Just when you think you have heard or experienced everything regarding a certain situation, life surprises you.
I am a great fan of films, and going to the movies to see a good is at the top of my list of my favorite things to do. When I lived in LA, people would fit a film in during their lunch hour, and going to a movie three or four times a week was the norm. I was in heaven.
Last weekend, I went to see “American Hustle.” It was getting fantastic reviews and already had a lot of Oscar buzz attached to it. While Mike went to get snacks, I sat and watched the preview trailers begin.
As I adjusted my wheelchair to get comfortable before the film started, the man sitting in front of me leaned back and barked, “Are you going to be doing that all night?!” I asked him what he meant because I honestly had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. “Is that thing going to be making noise the entire movie?” he asked, with a nasty tone.
I explained the noise was my wheelchair and I couldn’t help it. I was actually shocked he could hear the noise my chair made as I adjusted it over the volume of the movie previews. At most it was a few clicks and the slightest hum that lasted a total of five or six seconds.
I told him I was moving my chair to simply get comfortable. “But am I going to have to hear that throughout the entire movie?!” Mr. Nasty asked. For a split second, I considered apologizing and saying I would try not to move at all while the movie was playing. But then I came to my senses.
“I’ll have to do it occasionally. If it’s going to bother you, go sit somewhere else, “I said. Reasonably speaking, what human being can sit exactly in the same position for three hours and stay comfortable? Not me. I was excited to watch this film and I was going to enjoy myself.
Right before our exchange began, Mike had come back. He was seated to my right, next to the wall. The gentleman with the questions was sitting directly in front of me, and his wife was sitting to his right. The door to the theater was directly to my left. I had already decided if the man chose to stand up and continue his ridiculousness, I would simply leave the theater. I knew Mike would be right behind me without a word. I would get the manager to address this jerk…I was not going to miss the film or get into a ridiculous argument with Mr. Nasty.
Luckily, Mr. Nasty decided to stay in his seat and the exchange between us ended there. The film was great and I watched it comfortably, as I adjusted my chair when I needed to. The man in front of me either didn’t hear the noise my chair made or figured it wasn’t worth to mention it. His wife sat as still as a statue for the entire film and neither of them looked our way as they left.
In twenty years of using a wheelchair, this encounter was the first of its kind for me. I have been hit in my wheelchair while crossing a boulevard by a jerk driver in a hurry to make a left-hand turn with his car, even though I had the right-of-way. I have had everything from clothing to cash to credit cards to my vehicle stolen from me by personal care aides who worked for me.
I have gone to the movies many times and had to ask the able-bodied person sitting in the companion seat in the disabled section of the theater to please move and their nose gotten extremely bent out of joint. But complaining about the noise my wheelchair makes as I move it was a first. Has our society gotten so wrapped up with ourselves we have become this intolerant? I feel I need to wear a sign saying, “A little consideration please.”
Before I was injured, I was at the movie theater and a disabled girl was sitting behind me with a few of her friends. Her disability must have been quite severe because she had a large power wheelchair and used a ventilator. Throughout the film, I could hear the whoosh as the ventilator breathed in and out for her, and every ten or fifteen minutes you heard a small series of beeps.
My friends and I did not say a word. Nor did we have any desire to. Nor did we sit in our seats, wishing we were sitting somewhere else. It was a little bit of noise coming from a human being that I am sure would rather be in different circumstances. If we thought anything, it was bravo to her for going out with her girlfriends to enjoy a good film, just like any body else… The key word being “body”… Able body, disabled body, ANY BODY.
I pray with my whole heart the lack of intolerance I experienced from the man in the theater is not where society is headed. I am very aware there are and probably always will be a percentage of the population living in this frame of mind. I consider myself an optimist, yet it seems to me I am experiencing more and more of these types of encounters then I used to.
I hope I am wrong. But if I’m not, I hope there is a shift in society that embraces patience and understanding towards people who may be different then our majority. Every BODY deserves to be accommodated.