This world. This place. This life.

299 Seats


My sweetheart needs a vacation.

Six days a week she’s at the hangar, climbing in and out of airplanes, shaping sheet metal, shooting rivets, inspecting engines.

It’s a physically demanding job, and she gives 300 percent of herself to it.

Aircraft maintenance is a male-dominated profession, and the women in the field have to work harder to prove themselves.

But that’s not her only challenge

She also uses a wheelchair, and every day has to prove wrong the “can’t do” assumptions of other people.  Her boss’s friends ask him how much he’s being paid (by the state) to employ her.  When she was looking for work a few years ago, one potential employer actually told her she’d made a “poor career choice.”

She needs a vacation, because she has to work twice as hard at everything she does, morning to night, day after day, year after year.

She needs a vacation, and not just from her job.  She needs a vacation from 30 years of paraplegia.  Thirty years of physically demanding daily living.  Thirty years of social stigma, seemingly well-meaning and otherwise.

If only there were some way for her to take a vacation from her wheelchair, a loophole in her situation that would give her a temporary out.  But there’s no such loophole.

At least not for her.

There are, however, plenty of loopholes in the Americans with Disabilities Act.

That’s why, in a town with a top notch adaptive skiing program, most of the businesses are not accessible.  Her favorite restaurant has a ramp, but it’s so steep that it’s almost impossible for her to use, and they close down the ramp completely in the winter when it’s slick.

She has to work twice as hard as the rest of us, and we’re looking for loopholes, looking for ways we can do the least amount of work, spend the least amount of money.

This past week, she’s been particularly exhausted.  She doesn’t complain, so when she does, I know she’s at the end of her rope.

That’s why, when I heard this story on NPR, I was so angry.  Tucked away in an interview about how the Hollywood economy works, was this lovely nugget of information:  most theaters have 299 seats, because having 300 would trigger an ADA requirement that every row be accessible.

Do you know how many times we watch movies in the last row of the theater, because that’s the only accessible seating?

So, at the end of a long, hard week, when she just wants to see a movie to relax, she’s stuck in a crappy seat at the back of the theater—-because the theater builders and owners want to take the easy way out.

That’s just lovely.

And another reason to keep on enjoying our Netflix, with front row seats at home on the couch.

2 thoughts on “299 Seats

  1. Very touching and very eye-opening.

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