Thursday, October 29, 2009

Walk in someone else's shoes

After having knee surgery on Friday, I was unsure whether or not I would be able to make it to the Steve Martin concert at the Meyerson on Tuesday night. As the day grew closer, I began to regret not purchasing tickets. I grew up on bluegrass and really wanted to be a part of the CDM event.

As luck would have it, a friend came by my house Tuesday afternoon and said he had three extra tickets. Figuring that was a sign, I called a couple of friends and decided to venture out. Another friend had assured me the Meyerson had wheelchairs available and encouraged me to use that option (especially since I had not gotten approval from my doctor to be out and about just yet.)

We arrived, explained the situation to the lady taking tickets, and requested a wheelchair. She was very kind, immediately requesting a wheelchair from the man sitting behind her, who was obviously waiting for just such a request. He, too, was great. He quickly wheeled a chair over to us and offered to keep my crutches, saving us inexperienced people the trouble of maneuvering with two bulky items at the same time.

With Tameshia pushing from behind, we followed the lady’s instructions to go up the elevator to our designated seating area, where we were assured there was wheelchair seating. As the elevator opened, another lady in a wheelchair came out. We exchanged greetings and she told us she’d see us soon. We weren’t sure what to make of that, but proceeded into the elevator anyway. The nice gentleman (another Meyerson employee) helped us not get trampled as the elevator loaded and proceeded to take us to the wheelchair level.

As we left the elevator, we were all a little confused as to where we were supposed to be going. Sheri (the other person in our party) ventured off to find an usher. (Why is it that ushers are only available when you *don’t* need help?!) Sheri emerged from inside the seating area, an usher trailing her with a walkie talkie.

As the usher was calling around asking people where wheelchair patrons should be seated, a friend of mine walked by, noticed my dilemma, and came to commiserate with our frustration. “We had the same problem!!” she exclaimed, obviously more than a little upset. She went on to tell me that her boyfriend’s father had been sent on the same wild goose chase to find a seat. It was then I recalled the lady in the wheelchair getting off the elevator telling us she'd see us soon. She was obviously trying to tell us she had already experienced the run-around of going up and down the elevator to places that didn't exist.

As the lights flickered to signal the show starting, we hurried to try to get back down the elevator to the place they had re-directed us. With Tameshia’s patience in wheeling me around and Sheri’s persistence in asking everyone where we were supposed to be, we finally reached our destination. We were about to get settled in…only to discover that only one person can sit beside the one in the wheelchair. Sheri, ever so graciously said she would return to our original seats in the GT section, two levels up, by herself.

Though the show was wonderful, I sat through the first 30 minutes or so of it frustrated by what had just happened. I had coerced my friend, Sheri, to come to a bluegrass concert (not necessarily her favorite), only to end up two tiers away from her. I was also irritated thinking about what I’m sure wheelchair patrons experience on a regular basis. But more than anything, I was irritated that someone in a wheelchair would have to deal with that kind of run around in a nationally recognized theater like the Meyerson! How can a place that has that many events...and I'm sure at least a few people in wheelchairs every evening...not train their employees to know where people in wheelchairs should sit?? Truly...it's as simple as giving every new employee information on where the wheelchair section is!

I did not intend for my last minute decision to attend the concert to be a social experiment. I wasn't trying to walk in someone else's shoes. But, quite honestly, I’m glad it ended up that way. I know my situation wasn't extraordinary or different from others'. And I know it could easily be fixed if we started thinking of others who may have different situations from our own.

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