Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Being Seen

Photo Description: graphic with the words "Living in the MARGINS" with two arrows pointing to the margins.

Joe and I went to the Opera. It was in the movie theatre, but it's still the Opera. It was general seating so we went early to ensure we got to sit together. When we arrived none of the four wheelchair seating spaces were taken, so we had our choice. We chose to sit at the one closest to the middle of the screen. I'm used to, at home, always having to sit on either the far right or far left of the screen. The luxury that Americans have to sit in the middle, or near the middle, is amazing to me.

We got in and settled. A few minutes later a patron, who was sitting directly behind us, tapped Joe on his shoulder and said, "Could you please move him over to the far side, he's very tall." Joe said, "Ask him." A face turned to me and said, "You are very tall, could you sit over there, and pointed to the seat at the far side. I looked back at a theatre much less than half full. I looked at all the seats that there were for non disabled people to choose to sit. I said, "I'm going to stay here, but I'll get my other chair, I sit lower in it."

Joe zipped out to the car and got my manual chair, I sit 4 to 5 inches lower in that chair. While he was gone I moved my power chair out of the way and parked it. Joe came in, helped me transfer into the manual and then we went back to our seats. We figured that was that and we would settle into our seats.

A face comes forward, "I want you in the other seat, you are too tall."

I was shocked because there was no way that that patron couldn't see over me. The theatre had disabled seating immediately in front of a raised platform, the seats began there. You had to walk up stairs to get to the row behind. I said, "I am really sorry, but you have a lot of choices of where to sit. I don't. I'd like to sit here. If you would like to move up and back, please do. But this here, it's my seat."

A few seconds later we heard the patron move one seat over, behind Joe, closer to the centre of the screen. One seat over. We were asked to move way over to the side of the screen, and all that was needed was a shift of one seat.

When it was over we had to wait until nearly everyone was gone, while we waited, Joe went up to the seat behind me to see if I had really been in the way. He said that, from that vantage point looking at the screen, even down to the subtitles, I was not in the way. "I don't even the that you'd have been in the way in the power chair either," he said. Finally, it was clear enough so that we could get me back over to my chair, help me transfer in, and then leave. 

So I wasn't asked to move because of sight lines, I was asked to move to be out of sight, off to the side, in the margins of the theatre.

How telling is that?


CapriUni said...

Very telling.

Your presence didn't get in the way of his physical sight. But your existence got stuck in his "mind's eye" and cast a shadow on his fantasy of what "perfect people" should look like.

BTW, Dave, you are a perfect you. :-)

Tragic Sandwich said...

What an awful person! I think you were very kind to accommodate him with the switch in your chair.

As someone who does not use a wheelchair (at least, not at this point in my life), I cannot imagine asking someone who did to move. If there are more seats available for me to choose one, then I would choose one that met my personal needs or preferences. If not, well, then that's just how life works sometimes.

And it's not even limited to someone who is in a wheelchair. I've sat behind someone who is tall and blocks my view of the screen. If I can move, I do. I would never ask them to.

I know you know your worth, and I hope you'll continue to sit in the center when the opportunity presents itself.

clairesmum said...

Yes, it is very telling - telling us of the self-centered and entitled attitude of 2 different patrons at the event.
While America may have more desirable seating options for WC users, it does not necessarily have the attitudes to match!
Like the other commentator, if I can't see or have a noisy neighbor, my choice is to move to a different seat or do my best to adapt to the situation...
I hope you were able to set this aside and enjoy the opera!

Princeton Posse said...

Thank-you for "sitting" your ground. You were there first and even switched chairs to accommodate his request, Sometimes, it seems no matter what you do, you can't please everyone. I get very tired trying to make it a win-win in every situation, it's exhausting and when I lose patience, I feel bad.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately, things like this happen to people with differences in public far to often.
You and Joe handled it with much more grace than I would have. (probably would have called the manager to deal with the guy).
However, I hope the opera was wonderful and that you had a good time regardless.

Anonymous said...

I guess we're allowed to tell people who are less important than we to get out of our way . . . um . . . did they offer you autographs?

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone said...


Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

Next time that happens, ask the person to call the manager.

Sheesh! You got there first, and there were PLENTY of empty seats, and this yahoo wants YOU to move?

I do NOT see why you accommodated him AT ALL. Talk about entitled people!

"This is my seat," is all you should have had to say, and better still would have been a hard stare.

Anonymous said...

Do you think this person would have had the stones to ask a non-disabled tall person to move to another seat to get out of his way? I don't think so. I wouldn't even have offered to change chairs. HE can move if he's not happy. Sucks to be him.

Cynthia F. said...

Ugh. So sorry on behalf of my fellow American.