After the pre-show everyone who had bought premium seating returned to their ticketed seats while the people waiting in the lobby streamed into the theatre. Ruby and Sadie sat in the raised chairs beside me, Joe in the row in front. We watched as the theatre filled from the front. As it was to be an interactive show everyone wanted to be as close as possible. The theatre was not full and this meant that when everyone was seated we were in the back corner, as far back as you could be, and the next four or five rows, right straight across the theatre were empty and all the seats in front of that were full. I said to Joe that it looked like we were being punished. And, in effect, we were being punished for needing to use accessible seating and for the accessible seating being in the very back row.
I was concerned that Ruby and Sadie wouldn't have a fair chance to be picked to go up on stage as I knew they both wanted to be. I spoke to a woman, I think she was an usher, and asked if the performers on stage would even know we were back there as the kids wanted a chance to go on stage too. I couldn't believe the rudeness of her tone as she said, "Then they need to jump up and wave just like all the other kids." She stomped off. Ruby and Sadie were not like all the other kids. The reason? Because they were sitting with a wheelchair user in the very back row, farthest from the stage. Even if they did cartwheels the likelihood of their being seen was zip.
I knew the woman was upset because, or I assume it was because, she thought I was asking for special privileges for Ruby and Sadie. I wasn't. I really wasn't. I was asking for equal consideration. That's all. I knew that our seating took them out of consideration for any possible participation in the show itself.
I spoke to another woman, this one in a suit. She told me that very few of the children would be given a chance to go on stage during the show so that they all had a slim chance. I pointed out that this was exactly what I wanted. Right now every other kid had a slim chance while Ruby and Sadie because of our seating had NO chance. She said she would speak to someone from the show about my concern.
When she came back by me I called out to thank her, she ignored me, I thought she hadn't heard. I spoke again, she near shouted at me, "I haven't spoken to her yet!" I didn't who who 'her' was but I knew I was seen as a problem. I hadn't kicked up a fuss, I had only quietly asked that the kids get the same chance as everyone else. I didn't want them excluded because of where we were. This simple request was met with rudeness and with dismissiveness. No one actually cared enough to see my point. More than that I was made to feel like a bother for doing some quiet respectful advocacy.
The show began. A couple performers with puppets did come all the way back for Ruby and Sadie, I don't know if this was because of my request or because they simply saw us across the barrier of empty seats when they were coming up the aisle. When it came time to call children up, the host, predictably called from the seats closest to the front. At no point, not even once, did she look up to where we were seated. Not once. We were invisible to her.
This is what Ruby noticed.
She and Sadie both jumped up and waved to be picked.
But it was fruitless.
They couldn't be seen.
They were out of contention.
And it was noticed.
When it was over Ruby was really disappointed. NOT because she didn't get to go up on stage, but because there hadn't even been the slightest chance that she'd be picked. As I was giving her a ride home, she said to me quietly, about the host, "She didn't even look up where we were." She felt that exclusion, deeply, and was hurt by it.
Me, I was angry.
At the situation.
And at myself - it's hard not to be self loathing or self blaming in these moments. My need of accessibility had hurt a child that I loved. My needs had made it impossible for her needs to be met. As much as I knew none of this had been my fault, as much as I had tried to advocate for equal consideration, it didn't matter. For a few seconds, or maybe a minute, I hated being me and I hated being disabled and I hated needing what I needed.
I reviewed in my mind the facts: I hadn't asked for them to be picked, I'd asked for our situation to be understood. We took the only seats we could, we paid top dollar for them, and we were punished and excluded primarily because I had needed accessible seating. Those facts brought me back to my senses. I pushed the self anger away. It took a solid shove to do it, but I did it.
As we rode along I talked about the good things about the show and talked about how much we laughed. I wanted to try and make it all better. I could have my own thoughts, I just wanted a happy child in my arms. Ruby cheered up as we talked.
But she knew what I was doing.
We got home and she turned and said to me, "It wasn't fair. It's supposed to be fair."
It is supposed to be fair.