Sometimes it seems that as corporations grow ever larger their hearts grow increasingly smaller. Today we went to see the movie 'Paul' (Joe loved, I didn't) and as we entered the theatre, I noticed a Starbucks in the lobby area. I decided that I'd love to have a big cup of green tea to sip on during the movie. They had one of those windy line up kind of things that guide crowds through to the counter. There was no crowd, there was also no room. No wheelchair could have entered and gone through the serpentine path. Purposeful exclusion? Yep, I think so. But that's not what I want to write about.
I got myself up to the counter, by avoiding their inaccessible entrance, and ordered a large green tea. The fellow made the tea and then plopped it in front of me on the counter. It was full nearly to the brim and I asked him, nicely, if he could put a top on it so I would be safe in picking it up and backing up my chair to get out of the tight space. He said 'No'. I was a bit surprised so I said, 'Excuse me?' Now he went on, at some length, that he was not allowed to put tops on cups. That if I was in the States, they would put the top on the cup but in Canada they aren't allowed to. I said, 'But I'm afraid I'll scald myself driving in my chair.' He simply said, 'Sorry, nothing I can do about it.'
Then I realized that I was going to have to back up and go get Joe to get my tea and put a lid on it for me. I was furious. I went from being independent to dependent in a flash. I said, 'Even for someone in a wheelchair where it is clearly dangerous to move without a lid ...' and before I could finish he said, with some relish, 'No.' OK, there is no reasoning here. If I hadn't paid for it already, I'd have just left it. As I backed up I noticed that for most customers ordering fancy coffees those cups were delivered in a different spot right beside the lids. If he'd have moved the cup over I could have done it myself. But he was having none of helping out at all.
So Joe was fetched, and dutifully got the cup and put the lid on it while I sat like a child being cared for. I was spiraling into a ruined afternoon. I grabbed control of both my day and my mood and moved on. I was not going to let the fact that a corporation like Starbucks or one of it's minions thought it was OK to demean someone who needed only small adaptation and insignificant help. All right. Cool.
Joe and I, after the movie, tried to figure out the why behind the 'put your own damn lids on' rule and we could come up with some possibilities. But what we couldn't figure out was why the fellow didn't just move the cup over by the lids so I could have done it or why he didn't just think, 'Hey, the rule doesn't really apply here, I probably won't get fired for helping out a guy with a disability.'
But then big corporations don't have to care about a single customer. They don't have to care about taking an able person and disabling them because of a policy. They don't have to worry if I never go there again because it won't matter to their bottom line. I don't matter to Starbucks. Neither do you. And normally they don't matter much to me either. It's a business transaction, buying what they are selling. It's just that today I realized that what they were selling was attitude and exclusion and really, really nasty treatment of me as a customer.
And by the way, the tea was bitter.