Yesterday I spoke with a manager about changes that have been made at the theatre he oversees.
Accessible space has been lost.
Easy access is gone.
They gave me one elevator to get upstairs.
And took away the space to get to it.
They've blocked the way with a snake line of walking people standing getting tickets. They wait impatiently, wanting to get to their leisure. I see them when we arrive and start praying that the movie I am seeing is playing on the first floor.
Like many of my prayers for access.
Is not answered.
I get ready to start begging strangers for space. They will have to back up, or step aside, or wait a moment. I have learned that this is too much to ask for. I have learned that little gifts of civility are saved for others more deserving than me. I feel their eyes weigh me. I see their faces judge me. I hear tiny whispers that come from minds shouting - diagnoses and assumptions - and each whisper sounds like:
But they move because I have learned to ask politely and proceed as if the answer is or will be 'yes'. Some cede space, allowing me to pass because they see the quandary I am in, they see the elevator, they see the lineup that blocks it, and because of those things they move quickly and willingly, some even smile letting me know they get it. Others cede space not seeing why they should, they don't smile, the move as if their limbs weigh more than they think I do, they back up as if they are an army retreating, as if they are losing something that's rightfully theirs.
I make the elevator but I am drenched in sweat.
I sit cold watching a movie that only one part of my brain can comprehend. There's too much noise. Noise raised by the part of my brain that worries about getting out. About being boxed in. About never getting home. Home will be dependant on the mood of other people.
I see him just as we are about the exit.
I roll up to him and ask if I can talk about accessibility.
As if this is a conversation that he's had before and doesn't want to have again. As if I am taking up part of his day with trivial complaints.
But I tell him.
About how the new layout makes me a beggar.
About how I have to plead and suffer through a gauntlet of prejudice.
About how once access was free. How those who have so much were given the only thing I needed - a little space.
He talks to me about space, and configurations and tells me why things can't change. He didn't even spend a moment thinking about how it might be made different, needs to be made different.
I told him that the conversation has left me hopeless.
Bereft of hope.
He sighs again and tells me that he'll bring it up at a managers meeting. He looks to me for gratitude and finds instead my retreating back.