The Real Deal 1: A Near-botched Arrival

I intend to title my whole series about this fun, fantastic trip to Las Vegas Nevada The Real Deal, since it was the theme adopted by the organization who put it on. And what is that organization? Well of course, the American Council of the Blind (ACB. This year marked their 53rd annual convention, and was my third convention in 6 years. I seem to have adopted an odd pattern of attending every three years, as I had in 2008 and 2011 before.

I am fortunate that I was able to depart on Saturday, for reasons you shall soon learn. First though, I shuck my bags and bounce down to the local Dunkin Donuts for reading and enjoyment of my coffee. While here, I decide that I’m going to save money and take the bus all the way to the airport.

This actually goes well. I first hop the 400/700 all the way to the Regional Transit Center, then I have only to wait a few minutes before the 100 bus comes to take me to Raleigh/Durham International Airport (RDU). The bus stops only a few feet from the terminal, and a traffic officer offers to help me inside.

“I’d recommend you take the curbside check-in,” he says: “as there’s no line out here and inside of the building it’s really long.

“May I see your identification?” the counter agent asks.

Someday, like now, I’ll learn to put my ID in a separate pocket. Because I have not so done, we spend the better part of 2 minutes combing through a thicket of plastic that would be sufficient to drown the world’s oceans. Once it is finally found, more bad news follows.

“Um sir,” he says: “this thing is expired. It has been for a while. If a year or less, you could probably get away with it. But any longer, and they’re gonna have a problem with this (up at security).”

Yes, it’s a bit ridiculous for me to have allowed my card to so aggregiously have expired. However, I rarely need the thing and when I do, no one points out this discrepancy. I had even flown a few times during its expiration period and not been flagged at all.

After waiting another 30 bone-jarring minutes for an assistant to lead me through the incredibly packed airport, we arrive at the security desk. I think the woman there actually consults the no-fly list, verifies that I am not on it, then just orders an enhanced screening. Not having realized that this second layer of screening has been put into place, I attempt to retrieve my items after sliding through the scanner as I normally would.

“No, don’t do that yet sir!”

After asking preliminary questions about medical or other equipment that might be implanted, possible sore spots and the like, I am asked to hold my hands out, palms up. I am then thoroughly patted from my neckbone all the way down to my toes. Finally I am cleared, but remain rattled for most of the rest of that day.

I try to calm myself while sitting in the boarding area by reading, but am unable to get into the book so give up. At this time it is just after 6. I drift and doze till my flight is called at 7:30, then make my way to my usual, favorite, right-side window seat.

This flight is strange to me, as about midway I notice that we seem to descend to a lower altitude and hold there for its remainder. Nothing is said about why this has occurred, so I feel nervous on top of everything else. In fact, it seemed nothing was really said by anyone after takeoff, making me feel I’d suddenly been sucked into a Stephen King novel. Needless to say, I was more than a little relieved when it was wheels-down in Las Vegas.

Another hour waiting for checked bags? *sigh* I am absolutely famished, since I haven’t had enough sense to eat some food with that coffee, and am just wondering what on earth is taking so long. Not to mention that it’s already pushing 1 AM Eastern, 10 Pacific.

Out to the Super Shuttle, the same folks I’d used when arriving in Tampa this December. We stop at 3 hotels before arriving at mine, the Riviera Hotel and Casino, and by the time I get up to my room and shuck my bags, it’s 11:35 Pacific. So? I’m going to get something to eat! This is Vegas, I’d guess second only to New York City in its unwillingness to sleep.

Using the hotel orientation that ACB has attempted to provide via Email, I make my way gingerly towards the food court. My room is in the Monaco Tower, 1 of five such towers, and so I have to take the elevators down, locate an exit that leads out to and past the pool, and try to remain on a fairly long sidewalk before re-entering the hotel at another door. The food court could also be reached through the casino, but obviously this isn’t the best idea for a blind person who wants to hold onto a little bit of sanity.

After even a sighted person and I get a bit more turned around, we eventually make our way inside. I choose a restaurant called Big Burger. And it is a BIG BURGER. While I certainly love the burger, I am most enamored with the fries. Just the right amount of seasoning, no need for ketchup. I also order sweet tea, and laugh as it doesn’t taste like Southern sweet tea. It really just tastes like some kind of juice. Hits the spot though, as I am dried out and thirstier than a camel.

It takes another 30 minutes of standing on sidewalks, just inside of buildings, and being passed from person to person, but I finally! make it to my room. I then slide very much contentedly into my bed and am out before I can even finish the thought about being too tired to read.

End of Saturday. Still to come, Sunday’s tour, tweet-up, and surprise dinner; Monday’s surprisingly expanded breakfast, deafblindness workshop, Vanda Reception, and Crazy Braille study; Tuesday’s basically just hanging with friends, and surprisingly large hot dog! Lot of surprises, huh? Stay tuned!

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