Sunday, July 21, 2013

Inclusion Happens Over Time

Joe goes in first, to put my tea on the table we're going to sit at, then comes to open the door for me. Through the door then a quick and really sharp turn to the right then another to the left. It's a small room with tall tables lining both walls, except where the stage is, and though there is a natural pathway to the bar and the bathrooms at the back, it's often cluttered with chairs. People move the tables and chairs to fit whatever size group happens to gather together - this means that patrons need to pick their way by tables and chairs to get to the bar at the back, or to the washrooms at the end of the hallway past the bar.

The moment I enter through the door, or the moment someone recognizes Joe as the 'advance man,' chairs start to move and the aisle way is magically cleared. I get to my table with ease, I get to the bar with ease, I get to the accessible bathroom at the end of the hall with ease. Sometimes people need to scoot this way, or maybe that way, and some need to stand to this side, or maybe to that, but whatever, I make it to where I'm going, no muss, no fuss, no questions asked. It's nice.

It wasn't always this way. When I first went there, having heard there was a gay bar that was accessible, people didn't quite know what to do when I entered. Everyone was nice and all but there was a bit of chaos created as people figured out how I could get from where I was to where I was going. The first few times I felt embarrassed by all the manoeuvring that had to happen for me to get to a table and, god forbid, pee.

But because people were as welcoming as it is possible for strangers to be, we kept going. Now we pop in a little more frequently, because, of course, we've all learned to manage the space. Even those who have never seen me before do it naturally because they are prompted by seeing how the regulars make tiny adjustments. It's easy. Really easy.

It actually surprises me, now that we've all learned how to do it, how easy it is to do. It doesn't require more than a smidgen of adjustment. This chair turns that way, that table slide this way, I park a little off centre to make sure that people can pass me easily on their own journeys to the bar and bathroom. It's easy. Very easy.

We stopped by there last night on our way home from the movies. It was a little later than normal, there were more people there than typically, but we sailed in, found a spot, and got a beer. The owner knows I don't drink, he's totally fine with me bringing a tea in from across the street, so all is good. Joe hops up on a stool, I sip on my tea and we chat. With each other or with others in the bar. It's just a nice neighbourhood pub.

I'm not used to having people willingly and easily share space. I'm not used to being just another guy at the bar. My size, my chair, my tea, was noticed a few times and then, well, became uninteresting.

It's nice being a local at your local.

For me I'd say this is a case where familiarity breeds content.


theknapper said...


Belinda said...

Ha ha, so clever, that punchline! :)And very apt.

clairesmum said...

what a contrast to the experiences with the purposefully clueless waitstaff and the hostile woman who helped herself to the unoccupied wheelchair! i better understand how inclusion, when it is easily done, is what those of us who easily pass for 'normal' have most of the time. For you, and anyone with a visible disability or difference, the norm is the anxiety/distress/desire to disappear that you have expressed so clearly. I am so glad that you have some spaces where you can expect and easily receive what you need, so that you are just another guy at the pub.

Karen said...

I love that line "familiarity breeds content". Heard you on CBC radio this morning. Nice to hear your voice after reading your blog for so long.