Monday, December 05, 2011

Understanding Christmas

"You need to understand ... it's Christmas."

I am expressing frustration at the fact that another of the stores that I frequent has become completely inaccessible to me. Aisles that I can normally pass through are now blocked with display after display.. I admit, my wheelchair is larger than most, I understand that there will be places that are barred to me because of the size of my chair. But, I'm not speaking of that here, I am talking about wide aisles becoming narrow passageways, giving entrance only to those on two feet. No one on wheels will get through.

There was a store that I really wanted to get into to do some shopping. I got in the front door and then stopped short. I couldn't go left, I couldn't go right, I couldn't go straight ahead. I was flummoxed. The store manager saw me, approached with a smile of understanding (hours of training no doubt) and said, 'Gosh, I'm sorry, the displays seem to be in your way. He spoke to me as if I was a stranger. As if he'd never seen me before. But, weirdly, we have spoken before. I shop there, if not frequently, regularly. We'd chatted. But his tone, his voice, his eyes said 'You are a stranger.'

I am tired. I still haven't had a real chance to rest up from my trip overseas and I'm counting the days to some time off. I don't want to have a discussion about accessibility and my right to shop. All I wanted to do was buy a freaking present. In HIS store. 'I need to get to the back part of the store, if we move one of these displays is there some way I can do that?

'I'm afraid that we're all decorated up for the season,' he said.

This struck me as odd because I'm not talking to him about the decorations, I'm talking to him about product displays. 'No, I don't mean the decorations, I mean these displays, I just need to get to the section at the back.' I promise I wasn't whining, I had no anger in my voice. I'm way too tired for confrontation. I just wanted to know if I could get what I wanted to get.

'After the Christmas and New Years sales are over, we'll be back to normal.' He's steadfastly NOT saying that the store is inaccessible to me. But that's what he's saying. My mind is already leaping to other options. When you have a mobility disability, you  need a mind that can leap - to options, to adaptions, to solutions. I know I should have said something. I just said, quietly, 'I just want to buy a gift.'

He smiled again, understanding, but his eyes said, 'You are blocking my door.'

I began to pull out of the store.

Then he said, 'You have to understand, it's Christmas.'

All I said, and I know he won't get it, was, 'If you understood Christmas, I'd be able to get into your store..'


painting with fire said...

Foolish attitude on his part, especially since you're a regular. Ugh. And exhausting to have to educate all these people or hunt for other options. I'm not currently disabled although I spent half a year on crutches years ago and it was an eye-opener. The energy drain of having to deal with all the stupidity/lack of simple consideration seems so frustrating, especially this time of year.

Happy said...

And it isn't Christmas for disabled people?

How disheartening. :(

wheeliecrone said...

He sees you as a problem, not as a customer, Dave.
I suggest that you give your money to some other store, if you can find one that is accessible, with merchandise that attracts you.
Otherwise, you might do as I do - shop on the Internet. That's how I solve my access problems.

Dave Hingsburger said...

wheeliecrone: I can buy online. I have this thing about 'shopping locally' if I can. I want to support local businesses - especially in this economic climate. But, it seems, that I have a sense of responsibility to support him and his business but he does not see a responsibility to welcome me, and my money, into his store. Another unrequited relationship.

Baba Yaga said...

I read your first two sentences, and what went through my mind was exactly your last sentence.

And there's me, a devout unbeliever.

Lene Andersen said...

This is the point where I find it helpful to mention the AODA customer service regulations. By which is does not comply with the law.

Christmas? No, darling. You have to understand it's the law.

(one could also mention the store's name online and thereby affect his customer base. Which would lose him money. But they never seem to get that, do they?)

CL said...

That's so disappointing... so many people see these issues as "come on, you can't expect us to rearrange everything just for you" instead of realizing that accessibility is about equal access -- not to mention, as others have said, it's the law! This kind of treatment makes me so angry. Ugh.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

In this day and age that is just unaccpetable. In the name of Christmas even! Outrageous!


Nan said...

IN the name of Christmas seems oddly appropriate . . . where the only place they could get into was a stable, if you believe everything you read . Okay, really, what an exhausting obnoxious experience. My comeback (which I would have thought of 2 days after leaving the store) would have been ... and what part of Christmas exactly am I not understanding?

Belinda said...

Very disappointing on a lot of counts--the blocked store and the lack of "customer service" to name only two.

tekeal said...

echoing all the disappointed, frusterated, angry and disheartened comments. sorry you had to deal with this at all.

Joyfulgirl said...

As others have commented, very disheartening and I'm not surprised you didn't have the energy for a confrontation about it. Sorry.