"What is chivalry dead? Get up and move your ass for the gentleman in the wheelchair."
It was an odd introduction to a pub, but it will do. Joe and I have been looking for a 'local' since we moved to the area. We have two pubs near us, one accessible physically but there is an attitudinal curb that simply isn't getoverable. Every time we go in there we get treated by disdain by the pretty bar maids who work there. All of them. They'll serve us, but barely so. I don't think, in this case, it's about disability. Not everything is about disability. There are all sorts of reasons for discriminatory practice. In bars, one of them is drinking tea, not beer. They make tea at this bar, they take barely warm water and throw in a bag. And no they don't serve green tea. So, the overt hostility towards my chosen drink makes it a tad uncomfortable to visit.
There is another one, round the corner, it's barely accessible but, um, not our crowd. It really targets the 'I wanna get hammered after work' business crowd. I've learned that it's possible to be looked down upon by someone puking in the alley. Again, I don't think it's disability particularly that's the issue. Joe and I just don't look like business types. We don't ever wear a tie. I seldom wear shoes. (Don't blink twice, I don't walk remember.)
So when we found a restaurant that had been converted into a pub a few blocks from here. Maybe 5 minutes by chair, we thought we'd give it a chance. Actually we had been going up the street and saw an old friend on the patio of the pub having an afternoon pint. As we chatted I surveyed the territory and it looked good. I, at least, could get in.
We made our way down to the place and sure enough I could get in the door, navigate the turn, but there was a large table full of people I needed to get by in order to be in the body of the bar. They didn't notice me. They were a tad, um, 'in their cups'. When noticed, all sorts of disruption arose. And, it was as wonderful as it was appropriate, it was all in good spirits and it was all aimed at getting me in. It was a bit like watching stand up comedy as people who had trouble standing up tried to coordinate moving just one chair. That's all it took. One chair. But it took the joint concentration of 7 people to get the chair moved. After I was through and settled. I saw them all congratulating themselves. Not the 'we helped a cripple' kind of thing, but a 'we mounted a military procedure' kind of thing. What drunks congratulate each other for should be subject to serious study.
But I was in. They didn't serve tea but they suggested that Joe pop over to the Starbucks next door and get one for me. They didn't mind at all. It turned into a lovely hour in a pub. People chatted. Drunks didn't get sloppy about me being in a wheelchair - alcohol in others plus me in a wheelchair has led to many uncomfortable situations. Mostly of the 'I love you man, you are so brave' kind. Sometimes of the 'can you people drink, I mean, is it allowed?' (That mostly in response to me drinking tea.) Very rarely of the 'what the frack are you doing in here' kind. But these folks were cool about the chair and good about social distance. I felt safe.
We entered into several bar room chats. As I have a sense of humour that can be bawdy without beer, I was soon socially accepted. I think they think I spiked the tea.
It was lovely. Physically accessible. Attitudinally accessible. We have a local!
The second time we went back, I had to get by the same table. This time it was remarkably easy. I thanked them. One guy said, 'We've been practicing.' Those words are remarkably hard to enunciate when emanating fumes of alcohol. It felt good. They wanted to do it better. They wanted to make it easier.
Maybe the rest of the world needs to pound back a beer every now and then.