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I Know You Didn’t Mean It, Please Be Aware of Your Surroundings and Watch Where You Are Going

bruce and polly gerencser 2023 2

Polly and I, along with Bethany, drove to the Clyde Theater in Fort Wayne last night to hear Collective Soul and Jet Black Roses in concert. Last year, we had tickets to hear Collective Soul (and Switchfoot), but several days before the concert, we were infected with COVID-19.

Prior to the concert, we ate, for the first time, at Wu’s Fine Chinese Cuisine. We arrived at the Clyde 90 minutes before the concert’s 8:00 pm start time. Polly got my wheelchair out of the back of our car, attached the feet, and I hopped on for a ride. The chair is padded with a gel pad in the seat, along with two queen-sized pillows. Any bang or bump leaves me grimacing in pain. Polly does what she can to avoid things and people that will hurt me, but sometimes increased, often excruciating, pain is unavoidable. My arms are so weak I can’t navigate the chair myself, so it is up to whomever is pushing my wheelchair to avoid pain-inducing obstacles.

From the moment I get up to the time I go to bed, I try my damnedest to avoid things that will cause me more pain. But, try as I might, there’s never a day when someone or something doesn’t cause me pain. Last night, after going to bed, I stood up alongside our bed, only to find out my legs were really weak. As I stood, my legs collapsed, sending me careening to the floor. Fortunately, I landed on the edge of the bed. My troublesome left hip screamed in pain, as I uttered a string of curse words. Polly? She slept through the ordeal, for which I am thankful. I fell again later in the night, as I got up to use the bathroom. Same landing spot, same pain, same curse words.

We lined up outside of the Clyde, making our way to the security station. Polly (and Bethany) went through the scanner. I was waved around the scanner so the security employee could pat me down as I sat in my chair. I had some fun with the moment, telling the man that this was the highlight of my day! We both had a laugh, as did other staff members standing nearby. Into the theater we went. I stopped at the bathroom, using my cane to enter and exit the facility. I didn’t pee on myself . . . Yea!

The Clyde Theater does a good job handling ADA-compliant seating. Good seats on the right side of the venue, elevated so you can still see the stage when people stand (and they ALWAYS stand). One staff member, named Emily, typically takes care of us when we arrive. Emily got us seated and then asked if we needed anything else. I said “no.” She would return several times during the night to ask us if we needed anything. Emily always goes beyond what normally would be expected.

The woman who sat directly behind me arrived just as the concert started. In a hurry, she slammed into the back of my wheelchair. I crumpled over towards Polly, trying to get a handle on the awful pain she just caused me. No apology, no nothing. Several more times during the night, she kicked the back of my wheelchair, causing more pain and increased anger. Eventually, I unlocked the wheels on my chair and rolled a foot forward. Polly went out to the concession to buy drinks. When Polly returned, she found out the woman behind us had pushed her chair forward, evidently to gain more legroom.

Sadly, such people are common. They have no awareness of their surroundings or they don’t care about anyone but themselves. As a disabled man, I don’t expect special treatment. All I ask is that people stay out of my way; that they don’t cause me further suffering and pain. I taught my children and preach to my grandchildren, “be aware of your surroundings.” Lift your head, pay attention to who is around you. Years ago, I drilled into my daughter’s head (and Polly’s) to survey parking lots when going to her car. Don’t assume you are safe. Pay attention to people lurking on your periphery. Better safe than sorry.

I live in the flatlands of rural northwest Ohio. The leading cause of automobile fatalities is people running stop signs. I taught my children to always look down the road so they are better positioned to avoid someone running a stop sign because they are texting, drunk, or horsing around with their friends. Now that their children are driving, I see that they are passing on this important lesson to them.

I respect the space of others. I do my best to avoid inconveniencing people. I try to model this behavior to both my children and grandchildren. I wish more people would do the same. Unfortunately, many Americans are self-centered. All they care about is getting theirs, even if it causes the crippled man in the wheelchair excruciating pain.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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      So sorry you had this awful experience, Bruce. People can be very selfish – and rest assured, it is not only the Americans. Many people refuse to accommodate others even if it only costs them minimal effort, even nothing.

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    It doesn’t sound fun, although you guys keep going to things you enjoy. I feel enraged over idiots like the woman behind you.

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    It is good you were able to get out and enjoy a concert! My most recent was Elton John, fortunately I had no problem with self centered people, maybe because I was very viable and sparkly…

    It seems self centered people are everywhere. It seems more prevalent to us than it had been in the past. Sometimes I wonder if I am too considerate and nice.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    Dang !! That woman who sat behind you, crashing into your wheelchair,then kicking it until you had to move forward is one of those entitled ‘ karen’s, and is both a bully and a bigot ! I hope a complaint was lodged against her- she sounds downright mean, not just unaware or thoughtless. I’m sorry you experienced that, Bruce. I was wondering,do you have any leg braces at home that were subscribed for you by your GP ? When I broke my foot years ago, mine refused to do this for me, claiming it was just sprained. Without an x- ray ?? Anyway, I made my own,using plastic rulers and duct tape. And padding the skin underneath to avoid pinching. It worked pretty good ! I keep it in the closet,just in case. And I sure hope you have belled collars for your cats,so you know where they are,and won’t take a header . Especially at 🌃 night !

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    John S.

    I’m sorry you experienced this Bruce. People need to pay more attention, unfortunately basic manners seem to have fallen out of favor. As I have said before, a lot of the issues in our nation could be resolved if everyone resolved to treat others with the highest courtesy, respect and dignity.
    I never gave much thought to handicap parking, etc until I had to spend several months on crutches, unable to put ANY weight on my left leg. This gave me a great appreciation for the ADA and also alot more compassion for those who live with physical pain and limitations.

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    amy b

    Too bad they don’t make shock collars for humans. Don’t you think that might work, as a training tool? Whenever some yutz kicks the back of the chair, press the button on the remote and let the conditioning commence. Unfortunately it wouldn’t work unless it was made mandatory.

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    Maybe you should get a Taser to use on the clueless! Just kidding……

    Sorry you had to deal with that self-centeredness. There are still a lot of places that aren’t great with accessibility. Last year at my daughter’s graduation, we got a wheelchair for my mother-in-law as she doesn’t get around very well (lots of falls in particular). While the campus itself has a lot of accessibility, events were planned far apart without easy access for vehicles, and lots of walking was involved. Pushing around a larger person in a wheelchair in 90+ degree weather to access a stadium and another event occurring on a grassy lawn took a lot of strength for those of us doing the pushing! I am sure riding in the wheelchair was no picnic either with bumpy sidewalks and the lawn.

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    Bruce, I’m sorry about all your pain, though I’m delighted to see you still go out to the ball game or a concert. If I could just provide a small criticism of the incident you mention. At no time did you ask the person behind you not to do this. You can be polite and respectful and still get the point across that what she was doing was causing you pain.
    It reminds me of my mother had an issue with garbage haulers coming at 5:00 a.m. and waking everyone up. It just took one call and it stopped, but it did take a call. The squeaky wheel gets the oil.

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Bruce Gerencser