Thursday, July 18, 2013

Space, Could I Have Some Please?

We went out for dinner. I scooted on ahead, carrying Ruby after a complicated negotiation had resulted in Ruby being carried to the restaurant and Sadie being carried back, to get a table. I arrived and two young men were acting as 'hosts'. They asked what kind of table I wanted, I said, "I don't care what part of the restaurant we are in, or if we have a view or not, I only care that I'm placed in such a manner where my wheelchair and I are comfortably out of the way." They nodded.

(You know where this is going already, don't you?)

The other's arrive. We are then taken to a table that's not a table, it's a booth. Everyone would sit in the booth and I would pull into to the table along it's edge. I immediately didn't like it. It was at the end of a row of booths and I would be clearly sticking out. I already, just by being, draw enough attention to myself, I don't need more. I said I didn't like it. So I was told we could wait at this table and then when they cleared another set of tables we could move. Would I like that, I was asked.

So now, here's the thing, great they were offering me a solution, not so great that they put me in a situation of having to move 5 people, including two kids, plus all the stuff we had with us. I'd made it clear when I came in what I wanted. I don't want to be a bother, I say, 'I don't like it, it's not what I asked for, but, no, we'll stay.' That settled that.

Five minutes later I'm steaming. It turns out that I'm not only sticking out, I'm in a high traffic area for the wait staff. They rush by me. One of the two men I spoke to on coming in, you know when I said I wanted to be comfortably out of the way, stumbles over the back wheels of my chair ... twice. Every time this happens I'm jolted in my chair, I can now picture someone going ass over tea kettles with a tray of food. Thing is it will be deemed my fault for being where I didn't want to be and asked not to be.








So, after the second time he trips, I tell them I'm not happy being tripped over, I'm not happy in a high traffic area, I want to move. They set up a table, wipe it so sloppily that it's drenched with pools of water, and we move, trying to mop up the table with our napkins. No, we didn't leave in a huff, no, we put up with it ... the girls like the food there and I hadn't checked out to see if other, nearby, restaurants were accessible.

After we dry the table and get settled, we end up having a nice time together. I again, pack my annoyance in a box, set it aside, and enjoy the food and the chatter. Sadie does something funny that sets Ruby off on a riff that she found so funny that she could barely speak for laughing. It was awesome to watch the two kids play off each other that way and for all of us to be included in the hilarity. It turned into a nice evening.

But it took work.

And every time I have to do it, it seems a bit harder.


Anonymous said...

What is wrong with people??? Not only is it demeaning and not what you asked for, it is not even efficient for their business. How I hate, and yes I use the word hate, being jostled from behind like that. It is so annoying. I just had it happen the other day in a hotel. Put myself in a place, out of the way, to play a game with some friends in an unused space (breakfast room). It was after 8pm and a group decided to sit outside beyond us in a wee courtyard. Nice. EXCEPT one very young girl, about 16, decides her way in and out, in and out, in and out is directly behind me. She was young, fit, able (part of a softball team staying there). There were at least 3 other ways to her destination - but mine was probably the shortest by about 5 feet. So - by she would go. The first 3 times I ignored it. Marked it up to youth and the excitement of the evening. By the fourth I made a comment to my friends loudly, "I didn't expect people to walk behind me, there's only a few inches of clearance". The fifth time I said directly to her, "Excuse you for bumping into me." The sixth time I told her to go another way. She gave me the finger. Ahhh, youth, our hope for the future...NOT!

Anonymous said...

Here is a SUGGESTION for business owners (of any business), but I will focus on resturant owners as this is what the discussion is about.

We have accessible doors, accessible parking, accessible bathrooms... the list goes on...
Why not have accessible dining? Several tables that are SPECIFICALLY designed for wheelchair users, individuals who use a walker or a cane, or individuals who are overweight- who don't easily fit into a booth or comfortably fit into some chairs resturants use. An area of the resturant that isn't so loud that it sends individuals with sensory issues into distress. Hmmmmmm.... imagine.

I do have to share this... last weekend, we went to a fun park... I took our 9 yr old daughter to the washroom. As we were walking UP THE STEPS (there was no ramp in sight), I noticed an "Accessible Bathroom sign on the door" Seriously... how in the hell is that bathroom accessible if an individual is unable to walk up the six steps to get to it???

Anonymous said...

'every time I have to do it, it seems a bit harder'
This feels so true to me, dealing with racism sexism homophobia and ableism against people i love and care about. People seem to think you get BETTER at dealing with this stuff, stronger, more experienced, more skilled. I may have those things but it doesn't get easier. I'm not sure about the 'it gets better' campaign. I feel the cumulative effect of repeated cold ignoring my and others humanity is, cumulative. That maybe each insult accesses a pile of previous hurts that gets bigger and bigger. And harder and harder to hold, to box up, to manage.

theknapper said...

When I woke up this morning I was thinking about your blog and had to post.....have to reframe this situation......this was about them......they don't really were specific......this should not be an unusual situation for them. It resulted in your experience and I get how much energy it takes to remind, ask again but they behaved badly, insensitively.....they are missing sensitivity chips, Thank goodness for magical girls who blew abit of fairy dust on this....
Some of these blogs need to be in some restaurant training manuals.

Anonymous said...

I think the point of the "it gets better campaign" is supposed to be that, as you get older and are granted more autonomy, it becomes a little easier to control who you spend time with and, thus, a little easier to create safe spaces for yourself where you can, for at least some of the time, be around people who support you and accept you for who you are. And having those safe spaces, even though you still need to deal with discrimination in your daily life, does at least give you more opportunity to "recharge your batteries" so you have some chance of recovering from your last daily indignity before you have to be struck with the next one.

But I do absolutely get what you mean about the accumulative effect. I certainly experience this, too, around abelism issues (usually as a deaf person--my other disabilities being considerably less "visible").

One way this has manifested with me is that I grew up with a lot of experiences in childhood and early adulthood where it was not really "okay" to tell people when I wasn't really understanding any of the conversation or to ask for them to accommodate my communication access needs by repeating things sometimes. And it especially wasn't okay in many situations to ask for things like someone to help write down an ongoing summary of what was being said (if no one could sign well enough to interpret) in situations where lipreading just wasn't going to cut it. In past years I have had more opportunity to be in spaces where I *could* ask for those things, but I have had to really fight hard to teach myself to actually speak up and ask. And it is still a struggle sometimes. So I know what Dave means about it getting harder each time.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering if this is part of a general trend of dissatisfaction that I have noticed creeping into our collective consciousness. We are always told that we live in the greatest nation, greatest place on earth, so many advantages/priveledges etc. but this is not true! We make it great but it's not great for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Thanks anon at 12 49, it’s helpful to read this clarification of the it gets better campaign (I’m anon at 09 40).
Being a teenage lesbian was hard, but invisible almost all of the time as I hid away. Being a young lesbian in my 20s in the right place at the right time required some front and attitude, but with it came some cool-ness. Being a middle aged lesbian with frequent interactions with health services, being an out lesbian at work, being a lesbian mum, is exhausting in a way being lesbian wasn’t when I was younger.
Certainly I’m in a much better place than I was as a suicidal teenager with tendancies to self loathing, so it has got better, but it’s also got harder and harder.
Perhaps I could have accessed more safe places by making different choices about work, where to live, whether to have kids. But I’m not ONLY lesbian, there’s all the other aspects of my identity that have taken me to my work place and place where I live and motherhood.

Anonymous said...

Hey Anon 13:24 you realize you are reading a Canadian, not American, blog, right? It's not really part of the Canadian identity to do the whole, 'greatest nation' stuff. Canadians like to feel just quietly superior to our neighbours to the south.

Deb said...

Sorry Dave,

I would have asked for a different table immediately. You were polite and specific about your needs. They were young and inexperienced and needed information on how to meet your needs. Polite, but specific, with a smile.

There was a restaurant in Calgary in the late 90s whose "accessible" bathroom was up a flight of 19 stairs. I think they needed a dictionary.

Andrea S. said...

In the US, the law apparently requires that newly built/reconstructed bathrooms need to be constructed as internally accessible (meaning, at least one stall needs to have a wide door and enough room inside for someone to get a wheelchair in and still close the stall door and then room to transfer and railings for people who need them) ... even if the bathroom currently cannot be reached without the use of steps. Apparently the idea is that, if the place ever does add an elevator, then at least they can expect that they won't have to re-do the whole bathroom to make it truly accessible.

So at least in the US, this is why some bathrooms may be "accessible" and labeled as such even if the route to reach them is not actually accessible.

Don't know what the story is in Canada and elsewhere.

Kristine said...

The restaurant's seating choice just seems bizarre to me. I've never in my life thought to specifically ask for a table where my chair I will be out of the way. But the host always either (1) seats us at a table without saying a word about it, (2) asks "Is a table better than a booth?", or (3) says apologetically, "We only have a booth available. Do you want to sit there, or would you rather wait?" They don't always choose the best table, or pull out the most convenient chair to make space for me at the table. Sometimes I make changes, sometimes I don't. But I thought the table vs. booth issue was just a universally understood concept. Strange.

I have to admit, I've started seeing the occasional table at Starbucks or fast food places that has the disability symbol on it. And I tend to try and sit at any table but that one! I do appreciate the consideration, but I usually can't see what makes that table any different than dozens of others around it, and I just don't like eating with that omnipresent stick figure on my table. Not if something else works just as well. :)

Interesting points, though, about how it doesn't get easier. It gets harder. Every time, it gets harder! I don't think most people "get" that at all. But there are so many incidents, microaggressions, issues, embarrassments, just stuff that picks away and picks away at us. There are beautiful moments that rejuvenate too, of course, and you do a great job including those in your blog. But there never seem to be enough to even out the scales. Cumulatively, my energy, my dignity, my humanity, all seem to slowly shrink, and just make it all harder to deal with...

Rachel in Idaho said...

There's something I noticed in yesterday's and today's post, Dave - I don't know if it's just that there are so many battles that you are getting sick of the whole thing (which I TOTALLY understand) or what, but in both situations you really didn't say what was truly necessary. (As in "That chair is mine. Get out of my chair right now!")

In this case? You should have moved the instant you knew the situation was not workable, and especially as they ASKED if you'd like to move! People move in restaurants to different tables for downright petty reasons. Yours was anything but. It's not like it's an imposition on them.

You can be so good at saying what you need, and are obviously good at teaching other people how to do the same thing, but in this case I think you messed up by staying put as long as you did. I can kind of see why, making the best of a bad situation and all that, but as you ended up moving anyway, I don't see why you waited so long to do so.