Sunday KidThree and I went to see "The Secret Life of Bees" here in town. We also want to see "W," but will have to go out of town to see that one. We have two theaters here in town, both within a few blocks of us. One of them has the wheelchair seats in the back, which is nice and comfortable for us, but the other has the wheelchair seats up front, which means craning your neck and then mostly seeing up the actors' nostrils. Not fun. "W" is playing at that theater, so we'll head out of town to one where we can see it comfortably.
But this entry is not about "W," or about how good "The Secret Life of Bees" was, it's about wheelchair seating in theaters. Theaters have empty spaces--level and with safety bars--set aside for wheelchair users; there are seats next to those spaces for the companions of the person in the wheelchair. When someone comes in and needs the wheelchair space, guess what? Their companion needs the seat next to it. For us, this is further complicated by the fact that KidThree is legally blind in her right eye--we have to sit in the seats on the right of the theater so her good eye is towards the screen, not towards the wall. When we got to the theater for "The Secret Life of Bees," there was a couple seated in the two seats next to the wheelchair space on the right side of the theater. I tapped the man on the shoulder (as he was next to the wheelchair space) and said, "excuse me, could we please sit here? My daughter is in a wheelchair." He said, "oh sure," turned to say something to his companion, then turned back to me and asked, "did you want us to move?"
"No, I thought I'd sit on your lap."
Of course I didn't say that. I said "yes, please," and the couple got up and moved. The thing is, they appeared disgruntled when they moved, as if they thought we had asked something unreasonable. I guess we had a nerve, wanting to see the same movie they did. When we were all leaving, I saw them pass by us, and again, their body language radiated displeasure.
On a positive note, when we left the theater, a teen on the sidewalk outside saw us coming towards the door and rushed to hold it open for us, smiling as she did. That was nice.
In a related experience, several years ago I was visiting my two sisters in Missouri and we went to see the play "The Lion King" in St. Louis. When we got to our seats (two seats behind a second pair), there was an older man in one of our seats, with his wife next to him. When we approached, he stood up and explained that his wife and he had been waiting to see who had the ticket for that seat. They were out celebrating their anniversary but had been unable to get seats together: they had the one seat next to one of our pairs and another about twenty feet away. They were hoping whoever had the seat next to the wife's wouldn't mind moving so they could sit together for the show. Of course we didn't mind, and I sat a little bit away from my two sisters and niece. It actually added a little to the experience, knowing that we had made that couple so happy by such a little thing. The show was just as wonderful from where I sat, I could see my sisters and watch my niece fall asleep on her mother's shoulder, and I could see the anniversary pair enjoying the show together.
Karma matters, and generosity is a good thing. Spread a little of it around so it will be there when you need it.