Monday, May 14, 2012

Mother's Day, Disabilities and Bad Restaurants

Americans Stand with Israel
by Bee Sting
Monday, May 14, 2012
Mother's Day
What a weekend!  First, I hope every Mother enjoyed a lovely weekend with their families.

Have you ever noticed that as time and the years slip away, holidays have a certain way of marking milestones in our lives?  When my mother was alive, all of us spent weeks preparing for that "special" day for Mama.  We were a fairly large family and while we each tried to make every day "Mother's Day", the actual holiday for mother's was a day when each of us wanted to make that day unique for Mama.  It was one day when all of us tried to put our love into action - a day when reservations were made far in advance to one of her favorite restaurants and because she loved flowers, her living room turned into a room filled with the fragrance of beautiful flowers.  What a display of colors!  Nothing we did for Mama could make up for all she did for each of us throughout her life, but it was one day in the year when we tried to demonstrate our appreciation for the woman who always had love unspeakable for all her children.  Her name was Corinne, but we called her "Mama".
Years have passed and Mama is no longer with us.  Now, my own children carry on the traditions of Mother's Day and I have to say that this year was one of the most memorable of days for me. (Which explains why I haven't posted all weekend!).  After almost six days of rain, the weekend began with the sun shinning brightly and the weather was warmer, so we were able to have a great cookout in the yard.  My granddaughter planted a peach tree in the yard (yes, I love trees!)' my daughter-in-law surprised me by doing a complete make-over of my bedroom and when we sat in the yard, watching a humming bird flutter around one of my hanging plants, I thought about the blessings of motherhood and I am truly blessed. (photo: humming bird in center of my hanging plant).

I use to work for an organization that advocated for persons with disabilities.  With the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, accommodations for people with disabilities has now allowed folks using wheel chairs (for the most part) to enter places of business, stores and restaurants that in years past were blocked by stairs and no ramps due to older buildings built long before anyone realized the importance of accessibility for everyone to social, political and economic life.
Now, one would think that accessibility would include not only an entrance way into a building, but also the service once inside and that brings me to yesterday afternoon's visit to a local restaurant in Concord, New Hampshire - a restaurant we won't be visiting again due to the inconsiderate service and lack of common sense of its employees.

Yesterday was Mother's Day and as the children had celebrated with me on Saturday, I had made plans to meet family members at one of the few restaurants located in Concord that is noted for its fine dining.  Its appetizers, salads, soups, and main course, whether you prefer prime rib, roasted duck, or a lobster stew are all mouth-watering dishes, right down to the baked apples for dessert is served in a rustic building atmosphere.
However, when making reservations, the clerk did not inform me that because it was "Mother's Day", they would not be "serving" as usual, the dinner would be buffet.  I can hear you asking, "What's wrong with that if the food is delicious?"
Did I mentioned that the restaurant is "rustic" in appearance, which includes a flight of stairs that do not lead to heaven?  Of course, there is an elevator available to the second landing, but on Mother's Day, inside an over-booked restaurant, the elevator was extremely busy and difficult to maneuver, as the width was so narrow, it could barely accommodate the use of a wheel chair.
The dining area had been filled to capacity, with additional folding tables and narrow aisles in order to seat everyone, and that, too, made it difficult for anyone with a disability to approach their table.  Once seated, the waiter came to our table and announced that the dinner was "buffet" and we could go to the buffet table any time it suited us.  We asked where the table was located and were told "DOWN STAIRS".
My dinner party consisted of me, my son, my brother and his wife.  Of the four of us, two are disabled and it took us 15 minutes to find our way to the table.  Now, seated (with relief), we're told "the food is downstairs".  I looked over at the stairway and thought, "this is not going to happen!"  The long stairway and slow elevator separated us from the food, which now I no longer considered "fine" dining! Fine dining had just turned into a nightmare!
However, being adults, we did not have a temper tantrum.  My son and brother's wife quickly said, "No problem!  We'll go get the food" and off they went, down the stairs.  When they returned, they were carrying two hot dishes, as there were no trays available to carry the dishes and so, down the stairs they went again, to carry up their own plates.  Meanwhile, the waiter who had introduced himself to us when we were first seated, did not appear again until after an hour - our water glasses were empty throughout the dinner.  It took him 20 minutes to return with a pitcher of water.
Why should I complain?  After all, wasn't I in a nice restaurant, dining with family?  Count my blessings, someone will tell me and of course, when I approach this experience with that thought in mind, I would have to agree.
However, this is my point - one that restaurants should consider when claiming great "service" along with their "fine" dining.  Persons with disabilities do not do stairs!  And those without disabilities did not come to dine and do a marathon up and down stairs to carry hot dishes without trays back up those stairs.  Reservations would not have been made if the Reservation Clerk had informed me that it was "buffet" style for Mother's Day.

We are told that everyone is only one accident or illness away from becoming disabled.  Accessibility does not end when a disabled person enters a building, or in this case, a restaurant.  This restaurant wins prizes for its fine food, but I give it a low mark for its expectations of its patrons when it comes to "service".  Those stairs were not the "stairway to heaven"!