Tourists Behaving Badly… The End

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Case 4:

We finished lunch and decided to squeeze in the Harry Potter Exhibit before our next show.

On our way out of the restaurant I heard someone calling my name. I couldn’t believe it! It was a friend from Ft. Myers. We stopped, amazed at seeing each other so far from home. Elle had already started to make her way through the crowd of people waiting at the door. Imagine shoulder to shoulder people and having to try to get through in a wheelchair. People have to look down in order to see a wheelchair approaching. A lot of “excuse me’s” have to be said. Imagine going through this every day all day.

I called to Elle to wait for me. Then quickly decided it was better to meet her outside. Upon hearing my voice she stopped midway through the crowd and turned and then turned back around to head out the door. Every day normal behavior – except she’s in a wheelchair in a crowd.

As I caught up to Elle I heard a woman’s voice yelling at her, telling Elle she has to be careful she could hurt someone. Elle ignored her and kept going. I stopped right in front of the woman, hesitated, remembered my manners, and shot daggers at her with my gaze. Luckily, my friend was right behind me and the excitement from meeting up with someone I hadn’t seen in years overpowered my desire to exchange words with the angry woman.

We said good-bye to my friend and ventured across the street to see Harry Potter. Neither of us mentioned the woman in the restaurant. We needed to press on and enjoy and not let a stranger’s ugliness ruin what was left of our day.

A little magic was all we needed. The Harry Potter Exhibit exceeded our expectations. We saw a collection of props and costumes from the films and listened to recordings of the artists who made them. I even pulled a Mandrake out of its pot and listened to it squeal. Did you know that every feather on Buckbeak was hand painted? Amazing.

Elle and I had to rush to the theatre to see Catch Me if You Can. There we were swept away into song and dance for two hours. After the show, Elle got her picture with Aaron Tveit and all was well in our world again.

Final Thoughts:

The reason I titled this blog, Tourists Behaving Badly, is because with the exception of the taxi drivers I really believe it was tourists and not New Yorkers being rude. People who worked at every restaurant and tourist attraction we went to were exceptionally kind and helpful. In fact when we arrived in line at TKTS someone found us and moved us right to the ticket window. We heard the phrase “wheelchairs first” several times throughout our trip. We laughed as the men on the street, collecting for the homeless, would yell “you go girl!” as Elle wheeled by. I sensed an accessibility awareness that I had not sensed three years ago when I last visited New York City. The reason I have blogged about our difficult day is to raise awareness and to let the other parents of disabled children know I understand what they may be going through.

Elle has been at Columbia University camp for high school students for three weeks. Concerned, I asked her if she’s been able to get cabs. She told me that if she tries to get a taxi while she’s near Columbia she has no problem at all. However, Times Square is still very difficult. Elle told me she figured out a trick to getting a taxi in Times Square. When she and her group of friends are ready to go back to Columbia her friends will hail the taxi and she will pretend she’s not with them. When the taxi stops Elle will quickly wheel over and get in. Only once did a taxi driver say “Is that a wheelchair? No!” Immediately, one of Elle’s new friends starting yelling at him and telling him he couldn’t do that. He drove off.

I cannot protect my daughter from the grimaces or ugly words of others.
I can teach her to use her disability to help educate the public and smooth a path for others.
I can teach her to cherish herself whether she’s standing or sitting.
I can teach her the words of strong women that came before her.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent. Eleanor Roosevelt


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. karen
    Jul 15, 2011 @ 10:48:41

    make allowances for ignorant folk. they are unlikely to have been raised by a caring mother like your daughter has had, to teach them the virtues, manners and respect they so blatantly lack. but the one thing you cannot teach is passion, and your daughter is oozing with a passion for life that includes decency. That supersedes the attitudes dumb tourists and rude taxi drivers alike.


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