My Wife and I Hit Some Bumps on Elton John’s Yellow Brick Road

A columnist had to navigate several accessibility issues at a recent concert

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by Ed Tobias |

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It wasn’t easy for my wife, Laura, and I to enjoy one of Elton John’s concerts on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour the other night.

Sir Elton was appearing at Nationals Park, the baseball home of the Washington, D.C., Nationals. Having seen a couple of games over the past few years, I thought there wouldn’t be more than the usual problems for a guy with multiple sclerosis (MS) who uses a scooter and canes in place of his legs, and his wife, who uses a crutch due to back problems and can’t walk more than a couple of blocks without serious pain.

Right … and wrong.

I forgot to plan for something

Advance planning is a must when I want to go somewhere unfamiliar. I’d purchased the tickets when they first became available months earlier, but I’d forgotten to also buy reserved parking. I’d never needed to do that for ballgames — there was never a problem reserving a spot at the last minute — but the lowly Nats aren’t drawing nearly the crowd that Elton John commands. Even the accessible spaces were sold out weeks ago.

Not to be deterred, however, I ordered a Lyft car to take us to the stadium and another to bring us home.

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So far, so good

Things started out perfectly. The car arrived a few minutes early. My scooter, my canes, and Laura’s crutch were all loaded in, and off we went. We arrived at the first-base gate, which is the designated drop-off location, about two hours before showtime. There, we hooked up with a stadium staffer for a wheelchair so Laura could get a ride to our seats on the stadium’s third-base side — quite a distance away.

Once there, I scootered though a food line to pick up a cheeseburger, hot dog, and fries, and we settled in for the show. Our accessible seats in the back of Section 111 gave us a pretty good view of a great show. For more than two hours, we Crocodile Rocked and zoomed into space with the Rocket Man.

But I couldn’t enjoy it quite as much as Laura.

accessibility issues | Multiple Sclerosis News Today | Elton John plays piano and sings at his concert at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., one of the stops on his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour.

Elton John rocks Nationals Park as part of his Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour on Sept. 24. (Photo by Laura Tobias)

Worrying about the next ride

For over two hours, I worried. I worried about finding a Lyft to take us home. Even after I had the return trip confirmed, I worried that the driver would arrive to pick us up before we arrived at the pickup location and that she wouldn’t wait, leaving us stranded. I worried that my phone battery would run out, leaving me unable to coordinate with the driver.

When we got to the pickup site, the Lyft app told us our driver was just five minutes away. Great! But a few minutes later, the app showed me that she was driving away from the stadium. An exchange of text messages, followed by phone calls, revealed that D.C. police wouldn’t allow her through their post-show roadblocks to reach our pickup spot. Oy!

Around and around she drove, but she could get no closer than four blocks away from us. Back and forth along the side of the stadium I scootered, looking for the gray Tahoe, while poor Laura could only stand at the curb, supporting her aching back against a lamppost. My phone battery was down to 1%.

Finally, 45 minutes after the original pickup time, the Tahoe rounded the corner, a purple Lyft light shining brightly on its dash. The driver and I greeted each other like old friends.

A lesson learned on the Yellow Brick Road

As we were waiting for our ride, a younger woman, also waiting for a car, told Laura, “It’s great that you two are doing this. My mom sits at home and does nothing.” We realized then that, despite health issues and age, we were out there doing something. It wasn’t an easy evening, but it was worth the fuss and the stress.

Last week, I wrote about not following my own advice about living with MS. At the Elton John concert, I was back to doing it. And that felt very good.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.

Comments

Carolyn A WALSH, MSN, RN avatar

Carolyn A WALSH, MSN, RN

Another great column that summarizes all the worries that we've all been through at concerts and airports. Being disabled, needing a wheelchair ride or a scooter, and having lots of baggage, and only one husband does not make for a glorious trip home.
Realizing that we would be landing later than normal, I called the airline and arranged (or so I thought) for a wheelchair, a luggage rack, and an assistant to help us get to the "front door" of the airport after the plane had landed at 8 PM.
At 8:45 PM, we were still sitting there with only each other and our luggage.
An airline employee who had clocked out, saw us and said that he "felt sorry for us" and took over our situation. We are not used to that! We've become very independent. He not only found me a scooter with a luggage rack, but he also accompanied us to the "front door" of Philly International Airport to ensure that we had no other issues in the airport.
There are real angels alive and in the world. And despite "health issues and our age", we really do try to get out and go somewhere interesting.
Best of luck with your future concerts and other adventures!

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Caroylyn,

Your airport tale reminds me of the time my wife and I returned to Dulles from an overseas trip. In those days I traveled with a Pride Go-Go scooter, much larger and heaver than the TravelScoot that I now use for traveling. We waited for hours in baggage claim for the scooter to arrive. They had lost it! It finally arrived, but baggage claim was empty of people by the time it did.

Ed

Reply
Carolyn A WALSH, MSN, RN avatar

Carolyn A WALSH, MSN, RN

As good as we may try, there's always a "hitch" that pops up in our plans. I'm so sorry that they lost your scooter, but the great news is that it showed up.
We're trying for another trip as soon as my health gets its act together. I'm now looking for a scooter to travel outside and go where I used to walk. I can't walk far now, and I think that the scooter idea would be a perfect remedy. I may also need to contact the MS Society for some better ideas to aid in my mobility.
Best of luck in your future travels.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

I use the larger Pride Go-Go around the neighborhood but for traveling I use a lightweight TravelScoot. It's been on trains, boats and planes and has taken me around about a dozen countries...including the ruts and bumps of Ephasis, Turkey!

I hope you find yourself a good set of wheels.

Ed

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Trish Nafotz avatar

Trish Nafotz

It's great and that the USA has so many accommodations for mobility problems. I also don't go out.

Reply
Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Trish,

Yes, although the accommodations are far from perfect, the US is pretty good about making places accessible to people with disabilities. I'm sorry you don't go out. Have you contacted the MS society where you live to see if there are ways for you to become more mobile?

Ed

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