Tourists Behaving Badly Continued

Our agenda for Saturday was Empire State Building, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, lunch, Harry Potter Exhibit, and then Catch Me if You Can. Here’s what happened in between…

Case 2: Taxi’s!

My husband and one of my close friends are extroverts. They have a gift for speaking combined with a joyous energy that immediately puts people at ease. I, on the other hand, am very much an introvert. I am comfortable getting to know people from the safety of my computer. “Email me,” is my phrase of choice. Even the phone makes me cringe. So, hailing a taxi is way outside my comfort zone.

In NYC they have SUV taxi’s that have a handicap sticker on the back. Well, I think it’s just for show because taxi drivers took one look at the wheelchair and came up with varied excuses of why they couldn’t transport us.

I can have the wheelchair apart and stored in minutes and Elle is an expert at transferring but my lack of social skills and my pain of knowing we were being passed by because of the wheelchair stopped me from being able to educate the drivers and show them it’s really easy to transport someone who is paraplegic and can transfer.
I chose to walk everywhere, hiding from Elle the fact that we couldn’t get a taxi because of the wheelchair.

Walking to the Empire State Building from the theatre district is one thing, wheeling it is another. The sidewalks and roads are bumpy and there are a lot of people to watch out for. Still, Elle had no fear and did wheelies over every obstacle in her path – only falling once.

After our tour of the Empire State Building I told Elle we would take a taxi to the theatre where our show began in less than an hour. I could feel my stress starting to build. When we exited the Empire State building there was a cab parked along the curb with a driver waiting. He had the handicap sticker on his van. I had a moment of hope. I waved, he opened his window and preceded to give me an excuse of why he couldn’t take us. That’s when the lid popped off of my little compartment and I felt extreme pain. I knew I needed to advocate for my daughter and tell him how easy it was to transport us but I couldn’t. The sadness that was within me overcame me and I could do nothing but wave him off. I turned to Elle and said, “let’s just walk.”

Elle was tired and afraid we wouldn’t get to the theatre in time. She wanted to try to get another cab. That’s when it happened. That’s when I made my doozie of a mistake and shattered her safe world. I told her the taxi’s wouldn’t take us because of the wheelchair. I told my own daughter it was her fault we weren’t getting a ride. Immediately guilt consumed me. I tried to explain to her that while I do advocate for her as often as I can, this was a situation that hurt me too deep. People were excluding my child from a right she deserved! I was afraid my emotions would get the best of me. I didn’t have confidence in my ability to speak with the taxi driver in a calm way and I was fearful of trying again. I made a mistake. A big one! I should have faced my fear for my daughter. It was a long quiet trip back to the theatre. Elle was hurt… deeply. This is what happened next.

Case 3:

We reached the theatre with a few minutes to spare before the afternoon show. They had one accessible bathroom and the rest were down two flights of stairs. I handed Elle her ticket before she went into the restroom and then headed downstairs.

When I returned to the lobby I saw Elle from behind, the theatre manager standing beside her and a woman bent over talking to her. I knew something was wrong. I thought it was from our taxi incident. I touched her back and when she turned around and saw me she burst into tears. What could have happened? I was only gone for ten minutes. I looked at the woman and saw she had tears in her eyes but she said nothing. I turned to the manager who said, “let me take you to your seats.” I was confused.

We had excellent seats and Elle transferred into a movable chair. The tears started flowing as she explained what happened. Apparently after she got into the bathroom an elderly man started banging on the door and yelling. It frightened her. A crowd gathered and tried to explain to him that a young lady in a wheelchair had just gone in and he’d have to wait. He continued to yell and bang and insist that Elle was staying in the bathroom just to spite him.

Elle came out and the man shook his head at her. Afterwards his wife apologized. It was all too much for a seventeen year old to handle.
The theatre manager was very kind. He came to our seats to check on Elle and gave her a souvenir mug. It was obvious he was genuinely concerned. When he saw Elle’s tears had not stopped he put his hand on her shoulder. Then he said “Um… you do know this play is about the Iraq war… right?” I knew but tried (emphasis on tried) to be funny. ” What? We just came to see Robin Williams.”

Elle was sad, embarrassed, angry at the scene that had just taken place. Angry at the old man. Angry at me for not getting us a taxi and bringing to her attention that it was because of the wheelchair. I was angry at me for what I had said. It was too much wheelchair drama for one day and both of us were emotionally exhausted. I realized for the first time that the world I was sending my daughter out into was really very different from our world in Cape Coral. And now my daughter was no longer the cute little girl in the wheelchair, she was the beautiful young woman in the wheelchair. There is a difference in how people react to the two.

I pulled out the peanut M&M’s and began my spiel on human behavior and reasons of why this man may have been yelling. Beginning stages of Alzheimer’s or frustration because he was worried he would have an accident. I told her his yelling was all about him and what he was going through – not her. The last thing I want is for Elle to carry anger inside her for everyone that makes an insensitive remark, gives her a dirty look, or is afraid to pick her up in taxi because of the wheelchair. These are things that are a reality in her life and she must find a way to deal with them that doesn’t turn her into a bitter, defeated, individual. Seeing things from someone’s else’s perspective and forgiving or letting go is freeing and essential in order for her to be at peace and live her life to the fullest.

The play was intense. Robin Williams, Glenn Davis, Brad Fleischer and Arian Moayed were brilliant. Elle and I waited a few minutes afterwards to see Robin Williams. I knew he was friends with Christopher Reeve and he supports the Reeve Foundation which has been very good to us. I wanted to meet him and thank him. After everything that happened and seeing the play, I wasn’t sure if my words would come out right. The introvert in me took over. We left for a late lunch.

What happened at lunch and what Elle has to do to get a taxi (She’s still in NYC) that’s tomorrow’s blog.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. GG
    Jul 14, 2011 @ 10:13:38

    I’m a wheelchair user and live in NYC and have never been denied a ride in a taxi. Next time write down the medallion numbers and report it to the taxi and limousine commission. What they did is illegal and can and should be punished. I’m sorry you encountered these problems here…I hope next time is better.


    • kdrausin
      Jul 15, 2011 @ 16:14:15

      I’m glad you’ve never been denied a ride. I ended up asking our hotel for help and the guys who worked there were able to get us a cab. Maybe it was a tourist issue? All in all we loved the city and will return soon.


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Reviews of Children's Board Books, Picture Books, Activity Books, and Graphic Novels

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