Monday, December 24, 2012
(photo description: a very blurry photograph of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, all wearing formal black and white attire. Choir is seated in several rows and the orchestra is seated in front.)
It was a hard decision.
When I make complaint regarding something to do with access or attitudes to a company I am often offered some kind of compensation, a gift, for my 'inconvienience.' I mostly refuse these offers. I want them to understand that I am complaining with the goal of 'change' not with the goal of 'gain'. Part of me believes that as soon as I take what's offered, I'm written off and my complaint is seen as just a little more frivolous. Part of me also believes I need to stay focused on inciting change and change doesn't come in a gift box. So, with rare exceptions, I don't take up offers of personal reparation.
Today is a rare exception.
Last year I wrote a blog about my visit to the Roy Thomson Hall to see Handel's Messiah. It hadn't been a good experience. As a result of that blog I had several conversations, all productive, with representatives of the various parties involved. I ended up being satisfied that my concerns were taken seriously and that there was a real desire to improve the experience of people with disabilities as customers and patrons. More than that I felt that the people I spoke to really, really, wanted me to trust that they would continue to work on the issue of accessibility of space and of face. They offered me the opportunity to attend another event in the Hall put on by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra as a gift from them. I told them that I don't complain for tickets, they assured me they understood that. I said I'd think about it, knowing that I wouldn't, knowing that they knew I wouldn't but that it would be a nice way out of the stand off.
Then a few weeks ago, out of the blue, we got a phone call, inviting us to come back to see the Messiah again this year, for free. I was astonished that the incident last year was remembered and that we were being offered the opportunity to go again. Joe and I talked about it and, as so much time had passed, we could only see this as a kind gesture by people wanting some kind of closure to the events of the year before. We talked about it more and I realised that my experience last year really diminished my enjoyment of the afternoon and that I'd like to have a different memory of attending one of our two favourite Christmas oratorios. We agreed.
I am writing this the morning before we are heading out to attend the event. I am relaxed and looking forward to going. You see, I believed that everyone I talked to last year was sincere about their desire to make change. I believed that my voice had been heard. I am looking forward to going. I am looking forward to being there with Joe. I really enjoy the music and the emotions that well up in me when I hear the Messiah performed. But I really love being there with Joe who really, deeply, loves this music. It's something that we share together.
So, we're going.
It was a hard decision to make to take the tickets. But now it's made, we're excited. What a great way to spend the last Sunday afternoon before Christmas. What a great way to begin the move from the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, the cards and the calls ... to the deeper meaning of Christmas - beyond 'family' and 'good times' and 'winter wonderlands' - but to 'For unto us ...'
OK, that was written before going.
Now you are all wondering, "OK, what happened?"
Well, actually a lot.
There wasn't a single negative incident, it was a muss and fuss free 'Messiah.' But what I do want to note is how incredible the staff of the hall were with everyone, including people with disabilities. I noticed an usher notice an elderly woman standing near the door, obviously having some difficulty. All the chairs provided for seating were taken. The usher disappeared and moments later reappeared with a chair. She offered it to the woman who took it gratefully. Several other incidents of what could be categorised as either exceptional customer service or simple and lovely kindness happened all around me. It was truly wonderful to see.
I promise you, and those of you who know me at all well would know, the ticket being free had nothing to do with my opinion of what I saw.
I'm glad I went.
I now have a new memory to replace the old.
And, even better, I now have another venue where I can go without worry.
Can you all say ... (yes, I'm going to do it) ... hallelujah!