Tourists Behaving Badly

This post can be found on my new blog.

This story needs an introduction because it will be posted over three days. When I sat down and wrote about our experiences traveling with a wheelchair in New York City I ended up with four pages of material. Four pages is way too long for a blog. So I’ve broken it down into Cases 1-4. Instead of waiting a week between each post, I will post daily until my story is told.
If you haven’t read my article New York City Amazing, please do. It’s an account of the wonderful time my daughter and I had in New York City. I want to make it clear that overall our trip was amazing. So be sure to read about all of our wonderful experiences first and then come back and read about tourists behaving badly. Even if you don’t have a child with a mobility challenge your eyes may open to some of the daily obstacles those in wheelchairs must face.

This is all from a moms perspective. I can’t comment on my daughter’s feelings. She could probably write several articles about having to deal with a mom who is an introverted advocate. Sometimes they clash. This post is about what I go through watching others react to my daughter and how I deal with it. Deep breath… It’s my closest friends that hear these stories but after reading some posts on the Reeve Foundation site, I felt it was time to fess up.

Somewhere down deep inside me is a little compartment where I have stored all my pain from watching what Elle has had to go through since she was ten years, two months and eleven days old. Most of the time that compartment is sealed and layered on top with strength and a belief that everything will always be okay. But sometimes, especially when I am a bit worn from traveling, something will happen that will blow the lid off that little compartment of mine. At those times I feel intense anger, pain and sorrow braided together shooting through my veins.

Case 1:

Elle and I went to see Mamma Mia. Broadway theatres are not the most accessible. However, they really do try and accommodate those with disabilities and we get discounted tickets simply because there is really no choice of seats. We sit where they can accommodate us.

For Mamma Mia we were put on the end of a row of seats. I was asked to move the wheelchair to a specific spot away from the crowd. Understandable. But now think about it. Elle is in the end seat, not able to move her legs. The wheelchair is not in sight. People need to climb over her to get to their seats. There is less leg room than on an airliner. It’s a tight squeeze. When people see Elle they have no idea she is paralyzed. She appears to be very rude by not standing up and letting others pass. Even after Elle said, “I can’t stand.” One woman gave her a death glare and then finally climbed over her. As a teenager Elle doesn’t want to announce to total strangers -“I’m paralyzed thanks to a car accident seven years ago.” I certainly don’t want to embarrass her by speaking for her when she’s capable of speaking for herself. It’s a difficult situation.

The man who sat next to me actually saw the wheelchair. He saw Elle transfer to her seat. That’s why what he did thoroughly confused me. At intermission, I stood and climbed over Elle. It was my way of showing what needed to be done if anyone wanted to exit the row. Climb over her or go out the other end. I stood in the aisle behind Elle. The man that was next to me stood up. He looked at Elle. She had her legs crossed. He pointed to her top leg bent over a bit and said “Can you move that leg right there?”

I wanted to scream at him! Oh, the things I wanted to say to him. How dare he point at and almost touch her leg. Who does that? The lid was popped off my little compartment so fast I was shaking inside. I kept quiet but felt the tornado of emotion swirl inside me. I watched. Elle took her hands placed them on both sides of her leg and lifted her leg down to the floor. He climbed over. Shooting through my brain were thoughts of wanting to shake this man and tell him to get a clue mixed with thoughts of, he doesn’t understand, there’s no way for him to physically see her injury. He just made a mistake. He’ll learn better if I don’t give him a reason to get defensive. Still, the mom in me wanted to protect my daughter from the pain of his words. The mom in me wanted to tell him he was being an insensitive idiot. He obviously realized his mistake after seeing that Elle couldn’t move her legs without lifting them with her hands. On his way back he climbed over his chair from the row behind us.

At the end of the show he and his wife exited our row from the other end. He had seen the wheelchair when we arrived. Why did it take him humiliating my daughter before he had common courtesy? I can’t answer that other than to say his expectations combined with his selfishness stopped him from seeing that Elle was not trying to inconvenience him. There was nothing she could do.
The truth is, had this been the only uncomfortable incident on our trip, I wouldn’t have written about it. We have dealt with many dirty looks and ignorant remarks over the years. When we returned to our hotel that night I let Elle know some of the words I wanted to say to that man and we both laughed.

Little did we know what was coming on Saturday. Saturday was the day I made my doozie of a mistake with my daughter. Saturday was quite a day! To be continued…


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Troy Ingram
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 17:26:45

    I like your story. My wife was hurt Nov 08 T-6 now wheelchair life. I so understand your box of emotions. When we go out and people stand in front. We call it the sea of ass and deal with it in many different ways not always nice. I told my wife maybe we should carry in her bag Hornet spray, pepper spray, mace spray and a .38 for good measure.
    I have had people even at our local school event want to challenge me over me confronting them on their rudeness.
    Can’t wait to read on. Troy Ingram


    • kdrausin
      Jul 15, 2011 @ 16:33:41

      Troy, your comment made me laugh. Yesterday, while riding in the car with my son, we were discussing my blog entry. My son said “Elle should just carry a gun with rubber bullets and shoot people that get in her way.” I gave him my nervous laugh and secretly started to worry that I’ve let him play too many video games. Then I read what you wrote and relaxed. So thank you!
      Yes, some people don’t react well when they’re asked to step aside. They take offense. We’ve been there too.


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