I do plan on going there at least once a year to see my sister while she is in Med School.
What a great vacation!