By Brian Fischler
Ed and I had such an amazing time in Houston that we didn’t want to leave, but our Flight for Sight journey had to move onward. Ed and I took a Lyft to the Houston Airport, and once again experienced zero hassles about the guide dog. Hopefully the rest of the states we visit will be as awesome about the guide dog in ride shares as Texas has been.
We get to the Houston Airport and a gentleman named Joshua is assigned to help us get through security and get to the gate. We breeze through check in and security, still with no issues around the guide dog. Kind of funny, now that I am reporting about the travel experiences of a blind dude with a service dog, I haven’t experienced any problems.
Who in the world knew the Houston Airport was so freaking big? We had to take a shuttle after getting through security to get to our gate. We had yet to eat, so I ask Joshua about the food situation. He mentions WaterBurger. I had heard of them, and always heard their food was pretty good, so we decide to stop there and pick up lunch. Joshua reads Ed and me the menu, and suggests his favorite, the Spicy Burger, and I am all over that. Joshua somehow manages to carry our food and suitcases and guide two blind dudes to the United comfort area. He gets us settled to wait for our flight. Joshua is an employee of United Airlines, and possibly the best Disability Support Staff employee that has ever guided me around an airport. Most of the time the employees who guide disabled people around the airport make the experience even more dreadful by their moods or lack of communication. Joshua is everything these employees should strive to be.
Ed and I enjoy our WaterBurgers, and we find out our flight is going to be delayed due to lighting. Our flight eventually boards, and Ed and I mosey on to the plane early since we are blind. This will probably be our last time moseying since we are leaving Texas. The people of Texas have been fantastic to us.
The flight to Phoenix is nice as we have the bulkhead because of Wesley. We land in Phoenix, and a disability services employee walks us to the Lyft pick up area. I know they say it is a dry heat, but it is 111, and it is damn freaking hot here.
Our Lyft arrives and drives us to the Hampton Suites Downtown Phoenix. Ed and I get checked into our hotel, and head downstairs to the restaurant for a late dinner. Before we hit the bar, we pack up our laundry and drop it off at the front desk so it will be picked up the next morning, and dropped off in the evening. We then head over to the bar. (No more moseying for us.) We meet Felicia, the bartender, who tells us about downtown Phoenix. I order the chicken quesadillas and they are delicious. Ed and I try some of the local beer, and considering I am not a big beer guy, it is some good stuff. My apologies, I do not recall the name of the local beer. We have a few beers and call it a night, as we’ve got a long day ahead of us.
The next morning I wake up, and uh oh, this is not good: I am coughing right and left. I feel pretty crappy, and Ed, the main man, offers to run over to CVS to get me some meds and cough drops. What a guy.
Time goes by, and I am beginning to wonder where Ed is, as he should have been back by now. Eventually the door opens, and it is Ed and boy did he have quite the adventure. Ed headed off the few blocks to CVS, and he was using Aira. Well, unfortunately, AT&T is not great in Phoenix, and his Aira connection dropped about five times. He had trouble reconnecting with agents. Eventually, he got some sighted assistance getting to the CVS. Because of the connectivity issues, Ed decided to take Lyft back. Turns out that there is a ton of construction between our hotel and the CVS. It took Ed quite awhile to get a Lyft. He eventually gots a very nice driver and made it back to the hotel. I pop the pills and hope for the best.
The great thing about my Flight for Sight travels is I am not only meeting new people, but also catching up with old friends. My good friend from college, Dave Semensohn, who I have not seen in 15 years, comes to the hotel to meet us and go to the Diamondbacks game with us. Since we decided to only bring carry-on luggage (for a multitude of reasons), Dave takes us to PetSmart to pick up more dog food for Wesley, as I could only pack so much in my suitcase. We get more food, and then it is off to the ballpark area to grab a bite to eat.
We get parked in a garage and Dave suggests a restaurant called the Arrogant Butcher. Sounds interesting. Now, I knew I would deal with some accessibility issues on my journey, but this one absolutely shocked me. As we walk into the restaurant, the Hostess says that we need to sit outside in the 111 degree heat because of the service dog. I calmly explain to her that it is federal law to refuse service to someone with a service dog, and she says, “Well in Arizona, all service dogs must sit outside.” Now I know Arizona was the last state to adopt MLK’s Birthday as a federal holiday, but this is beyond ridiculous! So I guess according to this hostess, Arizona state is above federal law! I am so perplexed and turned off by this that I. of all people. don’t even fight it. Amazingly, we walk right across the street (where Arizona law must not apply) to a restaurant called Indigo and get seated INSIDE immediately. We have a nice dinner at Indigo and blast the Arrogant Butcher on social media.
After dinner, we walk a few blocks to Chase Field. I have my messenger bag with me and we are told that I cannot bring it into the stadium. We could either walk all the way back to the car or pay for a locker to put it in. We choose the locker option. We get through security and go to guest services to pick up an in-stadium radio so we can follow the game in real time. I try playing my personal portable radio and discover once again there is a good 25 second delay between the broadcast and the real time play on the field.
The Mets are in town and they immediately start off smashing the Diamondbacks. The rout is on very early. We enjoy rooting for the Diamondbacks’ all-star rookie Corbin Carroll, but tonight it is all New York Mets, which makes Ed very happy, as he is a Mets fan.
Since it is a rout, and we know the walk back to the car is going to be brutal in this heat, we decide to leave in the 7th inning and beat the crowd. We stop by guest services and return the radio headset, hit the lockers to pick up my messenger bag (No, Ed, it is not a “murse”), and exit the stadium.
Dave lets us know there are rickshaws outside the stadium and we ask if they will take the dog. Surprisingly, they say yes and Wesley and I are off on our first ever rickshaw ride. No clue if Dave or Ed have ever traveled this way before. When I think of rickshaws, I think of that Seinfeld episode where Newman and Kramer attempt to start their own rickshaw business in NYC, but times have changed in the 20 years since that episode has aired. Our rickshaw driver is not exerting himself at all, as the rickshaw has an 800 horsepower motor. Ok, I have no clue if it was 800 horses, or what they use to measure rickshaw motors, but the guy said it was powered by 800 something.
We get back to the parking garage much faster than walking and pop into Dave’s car to head back to the hotel. Dave comes into the hotel with us as it’s early and we are still catching up. Our bartender friend is there and we tell her about the odd incident at the Arrogant Butcher. She is stunned and says she is very well connected in downtown Phoenix and that she will no longer send business their way. Wesley really charmed her!
We have a beer or two and say good-bye to Dave, as he has a long drive home. Ed and I go to the hotel check-in desk to get our laundry only to find out that it was never picked up. Are you kidding me? I only packed enough clean clothes in a carry-on suitcase for about 6 or 7 days and this is now day five. Uh oh, this is not good. Good thing we haven’t been sweating in 111 degree Phoenix heat and the freaking humidity of Texas. We head upstairs, annoyed, and go to bed.
The next morning we wake up and head downstairs and grab a quick breakfast. We grab our bags and go to the front desk to check out and the manager comes over. She feels awful that our laundry was never picked up, apologizes very politely, and gives us a $100 Amex gift card for our troubles. I’m impressed with how the Hampton Suites handles all of this, as mistakes do happen, and since most places nowadays never own up to making a mistake.
We head off to the airport feeling much better about Phoenix. Now, I’m off to my home away from home, the city of angels, Los Angeles.
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Listen to the Flight for Sight podcast about Phoenix hosted by Brian Fischler: Episode 4 Phoenix, Get to Know Tara Bowman here.
Thank you Hampton Inn & Suites Phoenix Downtown for giving Flight for Sight a discount on the room.
Photo Description 1: Brian, Ed, and Dave are at a table joined by a third person. Brian’s guide dog Wesley is underneath the table.
Photo Description 2: Ed, Brian, and Dave are at the Arizona Diamondbacks game. The field is in the background.
Photo Description 3: Ed and Brian are in a rickshaw. Wesley is in the middle.