Image description: a line drawing of a theatre aisle with one space marked in red with the wheelchair symbol. the word choice is written in capital letters followed by a question mark underneath.
We went to the theatre yesterday to see Disgraced which was playing just down the road from us. To get to the 2:00 pm show we left the apartment at 1:45 pm and were there in plenty of time. Really no excuse not to attend. We’ve been to this theatre many times before and know that they have exactly two wheelchair seating spaces. One on either side, right at the very back. Last row, aisle seat, that’s it. Forgive me for saying what I know I should be saying, it’s an old theatre and I’m grateful that there is any seating at all. Since it’s a small house, the very back row isn’t that bad a seat even though it’s the worst in that particular theatre.
It took a bit to fight through the crowds to get past the ticket takers. It’s jam packed with people lining up to pick up or purchase tickets blocking those who already have tickets. But we move slowly and steadily and suddenly, we’re through the gate. We make our way into the theatre itself and an usher is standing handing out programs and telling people where their seats are located.
I approach him, he’s very young and very friendly, and he takes my ticket saying, “Let’s see where you are sitting.” I start laughing. He looks at me quizzically. I say ‘Did you really say that?” He’s still confused. I explained. “You may be trying to create the illusion of choice and options but you know, don’t you, that there’s only one spot here in the theatre for me to be.” He said, “Well, yes, but it would be nice if there were choices, wouldn’t it?” I conceded, it would.
It would be nice if there were choices, wouldn’t it?
The play was gripping and from the moment it started I was taken in by acting and the story and the dialogue and I reveled in watching what a daring script come to life. Joe and I spent a lot of time talking about the play, which we had managed to see only because they extended it’s run by a week. But once I got home it was the question of the usher that stayed with me.
Particularly because I understand what it is to have limited choices and to become, if not used to that fact, less outraged by it. I worry about the fact that I can habituate to something that once caused me such stunning anger. I worry that that I’ve gotten worn down and now when I say, ‘you’ve got to choose your battles’ I realize I’m not choosing certain battles anymore, I’ve given up on winning.
But moreso, for those of us who are sometimes in charge of choices, parents, direct support staff, agency decision makers, do we always think about the importance of choices, real choices in the lives of the people we serve. Do we understand, like I have come to, the importance to having choices as a quality of life issue? Do our own vast number of choices become invisible while the meager choices of the people we serve, particularly the inconvenient ones loom large in our minds. Do we see ‘choice’ as something we give rather than something they have a right to expect? Do we see ‘choice’ as something that we need to control rather than something that we need to make happen? So we see ‘choice’ as a challenge to our right to rule?
It would be nice there there were choices, wouldn’t it?
Sometimes the dialogue we need to listen to, doesn’t come from the stage.