Saturday, May 23, 2009

Yes, This Is On The Test

Joe has asked me, not repeatedly but regularly, if I'm gonna blog about the movie theatre. For someone who writes immediately about an incident regarding disability, to let something slide is worthy of note. I didn't write about it because I didn't know how to think about it. So, as I sat for 10 hours in a car today with nothing to do but think, I decided to just write what happened and see what you think. Here it is ... at the end there will be a quiz:

We decided to kill some time on a weekend by going to a movie. The only movie we wanted to see was playing in a theatre about 40 miles from our hotel. We had the time and the inclination so off we went. We had a wee bit of trouble finding the theatre and were glad we'd left 'being lost' time in our plans.

We got there and were surprised that the door was locked. We could see staff inside and the movie was scheduled to start in just over 15 minutes. So we made ourselves very visible and waited. Shortly a few other people came and went in through the center door which was open. As it turned out, they'd unlocked the center door and the other 8 or 9 doors were left locked. As it happened the wheelchair door was one of the ones left locked and it was outside that door that we waited. Very visibily, me in a wheelchair.

I've always been annoyed at the thoughtless planning of others. When we go to a supermarket that has an accessible checkout and they only have one aisle open and it ISN'T the accessible one, I get pissed. If you are going to open only one, open the one that EVERYONE CAN USE. It seems like a simple request. Not looking for special treatment just inclusive treatment. I felt the same way about the door. If you are going to open only one, why not open the one that EVERYONE can easily use. The center door, which we did use, was actually a bit difficult to negotiate and we had a bit of a struggle.

So, when we bought the ticket, I told the clerk about the locked door and the struggle to get in. I suggested she tell a manager about the problem and have the door unlocked right away. She stared at me with complete indifference. Now I know she's getting paid next to nothing and it's a thankless job but still, I had been nice when I could have been nasty. I knew, just knew, that she would say and do nothing.

I paused for a second and said, 'You aren't going to do anything with my request are you?' She stared at me now with hostility, 'what do you mean?' she asked. I said, 'I can see it in your face that you don't care about what I asked for and that you aren't going to do anything with my request.'

'YOU ARE SO RUDE!' she practically shouted at me, 'You don't know what I was going to do or what I was not going to do. You are a rude, rude man.'

'Well, were you going to say anything?'

'I am working here selling tickets, I can't go running off looking for a manager.'

I did note that she didn't answer my question but I just took my ticket and rolled away. She kept muttering about how rude I was.

Now, I didn't write about this because her anger at my comment took me aback and made me wonder if I had been rude. I could have sworn that her face indicated a complete dismissal of me and my request. Joe felt the same, that she had no intention of relaying my concern or request to anyone. I didn't write about this because I thought maybe I asked the wrong person to care, she only had to care about getting my ticket, she wasn't paid to care about my access - but should you have to be paid to care for another's inclusion?

The Quiz

1) Was I rude?

2) What should I have done instead?

What's rolling around in your head?


Anonymous said...

After reading your post my first thought was 'she must really be unhappy with her life/job.' I think situations like this one remind us to appreciate those who are more considerate - like the woman from the Halifax bookstore.

Spinningfishwife said...

I think you should have asked to speak to the manager yourself, and sat there at the head of the queue till she fetched him/her. There's no point in complaing to junior staff.
I'd have also knocked at the accessible door, very loudly, untill someone got over and opened it for you. Bah. Why accomodate their lazyness??

Glee said...

Well Dave I'm pissed off about this.

Firstly I am angry at the cinema people. Typical and ignorant just like supermarkets and they make me wild when they do this sort of thing.

And I am annoyed at you Dave. This is the second time where you have put yourself last. But more importantly you have put Joe second in line to the feelings and effort of others.

I presume he had to get you up the step into the cinema. Not an easy feat I would imagine. And this reminds me of another post of yours with the same situation. That was when you couldn't go to church because YOUR CHURCH didn't provide you with access when they left the ramp blocked with snow. Then you worried that Joe was disappointed and you felt it was your fault.

While I perfectly understand the problem of addressing every access issue I don't think you are being fair (at least).

Spinningfishwife is right and that's what you should have done. You were not even anywhere near rude.

Why did you do what you did? Are you taking advantage of Joe because he is there and maybe he's an easy mug because he loves you?

Crikey Dave. You are such a fighter and don't put up with shit most of the time. Joe shouldn't have to be the victim of the shit you have decided to put up with.

I have a friend who has gone pathetic on activism cos he has a wife to look after him now. Lazy and selfish and taking advantage.

Don't depend on Joe's balls. Use your own.

A smack given with a hug after, Dave cos I do admire you.


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure this is relevant, but I have Asperger's Syndrome, and sometimes people assume from the expression on my face that I'm thinking something nasty, or that I'm not going to do what they want, when actually neither of those things are true - I'm just not very good at signalling things with facial expressions. I'm often told I have an expression of "complete indifference" when what I'm feeling is anything but that.

And it really upsets me when people assume the worst from my facial expression. I know it shouldn't, but it does. So I could see myself acting exactly as the clerk did: "You don't know what I was going to do or what I was not going to do" - that really rang a bell with me.

In her position, assuming I couldn't stop selling tickets for a bit, I'd make a mental note to speak to my manager as soon as I could. And if I'd done that, and then someone assumed I wasn't caring, particularly if it had been a long or hard day or whatever, I'd get upset.

So I don't know - perhaps instead of assuming things about whether she cared or not, you could have asked her who the right person to speak to about access was. But perhaps what you did was fine.

lilwatchergirl said...

I've had situations along these lines. See and . Cinema staff - not the best.

I complain and call for the manager, usually, when in these situations. Then I write follow-up letters. Sometimes I get vague apologies with free tickets that I can't use because it will mean dealing with the same problems that have not been solved because the manager doesn't recognise them as problems. Sometimes I get managers who are dreadfully apologetic and retrain all their staff in issues of diversity and disability immediately. It varies.

Tricia said...

No you were not rude. When it was obvious the girl wasn't going to do anything and then started calling you rude you should have calmly asked her to call her manager up right then and there and refused to budge until she did. Then I would have complained about the door AND her attitude.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed young people, when challenged with bad behavior, often think they're being abused. It's a generational thing. I would have stood my ground, not moved out of the way, until the manager was summoned. She can't sell tickets as long as the line is stationary and will see the need to do something even if it's not what she wants to do--which is to be rid of you.

Tamara said...

I think the anonymous poster who has Asperger's made an interesting point. It is impossible to know what another person is thinking and what their next action may be.

We don't like it when people make assumptions about people with disabilities, so we shouldn't make assumptions about others. Even the fact that the door was locked - given that it wasn't something you experienced multiple times at that theater - could have been one person's mistake rather than someone's laziness or lack of training of staff.

Even at a supermarket, one could see how the only aisle that was opened at a particular moment could be an unaccessible one. Maybe there were two opened, and the person manning the accesible one had to leave their register for some reason.

So perhaps there is a lesson in making assumptions about other people here, although, I think in your situation I would have done the same thing.

Is that a wishy-washy comment or what? :-)

ivanova said...

I don't think you were rude, unless you raised your voice to her. When she said you were rude, she may have been, um, projecting. Having worked a lot of customer service jobs I can sadly report that your words to her don't even begin to compare to the actual rudeness a ticket seller could expect on a regular basis (at least in the U.S.) We can never really know what another person is thinking/feeling/planning, as anonymous pointed out, but to make sense of our worlds we we have to try to guess as best we can.

As far as what should you have done, I don't know but I think it depends on what your goal was. If it was to make them open the door, then probably get the manager like people are saying. If it was to express your outrage and try to educate, then I'd say you accomplished it (since you can't control how other people are going to react, only what you have to say.) I do think that you can't take care of everyone else's needs AND your own. If you put the ticket seller's (possible) need to be treated very gently because she's having a bad day before your need for access and respect, then it's like you think she's more important and better than you.

If the person that you're "sticking up for" is Joe, than that's more complicated because maybe he doesn't want you to say anything and he is his own man, after all. I guess what I'm taking away from this story is that advocating for yourself in these situations is very difficult, and I hope you don't beat yourself up if you don't get it perfect every single time.

Anonymous said...

Obviously I don't think there's anything wrong with asking them to open the other door. But I don't like the sound of what followed. I'm not sure I would call what you said rude per se and the girl probably overreacted, but there's something not quite normal about the way you phrased it. While we read everyone's facial expression and body language, you usually only bring it up with people you know well. Think parents saying "Don't use that tone of voice with me" or spouses saying "Don't give me that look".

As the commenter with Asperger's said, you can't always tell from someone's facial expression what's going on in their head. Without going into detail about my own problems, that girl could well have been me on a bad day - going through the motions without feeling anything or connecting to anyone. There are times people think I don't care about things when really I'm just too tired and depressed to say much or consciously give off the appropriate body language.

Based on my experience, the girl's right that she can't leave her counter. Instead she would probably wait for you to leave and press a call button while the next customer is approaching. She keeps serving until the manager arrives, pauses to explain the problem then carries on serving while he sorts it out.

As for question 2, if it had been us my Dad would have stayed outside in his wheelchair while someone else went inside to ask that they open the door. Struggling in through a different entrance can cause the reaction "Well if you got in while the disabled door's locked you can obviously manage without it". Not to mention the fact that fighting your way in via a non-accessible entrance can lead to injuries or damage to the wheelchair.

As far as your conversation with the girl goes, you should have asked to speak to a supervisor or manager. Most places like that employ people to do a job and not deviate from it. She couldn't have left the counter, wouldn't have had the keys etc. In retail, minions are minions and you don't get much done by talking to them. (Speaking as a former retail minion).

Jenn McWhorter said...

Joe, when I have accessibility issues in businesses I make it a point to ask to speak to a manager. Usually it goes something like this:

Me: May I speak to a manager please?
Clerk: Can I help you?
Me: No, this really requires a manager.
Clerk: Oh, um, let me see if we can find her.
Me: Waits and waits.
Clerk: She'll be here in a minute.
Me: Waits and waits some more.
Manager: Can I help you?
Me: Why yes, I just wanted to alert you to the fact that you have the only wheelchair accessible entrance to this place of business locked and blocked by a garbage can, in direct opposition of the ADA. Did you know that if somebody were to report this to the appropriate authorities you could get a fine of at least $15,000? I just thought you'd want to know so that you can rectify the situation.
Manager: Oh, gee, um, didn't realize, will fix, I swear.
Me: Have a nice day!

I usually follow up and check to see if the violation has been corrected a week or so later. If it hasn't..

"Somebody" files a complaint of an ADA violation, because, frankly, if nice doesn't do it for these idiots, let them pay the fines. Screw 'em, say I!

Whatshername? said...

1) Was I rude?

Not in the least.

2) What should I have done instead?


What's rolling around in your head?

Right now, I think that something still needs to change about how people react to disabilities.

We're out of the institutions, off the meds, and in the community, but people still react to us like we're the black plague.

I also think that some of the others on here need to rethink
their comments. It wasn't because she was young. There are PLENTY of nice, well-adjusted young people.
It was because she was both lazy and selfish. Blaming her youth is taking the responsibility off of the person.

TheDeviantE said...

Nothing you did was rude.

I work in a customer service type job and I'm CONSTANTLY getting told about things I can't directly affect. You know what I do? I call the appropriate people, not stand there silently on the topic.

Her reaction to you saying that she didn't seem all that invested reminds me of when people with white privilege are called on it and don't want to admit it, (or really any type of privilege). The immediate dismissive defensiveness... fits it to a T.

As to anonymous' point about having a facial expression that doesn't do a good job of conveying how one feels, from what I can tell, she made *no* indication that she'd look into fixing it. At least according to Dave's story, she didn't say: "ok, I'll let a manager know" while having an indifferent look, she just stood there indifferently. While it's important to keep in mind that not everyone is going to always look invested, at the same time, if one is invested, there are ways other than facial expression to get that across, and she just didn't use any of them.

Additionally, her refusal to answer the direct question was also EXTREMELY indicative to me that she had no plans on even talking to someone. If she's said: "yeah, I was going to get on it once the line cleared" that'd be one thing, but "I can't leave my post!!!" is hardly an answer, and I doubt strongly that there's no way for her to get in touch with a manager if she needs to (or what's the point of a manager???).

I can't speak to what I would have done/what you should have done, but from where I'm sitting, what you did was just fine and certainly nothing to feel bad about.

FridaWrites said...

The thing is, not only was her facial expression indifferent, but she gave you no verbal acknowledgment either. I don't think you were rude--you were pointing out your fear/concern/surprise she wasn't actually going to do anything. If she was going to do something, she would probably have felt wounded rather than defensive, and said that she was going to do it right away! Not "you can't know what I'm thinking."

One of our local theaters is pretty darn good because they have an employee who uses a wheelchair. Though customers can be rude--forcing their way around me while I'm trying to steer into the disabled restroom stall and slamming the door closed. I have this kind of thing happen regularly--both doors and ignoring requests absolutely.

CJ said...

No, you were not rude. And yes, the girl was not going to do anything about your request as demonstrated by her response.

She was defensive and rude, because you hit the nail on the head. She was NOT going to do anything about your request and it had nothing to do with her facial expression ...that was demonstrated by her response.

As for anything different, I usually go straight to the supervisor or manager and/or state that I will report them to the appropriate agency. That usually does the trick.

Brenda said...

No - you were NOT rude. And other than hunting down a manager yourself (she certainly wasn't about to help), I really don't see what else you could have done. In fact, I had a somewhat similar incident a while back, and your post reminded me of it. I've blogged about it here,, if you're interested.

I think these are the worst kind of experiences for me. I know and expect that being in a chair and having limited mobility is going to bring on unknown challenges. But I HATE - really can't stand - this feeling of complete powerlessness when I find myself in a situation where there simply isn't a solution. It's nice to know I'm not the only one!

Terri said...

No, you were not rude and she only reacted the way she did because she was caught. If she had intended to take care of it she would have said something like, "Oh no, I will get there," or, "I can't take care of it right now, but as soon as ________, it will be done."

My husband and I do joke about it being silly trying to talk with bank tellers who have no authority to change anything. And we wish the bank tellers would only exist in banks so we know where they are. But CAN'T solve the problem leads to apology and passing it on, WON'T solve the problem is what causes defensive reactions.

liz said...

Not rude.

Not instead, but as well: write a letter to the theatre owners.

softestbullet said...

You weren't rude, obviously!

I agree with the others that said she reacted like that because it was the truth. It reminds me of when I was an obnoxious teenager and my parents would ask me to a chore, and then later they would say, "You still haven't done it? You're just going to put it off until it's too late, aren't you?"

And I would be so mad that they hadn't given me the benefit of the doubt, even though yeah, basically, it was true.

I even used the same language: "How dare you! You have no idea what I was going to do!"

So I think it was guilt and embarrassment. As well as probably, "Stop trying to make me care about something! I don't have to."

me said...

You can never know what someone else is thinking or what their intentions are unless they tell you. Therefore, you really had no business saying that you could tell she wasn't going to report the problem.

Everything else you dealt with very well. Especially not yelling at someone for something that may not have been their fault, like the door being locked. Most people would have yelled.

Anonymous said...

I have to disagree with the majority. You are the customer, you are ALWAYS right! I don't think you were rude, you were using YEARS of experience of similar situations to navigate a situation you shouldn't have had to navigate. I have a similar problem with my son. While he dislikes using the headphones handed out at movie theaters for people with hearing loss, I ALWAYS ask for one. When people become more accustomed to fulfilling ALL aspects of their job, their job becomes easier and customers are invariably more satisfied. Many times, the listening device is out of battery, can't be found, doesn't synch with the theater we are in, etc. etc. etc. BUT, when the next person after us, and the next person and the next person after that, comes to the theater, and they need the listening device, it is more likely to be working. I don't just fight for access for my son, I fight for access for every deaf and HOH person who comes after him. This is the same with you, Dave. You don't just fight for access for yourself, you fight for access for every single wheelchair user after you.

Just my .02 cents


Nathan Dawthorne said...

It wasn't rude. Too many times people just assume other people are going to do something about it especially since it seems so obvious that it would affect other people other than you. I'm glad you called her on it; you could always have appologized if she explained her intentions reasonably. In this case once she started the You're rude crap... I would have gone to the manager... however I've done this kind of thing before and it turns out the manager is worse than the staff!!! I guess you just keep going higher and higher.

Anyway - if you say nothing... change won't happen... EVER.

Baba Yaga said...

First and strongest reaction, "golly, that's an effective tactic". Put the other person in the wrong, and get away with murder.

I had to think about your question, however. Yes, it's rude to suggest that someone isn't going to do his duty. (Stuffy way of putting it, but accurate.) It's rude to 'assume' (although in fact you concluded). Depending on the scale of the breach, it's rude to point out that someone else has breached good manners.

(I rather suspect that you and she were using entirely different scales to measure her breach of good manners.)

So it was rude. It was warranted rudeness, however. People who are willing to act on a request generally do signal the fact fairly positively, verbally if not non-verbally. In the absence of such a signal, it's entirely reasonable to conclude that someone isn't willing to act.

(Per anon: yes, it is something of an affront to those of us whose signalling is atypical or lacking! It's reasonable nonetheless. If one can neither compensate adequately for one's signalling deficits, nor accept the misunderstandings which result from them, one isn't fitted for people-intensive jobs. Additionally, her justification of inaction suggests that it wasn't merely a signalling deficit at work.)

It's also true that part of that sort of job is to take a certain amount of rudeness. Pleasing the public is a damn' thankless role, but it is her role. You're the public - your role is not to give deliberate or careless offence, but it isn't to walk on eggshells.

Heike said...

Nah, you were not rude. The fact that she got angry shows that you were right, she wasn't going to do or say anything. Write a letter to the manager...

Anonymous said...

I think that you were rude for pushing the issues on asking her whether or not she was going to help you. If you didn't think she was going to, you should have just found a manager yourself.

She seems to have a crummy work ethic, because if she needed a manager for something else, she would have managed to get one.

Catherine said...

You were probably right. She was probably going to just ignore and then forget your request. But "probably" is not certainty, and you cannot prove it either way as you did not give her a chance.

I would have requested the manager to come and open the door at that time so anyone else who should be in a chair would not have to struggle.

It's a losing propostion to argue what some was going to do or not do. You can't prove yourself right.

wendy said...

Okay...first off, you were NOT rude. You pointed out a problem and then recognized the "yeah, yeah" look. When you called her on her obvious lack of interest and the fact that she was not likely to actually follow up on your request with the manager she redirected. Instead of addressing what she was or was not planning on doing she turned the situation around so that now YOU were the one who the problem. (This particular maneuver drives me insane, personally!) What could you have done instead? Well, demanding to speak to the manager immediately is a good plan but then you are late for the movie and so are a bunch of other people. The manager arrives to find you holding up production and their immediate thought is "This guy is trouble" rather than "This guy has a point!" Speaking to the manager after the movie might have been a plan...or before the movie but once through the line. Would it have been effective? Who knows. Dave, she's mean, you're okay!

Eileen said...

Not sure if this is politically correct or not, but the words 'organ grinder' and 'monkey' come to mind. Don't waste your energy on the monkey. In this case, the poorly paid, demotivated ticket seller was never going to be able to do anything much about this. Go straight to the organ grinder if you have an issue (which you certainly did).

Molly said...

Sometimes rudeness is the correct response. I suppose you were rude---but it doesn't bother me.

As a general rule, I am strongly and vocally against rudeness to people in "front lines" positions---waitstaff, bus drivers, and, yes, ticket sellers. They have hellish jobs in many respects, and deserve kindness and the benefit of the doubt. But there's a line---not a "I didn't want cheese on this" line, but a "you're completely disrespecting my basic humanity" line---that, when crossed, invites rudeness as the only rational response.

Anonymous said...

I think it doesn't matter what you or I think about you being rude. Her perception was that you were rude. So as a result, you may not have gotten your point across. People generally do not respond to people who they perceive as rude. I would soften your approach, "You get more bees with honey, than you do vinegar"

However, we will never truly know, but I bet the next time she sees the handicapped door locked she will probably think of this incident.