I'm still angry about yesterday.
It was the biggest game of the year: Vancouver, who lost to Boston in the Stanley Cup (National Hockey League) finals last June, was back in town and looking for redemption. The arena was sold out.
Big games are good times for season ticket holders. We know where we sit, the people who sit around us, the path we take from entering the building to watching the game. We know the ushers and the elevator operators (since I'm still using a wheelchair while my hip heals) and the guy who serves fries at the nearest stand. We were psyched.
The first suggestion of trouble came from the elevator operator, who informed everyone that hers was the only one running. There are only two elevators in the building (who builds a 17,000 seat arena with two passenger elevators?) and one was down. She was taking disabled passengers and people going to the Promenade level, for which there is no other access, and that was it. Everyone else had to find their way via the (extensive) series of escalators. The collective tension and anger hung in the air like smoke.
We escaped the elevator at the fourth floor and went to our section. As I crutched down the row, I heard the people behind our seats say something about a problem. And there it was: disaster. My seat, the end of the row against the wall, was destroyed. Not just broken. Wrecked.
Seats at the Garden are long rows of steel chair frames bolted into the concrete with individual seats for each chair. Once before, I had arrived to find the seat part broken. We called an usher, who called maintenance, who fixed the seat before game time. It rode a little low, but it was safe.
This time, not only had the seat been pulled out and left sitting on the floor, but the steel frame of the chair had been ripped out of the concrete
as if by an angry giant. Inconvenience aside, it was an impressive sight.
My seat -- the seat -- had been getting weaker and more damaged in the couple of years I've known it. It's never been in good shape. Seatmate thinks the bolt holding the frame was probably loose and maybe someone more amused by vandalism than I am gave it a kick from behind. Once it came free of the concrete, the vandal probably figured he'd finish the job. The Garden will have to replace the whole row (about ten seats).
Seatmate went off to lock up the wheelchair and, not realizing the extent of the damage, pick up our usual pregame food. We both separately called ushers, who called maintenance. By the time a maintenance guy showed up, the pregame montage had started. Maintenance took one look at the seat and said he couldn't fix it (duh). We sat in a couple of empty seats in our row (no doubt held by people arriving late) while the game started and the Garden staff tried to figure out where to put us.
Finally, an usher came to get us. I put on my backpack and grabbed my crutches; Seatmate carried my seat cushion (one of the bones broken in surgery is the the "sit bone") and the tray of cooling food. We followed him to the other end of the ice, where he gave us folding chairs at the far end of the handicap seating area, a large flat section for people in wheelchairs.
A side note: whoever designed the wheelchair seating area didn't consider the possibility of the audience in front standing up. When they do, the people in wheelchairs see nothing but bodies standing in front of them. I can stand up, but the people for whom the section was built lose their view of the action as soon as anything exciting happens. Seriously bad design.
Hockey is played in three periods. In the second period, the goaltenders switch sides, but there are still two periods in which the home team's action is concentrated at one end. We chose our season seats at the end where the home team shoots twice, and we paid extra for it. Now we were at the other end of the ice, with the action close to us for only one period. Not happy.
I decided to make the best of it by doing what I always do: shooting the game. Technically, my long lens is against Garden rules, but the rule is never enforced. Of course, I'm not usually exposed on an open platform where I'm easily visible to any bored security guard. Halfway through the second period, sure enough, security tapped me on the shoulder and told me I had to put away my "professional" lens or he would kick me out. I argued briefly and pointlessly, then shut up and put down my camera.
Then I cried. It was the biggest game of the year, we had been looking forward to it for months, I'd been sick all week and was still sniffly and tired, and the whole day was just fucked. I put my face in my hands and sobbed.
Eventually I got myself under control, wiped the migrating eyeliner from beneath my eyes, and took my long lens off my camera. As I sat there feeling sad, the Bruins mascot Blades
sat down on the stairs right next to me. Without a word, I leaned my head over onto his furry shoulder. He tipped his head down gently to touch mine. After a moment, I straightened up and smiled, the first real smile I'd had all day, and Blades got up and headed down the stairs to make someone else happy.
After the game, we went to the Guest Relations office to file a complaint. The woman working there had heard the story from half a dozen ushers by then (we're always there; the ushers know us) and was very apologetic. I told her that I didn't expect her to have answers, but I had questions: why was it my responsibility to find my broken seat and report it right before the game? why had no one noticed the broken seat until I arrived? why was this the second time this had happened to me? how do I know this won't happen again?
So now we wait. Seatmate has sent an email to our ticket rep, letting her know about the problem and asking her to make sure we have functioning seats for Tuesday night's game. If they have to reseat us again, I'm not going to be happy, and it's going to take more than an apology to get me to leave the Guest Relations office. As it stands, I think they owe us at least a refund for Saturday, but we'll see.
I've left out a few little details, like the time the flimsy folding chair folded when I sat back down (because everyone in front of me had stood up) and I almost fell backward onto my carefully-broken-and-healing pelvis, and the fact that teams of people clean each section row by row after every event and must have seen the broken seat and ignored it, and how badly I wanted to feed the security guard a straight right to the nose, and how people cursed at the elevator operator (who we love) because she could not take them with all the wheelchairs that don't fit well on escalators, but I guess I can't tell everything.
And on top of everything, the Bruins lost.
Tags: bruins, crutches, disability, dysplasia, hockey, more tags plz, photography, seatmate, sick, td garden, wheelchair, whining