"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..'