Thursday, November 15, 2012

Big Bathrooms

Shame shows itself in so many different ways.

I was checking into a hotel and the room that had been booked wasn't available, for a reason that I didn't understand but which was explained to me in oddly confusing and completely intimate detail, but I was assured that they had another room with a 'big bathroom.'

I asked and I asked and I asked, specific questions, and the woman at the desk kept answering me by telling me that YES it was a big bathroom.

Is it an accessible bathroom?

Yes, it is a big bathroom.

Does it have bars around the toilet?

Yes, it is a big bathroom.

Does it have a wide door for wheelchair entry?

Yes, it is a big bathroom.

Does it have bars in the shower?

Yes, it is a big bathroom.

I understood the 'yes' part but I didn't get the 'big bathroom' part. I know that accessible loos are often bigger, but I wanted clarity before I hauled ass up to the room. Joe said, in frustration, that's he'd go up to the room to check it. He, like I, was concerned and confused by the 'big bathroom' statement. I waited to the side for him to return, he came back and gave me the thumbs up signal as soon as he stepped off the elevator.

I went back to the desk and said, "OK, so it's an accessible bathroom."

She said, "Yes, it's a big bathroom."

I then said "Why can't you just say it's 'accessible?' When you say it's 'big' it doesn't mean anything to me. I need to hear the word, 'accessible.'"

With great discomfort she said, "The bathroom is accessible," lowering her voice like she'd said something dirty, continuing with, "for ..." here she pointed at my wheelchair looking embarrassed.

This woman works in the hospitality industry, surely to heavens she can say the word WHEELCHAIR!

I was feeling extraordinarily patient and the woman hadn't been overtly hostile in any way, just extremely embarrassed about accessibility and wheelchairs. Like she didn't want to offend me by noticing I had a disability and needed to poo in an accessible loo. I explained to her that the word 'accessible' was one that gave me COMFORT AND REASSURANCE and that my wheelchair was just my wheelchair, it's not a source of shame.

She smiled at me as if she thought I was brave.

Sometimes, really, sometimes, you can't win.    


Anonymous said...

My goodness - you certainly were patient. Funny what hangs people up. Language barrier of a different kind.

Anonymous said...

Once I was talking to someone when the battery in my hearing aid died. I politely explained that I needed to pause for just a moment to change the battery in my hearing aid, and I retrieved my battery pack so I could do this. And he asked if he should leave the room, apparently thinking he should give me privacy or something. ?!??!

I don't remember now exactly what I said, though I was too bewildered to formulate anything intelligent. I think I just explained politely that it wasn't any more private than changing a watch battery, though it is easier and faster with a hearing aid. And he did assimilate this information and was okay after that.

Sometimes people do have really odd ideas about what they think should be treated as "private" And even odder ideas about what should be considered "shameful"

Andrea S.

cheeselady said...

Reading this, I thought it was going to be weight issue for the woman!

Shan said...

"Smiled like you were brave". That is so cute! Her mother must have taught her that you NEVER refer to a person's disability in ANY way!

Rachel said...

Since you are a large man, maybe she was trying desperately to just see the person ("big"), not the disability ("accessible"). It gets weird when those two things get split from one another, doesn't it?

william Peace said...

I have had similarly inane "discussions" with a host of hotel and airline employees. Amazing how little has been learned in the 22 years since the ADA was passed into law.

Anonymous said...

William Peace

I do know what you mean (being from the US myself), but wanted to point out that Dave is a man from Canada who is currently traveling in the UK. So this is not a US context.

Kim@stuffcould.... said...

I need those grab bars desperately...and have no problem with the 'wheelchair' word

Frances said...

You could definitely enjoy a nice warm bath with a massaging effect if you install one of those jetted bathtubs available in stores out there.

bathroom uk said...

I like big bathrooms, I personally think bathroom should be very big. I like bit creativity in them as well.