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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