Sunday, December 11, 2011

Do I Have a Point?

I don't know how to write this but I'm going to try. I'm afraid I'm going to sound petty and mean spirited and hyper critical. Now I admit I can be all these things but here, I think I've got a point to make. I guess you'll be the judge of all that.

We went to see the new Muppet movie, which I found oddly moving with songs oddly deep, with Mike and the three kids. We were excited to introduce Kermit and Co. to a new generation. As we entered the theatre the row that has disabled seating on either end, with the words 'companion seating' on the seats beside were taken by a bunch of kids about, maybe 9 or 10. The supervising parents were seated a row behind. They saw me come in and offered to have one kid move so we could sit.

Now the theatre had lots of room, the supervising parents were sitting in a near vacant row, behind. Those seats are great seats as they are up a couple of steps and there are no seats immediately in front of them as they look out and over the seats below. I said, 'No, it's OK, I want to sit with my family.' The woman nodded, then we went over to another row where I sat nearish to Mike, Joe and the kids. It would have been absolutely clear that this wasn't optimal seating for us.

Now I get they had no obligation at all to get up and move. Really, I get that. But what bothered me wasn't that the kids didn't move but that the supervising parents didn't see this as an opportunity to teach those kids about how to live well and generously. It would have taken very little effort for all to have good seats. It would have just taken an act of thoughtfulness. I worry that these kids learned something at the film ... that the world was just about them. I worry that Ruby and Sadie come to learn that our style of teaching them to consider others is old fashioned and out-moded.

I had wondered if this was because I think that I have a 'right' to be considered. And then I realize, I do. But I don't think this is about disability at all. I think its about how we all agree to 'be' with each other in this world. It's about noticing someone with lots of packages, or someone struggling with a door, or someone wanting to sit with their family. It's about developing kindness as a skill.

You read that right, I think kindness is a SKILL that can be taught and that can be learned. I think it's about teaching children, or oneself, to look out into the world and see other people. Look out past the cell phone, out out past the innate sense of selfishness that we are all born with. To tap into the very base instinct that comes from being a pack animal.

But then, maybe I'm just grumpy cause I wanted to see the film with my family. Not just from a seat a bit above, a bit behind, a bit left out.

All I know is that if I'm off the mark here.

You'll all tell me.


Heather Carley said...

Bulls Eye. And you're right. It's not a 'disability' issue. It's common courtesy. Or it used to be and still should be.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

to this post I can voice a definite opinion.

You are absolutly right. Everyone should learn to consider other peoples needs from a very young age. That is what will make a society work.But today we are raising many kids to be the focus of their lifes. My little niece is an only child of fairly "oldish" parents and the only sweet little girl in the family. She has got tons of toys and every wish granted as soon as she voices it. I worry that she will grow up to be a very selfish and thoughtless teen and an absolut selfcentered girl.

Bein human and able to be emphatic is a learning process that has to start at a very early age. Otherwisse we will end up in a society of selfcenterd individuals to whom a "lesser being" is worthless even considering.


CT said...

Just to make sure I get this: there was disability seating that the kids were not using,and labelled companion seating next to it that the kids were using (as well as regular seating next to that, I take it), and the parents offered to have *1* kid move (the labelled companion seat) so that only one person of your party could sit with you while you sat in that disability seating?

And there were plenty of seats elsewhere for the kids to sit together (even so, mind you)?

Seriously ... WTF? I don't get people. I don't know how someone would offer that with a straight face.

I'd like to help you make sense of it, but I can't. I can say that you have a definite point.

Glee said...

CT's got it WTF!

Kimberly said...

While I agree with you, I don't think that you would have been wrong to say that that was nice and that you would like to sit with your family and could they make room for them also? Yes, it's common courtesy, but I also think that when you have a large number of kids around sometimes your brain turns off. I think it is very likely that after you moved that they would have felt bad once they thought of the solution that you are suggesting.

Bubbles said...

Dave, maybe I'm just in a grumpy mood this morning but I worked in a respite facility with children and adults of varying disabilities for years. This issue makes my blood boil! I loved taking those kids and adults to the movies and numerous other activities because for many of them it wasn't neccessarily opportunities they had at other times and it was a GROUP activity. We we're a 2 staff to up to 6 consumer ratio, which is good compared to some places but still a struggle to have enough hands at times but we still made it happen. When I would arrive at the theatre and people would be sitting in those seats I would feel nothing but resentment and irritation. Why? Because I would never sit in those seats, I would never let my kids sit in those seats. Disabilities take many forms, not just wheelchair users but mobility restricted, low tone, most likely to trip and fall individuals and behaviour challenged also, we would have combinations of all of the above. In the dark, maneuvering a step can be completely terrifying for someone and terrifying for me as well! I had no qualms about asking people to move and if I made them feel bad or irritated (of course not intentionally) I didnt feel bad about it all. I was raised to respect people, offer a hand of support when needed, hold doors, carry parcels, let people go first at intersections... etc... the world doesn't neccessarily operate this way anymore but I truly believe if we stop expecting it to it will never get better! I actually taught our more able, particularly male clients about holding doors for us and others. We had conversations about what it meant to be a "gentleman" mostly because the girls typically did it automatically,the boys didn't!I'm not into gender typing but it was they way the boys best understood it! Those boys made be very proud in the pride they took once they mastered some of those skills voluntarily without prompting! Now if I can just get my son to master it as well!!!!!

Belinda said...

"I had wondered if this was because I think that I have a 'right' to be considered. And then I realize, I do."

Right on--that's why those seats exist.

"I think kindness is a SKILL that can be taught and that can be learned."

I agree--and most of us don't want to be the educator--but who better than those who know and see.

I can miss things until people speak the "kind truth" to me, and I am increasingly becoming braver in speaking the kind truth to others.I assume they will be equally grateful, but either way, my part is done.

Belinda said...

....But you spend your life "educating people," and sometimes you shouldn't have to.

Maureen said...

You are right, and it is a pain to constantly have to educate. However, I think that most folks are so ignorant (in the true sense of the word) of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities that it doesn't even register for them. I have heard of this problem before and I wonder if a simple PSA at the top of the movie would see how many people realize AFTER the PSAs that they should turn off their smartphones in movie theatres, perhaps a PSA about how everyone likes to sit with their friends, and in this age of Stadium seating often the accessible seats aren't even in the best seating positions, at least folks should get to see the movie sitting with their friends? Geez, now I wish I had proposed this when our knucklehead movie theatre owner got caught repeatedly using the handicapped zone to park his car with his dog inside. note the title of the article:

Susan said...

Those are "your" seats. All the seats you need for your family are "your" seats.

You shouldn't have to clear out and/or educate the ignorant,either. Not when you paid for the ticked. I think it would be appropriate to go to the usher (or whatever they call them these days) or management in some way and asked them to do the education... Maybe that "attendant" seat needs to be re-labed "attendant (and adjacent seats may also be required for the rest of the party" with arrows on it pointing in the direction of the unmarked, empty seats to indicate to people that they may not be available after all. Or maybe there should be 4 - 6 seats labeled 'attendant' (which is kind of demeaning in itself, isn't it? Shouldn't they be labeled "accompanying peson" or something?)

No you shouldn't have to do all the re-educating... That's part of what you're paying for.. It's time for ALL of us to start saying something every time we enter a theatre - "Hey, you know that spot for the wheelchair - you need to change that. If I came in with someone who uses a wheelchair, this is what we would need. I think you should change your policies - and your labels."

Maureen said...

I like Susan's idea... oh and let me be clear I am not suggesting it is Dave's job to create a PSA, but perhaps it is time for one.

Anonymous said...

I do think that the adults should have had the kids move. I'm not surprised the kids didn't realize the situation, in a group like that, even the most sensitive, observant kids can become unaware and self-centered.

However, the adults really dropped the ball. You were with small children. The great part about taking young kids to the movies, is sitting WITH them and seeing their reactions. As parents, I think they should have realized that and helped to ensure that you had that opportunity as well. Their kids would have gotten a chance to learn about empathy as well.

Anonymous said...

Ok, I might get blasted but I am going to be disagreeable.

You can't have it both ways - if you want people to listen to what you say, then you have to accept it when they do.

When someone asks if they can push your chair and you say, no, you want that accepted.

In this case, they asked if you wanted them to rearrange a child (granted, one child wouldn't have done it, but....) however you said that was fine. If you said it was fine, then accept they took your word. If the offer was made but it wasn't adequate, you should have spoken up. After all, perhaps you had been dragged along and were quite happy to not sit with the kids.

Anyway, my 2 cents worth.

Ettina said...

I don't see a problem with what they did. They offerred to help, you declined, and you didn't mention the way they could have better accomodated you. If you wanted them all to move, you should have said so, not expected them to read your mind. If they'd completely failed to notice the problem, that would be different. But you told them you were fine.

Janet said...

Regarding the last two comments. If you read the post carefully, Dave didn't say it was 'fine' and he didn't turn down the offer. He said that he wanted to sit with his family. I don't think, without flat out asking them to move, he could have been clearer about what he needed. I think always making it the responsibility of people with disabilities to ask for what should be freely given is problematic. Why should we have to be more assertive than the rest of the world? Come on, letting kids take up a whole role intended for easy access is just thoughtless to begin with. Then, offering a crumb instead of a slice is just miserly.

Andrea S. said...

My feeling is the parents should not have allowed their kids to sit in those seats to begin with. Then they wouldn't have been in Dave and his family's way.

Since they DID choose to allow their kids to take over the one and only row available for patrons with mobility impairments, then they should have offered to move ALL the children elsewhere, or else as many as were needed to allow Dave to remain with his entire family.

I agree with Heather and others who say that this is first and foremost an issue of plain, simple, common courtesy.

I do think that it is ALSO a disability issue in that people with disabilities tend to be hurt most, and the most often, when people forget (or never learned properly to begin with) the rules of basic common courtesy. But it all still begins with ordinary courtesy that all of us are supposed to have learned to demonstrate toward everyone else.

Ettina said...

"'No, it's OK, I want to sit with my family.'"

He did say he was OK. He didn't just say he wanted to sit with his family, he said 'no, it's OK'.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I can well understand why you get tired of advocating for yourself. Sometimes I get annoyed at and weary of all the "Manners 101" teaching I have to do out in the world. Gah! It's ENDLESS.

But maybe Joe or Mike could've spoken up, and told that woman that the 5 of you needed to sit in a row together, with the children between you? Or could've gotten an usher to explain to the woman that 4 children needed to move, not just 1?


Dave Hingsburger said...

Hi folks, thanks for the discussion. I see two different threads in the discussion, one was more broadly about courtesy and the other about what happened in the theatre. I appreciated all the comments and I thought about those who disagreed. I know that I said, literally, 'it's ok' but I indicated that it wasn't by saying I wanted to sit with my family. My point in the post, wasn't really about what they did, it was about what they didn't do. They offered the minimum and when that was turned down, they didn't offer more or another solution. They'd done 'right' by offering one seat, they'd have done 'good' by offering more. I know that I could have asked for all the kids to move but I don't have that level of assertion. I don't know what theatres that others go to but the one's I go do don't have ushers, I'd have had to seek someone out, way, way, way more effort than it would be worth and I'd have missed half the movie by the time I found someone who would be willing to speak to them for me.

I still think that a thoughtful response would have been, 'oh, you want to sit with your family, ok, how about we give them all seats here?' I would have eagerly agreed.

I agree that they offered less than I needed and I turned it down, politely. But I also think I stated what was needed and it wasn't on offer. My concern here, is that those kids didn't learn anything in that moment. Ruby and Sadie are being taught to go the little bit extra, beyond proper and into generosity.

I like these kinds of discussions, I like to be made to think more about situations and be pressed on why I think what I think. I often change my mind as a result of discussions here, but on this one, I'm still pretty convinced that as much as I could have handled it differently, they could have too.

Anonymous said...

What about when people park in disabled spaces? That really annoys me. I work for a disability service and we have only 2 disabled spaces anyway, and I have seen staff park in these when the rest of the car park is full (and there is other parking literally a 2 minute walk away.)Plus we actually have building work on site so accessibility is even more of an issue (we have complained about this but nothing has been done.)


Anonymous said...

I wanna live in the world you imagine Dave. I wanna make it happen, too. I’d suggest to the kids we could all move to other seats. I don’t think anyone should have to ask for this. I hope I live up to this. I try. And the kids with me, I think I see them learning. Not learning to be kind, because they are, they know how to do that, but learning that showing kindness is not loss of face.
There’s so much strength in kindness (still the truth, always the truth).

Lene Andersen said...

Nope. Wheelchair seating w/companion? Move yer butts! You can sit anywhere.

I guess we could have a conversation about how inherently Canadian it is to say "no, that's alright" (which I would've done, too. Instead of pointing out that this is the only wheelchair seating in the place where there's room to sit with the people you're with and would they mind moving over to those other perfectly good seats over there?

And beyond that, why on earth were they sitting in the wheelchair place if there were lots of seats?

Oh, look. I'm cranky, too.

Marna said...

I think you are absolutely right ... and.

I think I would have been honestly confused by your response of "No, it's OK". I think I would have assumed that there was another suitable spot available and you had a real preference for a different one.

And by the time it became clear that it wasn't okay I wouldn't have known how to fix it without feeling as if I was intruding on you all by going over and saying "Um, when you said it was okay I thought you meant you had your eye on some other seating already, and that turns out not to be true and do you want to reshuffle?"

Anonymous said...

I don't understand. You get furious when someone insists on helping you when you don't want it, and get angry when they don't help you.

I think you are being hypercritical; and a little unfair.

Should the kids move? Yes, obviously but I cannot help but think that had they moved we would have had a post where you were angry that they thought they should move because of your disability.

Janet said...

Anonymous above, look who's calling Dave hypercritical and unfair! I think that Dave raises issues for us to think about, and I see from his comments that he thinks about them too. More than that he puts his name to what he writes. Most of the comments here seem to be willing to discuss. Your tone seems to me much more antagonistic. But now you've got me being hypercritical and unfair.

Kristine said...

"I don't understand. You get furious when someone insists on helping you when you don't want it, and get angry when they don't help you."

I actually think both cases are the same thing. I get annoyed when somebody doesn't OFFER help. Whether it be in the form of thrusting unwanted help on me, or through ignoring an obvious need, I appreciate the common courtesy of a helpful OFFER. That way nobody's making any assumptions about me, and I don't always have to suffer the pain of asking. (who doesn't hate asking for help, right?)

Now, in this particular case, the question seems to be whether their insufficient offer was enough to meet social courtesy. Because technically, they did offer, it just wasn't a very good offer. It's one of those situations I have a hard time judging without being there to read body language, tone, etc. But whether or not it applies to this anecdote, I still wanted to make my point, in hopes of fending off the "Ugh! Disabled people just have to complain!" mindset. :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Janet, I am OK with disagreement. I didn't find the anon comment you referred to as being all that problematic. People have strong opinions and I'm OK with that. I don't want to ever discourage honest disagreement here.

Anon, I don't think that if they'd moved I'd have written a negative blog. In fact if you read through Rolling Around in My Head, I often comment on people's kindnesses. I try not to only focus on negative interactions. Too, life is more than a blog experience, I select things to write about - the number of times each day that I say 'thanks' to a kindness are countless. I appreciate when people are thoughtful. I also appreciate earnest discussion, so thanks.