First, I apologize to my readers for not posting in a while. I’ll describe why in an upcoming post. However, I am catching up on things now and want to tell you about our trip to New Orleans.
Makiko and I had the opportunity to go to New Orleans to present at the NAMRC (National Association of Multicultural Rehabilitation Concerns) conference. I took my boyfriend along too because we were going to still be in New Orleans on his birthday. I presented at the conference with a classmate and she brought her husband, and then we had three professors from our university there too. It was great! We had been warned by a good friend though that New Orleans wasn’t very guide dog friendly, and unfortunately we experienced that on three separate occasions. Details to come!
This was the first time my boyfriend and I had ever flown together so of course he hadn’t ever flown with a guide dog. It went very well though. I asked sighted assistance to take us through security on the way there and then my boyfriend saw how it all worked for the trip home. The flights went great.
The three of us had a great time while in New Orleans. We celebrated three great things: my boyfriend’s birthday, Makiko’s 2nd birthday, and another milestone in my relationship with my boyfriend. We ate a lot of great food, Makiko got new toys for birthday presents, we had great drinks, it was awesome. My boyfriend really loved the Jambalaya, I really loved the Oysters. I had Oysters on three separate occasions.
We went to the French Market and there was a little shop there that had a really fun guy who called himself “Mother Shucker,” and he would shuck the oysters right in front of you and then serve them to you with these two sauces, one of which had horseradish in it.
The hotel the conference was held at and that we stayed at for the first two nights was awesome. It was HUGE and beautiful. (Hilton Hotel Riverside) The hotel (Maison Dupuy) we stayed at the last night was nice, but we had a few issues with check-in. They had told me they would have our room ready by the time we got there but it wasn’t ready until many hours later so we left our baggage with Valet and walked around. They upgraded us for our trouble though, which was very nice, and it was a HUGE suite, with a huge living room, two bathrooms, a large bedroom, etc. Both hotels weren’t very close to a dog relieving area or really any patch of grass so that was a bit of a drag. We got enough exercise on the trip without the extra walk. 🙂 Both were good though about me having a service dog.
On Steven’s birthday, we decided to try Bourbon Street and let me just tell you it wasn’t very blind or guide dog friendly.. it was also our first experience of being discriminated against because of my guide dog. The place was called “Fritzel’s” and it was a bar/restaurant. There was a small doorway in which people were coming in and out of. The hostess, who was apparently also the manager, held us up at the door spending a LONG time looking at our ID’s and you could she was really thinking hard (of ways to turn us away). While we were held up in that doorway, Makiko was getting stepped on by people going out and she got hurt once and jumped and it was quite traumatic. So then the lady let us in, maybe an inch (?), and then started telling us about how her customers may have allergies to dogs or not like dogs, and then we thought she was going to lead us to a seat but instead led us to the patio and told us that it would be just as great out there. Yeah, right. So we get out to the patio and she just lets us loose, doesn’t even bother to seat us. We sit in a seat and then after about 15 minutes realize that nobody is coming but my boyfriend sees somebody about 20 feet away on her phone. So we move closer and then sit there for a little while when this woman comes up to us and says “Uh.. can I help you all with anything?” (with a very snarky, rude tone). I was chapped off so I just said, “No, this took too long for us to get served,” and then we walk out past the manager and she says nothing. I was planning on filing a complaint. I sent a picture of the place to my classmate who was presenting with me and she was also on Bourbon Street. She stopped by and talked to the manager and she gave her attitude too and called over the waitress to tell her that that didn’t really happen but luckily the waitress was truthful and said that it did take her awhile to get to us but she said it was because she was in the restroom, which wasn’t the truth. I also posted this on Facebook and another friend called and talked to them and they weren’t very helpful or supportive on that call either. Needless to say they didn’t get the point so I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice. It takes a while for them to get back to us after we file the complaint but I am anxiously awaiting what they have to say about that one.
When we were transferring from one hotel to another, the hotel had flagged over a cab and my boyfriend was putting the luggage in the back of the taxi with the driver while I was waiting by the door. There were three lanes of taxi traffic and this driver was in the middle lane so it was a little crazy. Well, after my boyfriend showed him where we were going and put the luggage in the car, the driver came over and said, “You’re taking THAT dog with you?” I said, “Yes, she is my service dog.” He replied, “No, that dog isn’t going with you. You can leave it here.” Um, no. So we exchanged talk about how it was a service dog and it was the law, etc. He said “What if the dog pees in the car?” Steven and I both replied in-sync, “She won’t.” So he goes, “Well he can come in, but I’ll charge you extra.” I said, “No, you can’t charge us extra, that’s against the law.” He argued and finally I pulled out my phone and said “Would you like me to call the police? Because if that’s what I need to do, I will do it.” He eventually let us in and didn’t talk to us for awhile until Steven and I noticed on the back of his seat is a list of things we are entitled to as passengers and one of the top ones said “Be accompanied by a service animal.” So I asked him why he was giving us so much trouble to which he plainly denied giving us any trouble. I filed a complaint with the Department of Justice on this too.
Our last incident I attribute to the lady just simply not knowing, not being ignorant or obnoxious. We were walking in the restaurant and the hostess told Steven to walk me outside and around to a side door of the restaurant so that we could go by the place where people tie their dogs up. No. So she had to go talk to her manager when we refused and then was super nice after she realized that was wrong. That was our last meal in New Orleans, Steven and I both got drinks, and guess what else we got? Jambalaya and oysters.. what a surprise! 🙂
The conference and meeting so many super intelligent, passionate professionals and students was great. The food, the drinks, the scenery. It was all a wonderful experience. I just hope those places learn that they can’t deny or discriminate against individuals with service animals from now on.
Here is a video I found tonight by the Norwegian Association of the Blind that conveys a cute message related to this: