Nationals Park Update

So.  This was exciting, huh?  So many new visitors here to read my story since so many friends and even people I’ve never met shared the link and retweeted and emailed, etc.  I want to say a big huge thanks to everyone who did so, even if you didn’t tell me about it.  It really means a lot to me.

Because I got so much traffic, I wanted to be sure to post the update and give credit to the Nationals for reaching out to me and getting this resolved in under 24 hours.  In a nutshell, this appears to be a huge, and very unfortunate, misunderstanding.

I spoke to the vice president of Guest Services this afternoon, after the Nationals twitter account DMed me and asked for my contact information.  She was both very apologetic and a little defensive, maybe understandably so.  She said the knocking and pounding and doorknob rattling was not her employees, that it must have been guests trying to get in (“That’s a very popular restroom.”).  She said they got a report that someone was locked inside, and that’s when they sent an employee to unlock it.  I asked her (1) Why anyone thought I was locked inside when I repeatedly stated that the room was occupied, and (2) Why the pounding didn’t stop after I pushed the door shut and locked it again, having clearly demonstrated that I was not locked inside.

She said(1) no one heard anything from inside, and (2) again, it wasn’t her staff, it must have been guests, and short of stationing an employee outside the door, she’s not sure what she could have done to prevent it.

I suggested that, if they couldn’t hear me, even though I was shouting, and if they can’t hear the kids who apparently get locked in there on the regular (which is apparently what they assumed when they got the report), maybe they should consider turning down the volume on the piped in game audio in there.  I couldn’t hear anyone from outside, either, but I have a hearing impairment and assumed that was my problem.  Turns out it’s not.

I do understand where she is coming from, and to the extent that there’s no window in the bathroom door, I have to take her at her word that it wasn’t park employees repeatedly, loudly banging on the door and rattling the doorknob.  I did point out that, interestingly enough, there were no guests standing outside when I opened the door at the end of my ordeal, only five park employees.

Here’s the most important part:

I asked her if it was inappropriate for me to use the Family Restroom for pumping.  She said, “No, not at all, but there are probably better places to do it.”  She said she understood that I didn’t want to go all the way across the park to the Reagan Room, but said if I had asked someone, they would have made other accommodations for me.  She said they regularly take nursing mothers to First Aid or find open offices for them where they’d be more comfortable than in the restroom (and I have actually spoken to someone since that confirmed that this happened to her when the Reagan Room was locked).  That’s great, and exactly what I wanted to hear, but I reminded her that it doesn’t say any of that on the website.  She said they can’t put all the possibilities on the website.  Fair enough, but can’t you say, “Feel free to ask any staff member for alternate accommodations” or something?  I definitely would have, because pumping in a public restroom is not my idea of a good time.

In the end, she apologized that I experienced it the way I did, that is, that I felt harassed and afraid, even if it wasn’t her employees.  I thought that was very classy of her.  She said they strive to be a very family-friendly park and to provide great experiences for all their guests and she was sorry that didn’t happen for me yesterday.  I assured her that I have attended many games there and have always enjoyed myself and that it was because it was so out of character that I felt I needed to make sure they were made aware of it.

She also invited me back, along with my husband and daughter, as her guests for any game we like this season.  I told her I’d be glad to come back, and that we had already planned to take Maggie to her first game next month.  She seemed very exited about that and said to just let her know the date and she’d set us up in the club so we’d be totally comfortable and not have to worry about the weather or anything.  I thought that was very nice and not at all necessary, but obviously, we’re going to take her up on it.

So all’s well that ends well.

 

 

WTAF?

Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.
– Donald Porter

We interrupt our regularly scheduled not blogging to bring you this breaking story:

I had a terrible experience at Nationals Park today. I know this is long, you guys, but please bear with me.

My office went to the game this afternoon. Because I am still nursing Maggie, I need to pump during my workday.  I usually pump three times during my day.  Because of this, I actually left for the game later than my co-workers so that I would only have to pump once at the ballpark. Before I went, I checked the Nationals website and saw that “nursing mothers are invited to use” the Family Restrooms or the Reagan Room. Because there was a Family Restroom located very near my seat in Section 136 that had an electrical outlet, and because time was of the essence – I needed to pump and leave the park promptly to pick up Maggie from daycare – I opted not to go across the park and upstairs to the Reagan Room, which is in Section 201. While I was a bit uncomfortable with the idea of occupying the restroom for at least 20 minutes, since the Nationals “invite” nursing mothers to use them for that purpose, I presume they have anticipated that they will occasionally be occupied for at least that length of time.

At approximately 3:50pm, I entered the Family Restroom located behind section 139 and locked the door. I used the restroom and then started to set up my breast pump. Almost even before I had everything hooked up — approximately 5 minutes after I entered — someone knocked on the door. I stated that the restroom was occupied.

A few moments later, someone tried the door and found it locked. I again repeated that someone was inside. From that point on, the knocking was nearly constant, no matter how many times I said the room was occupied.

The knocking turned to pounding, and the doorknob continued to rattle, and about 15 minutes after I entered, someone used the key to unlock the door from the outside and started to open it. I pushed it shut and locked it again. I said, “I am pumping breast milk for my baby. Please leave me alone.” They did not. They continued to pound on the door and rattle the doorknob.

By that point, I was actually scared. The piped in game audio in the bathroom was very loud, so, because of my hearing impairment, I don’t know what, if anything, the people on the other side of the door were saying to me. But, for my part, I repeatedly stated (yelled, ultimately) that the room was occupied and I identified at least three times what I was doing inside. I repeatedly asked that I be left alone and my requests were ignored. I eventually said, “I will be finished in 5 minutes,” to no avail. A few minutes later, I said, “I’m almost finished, I will be done in 2 minutes. Please leave me alone.” It continued.

When I was finally finished, after approximately 25 minutes in the restroom, I opened the door to find at least 5 employees standing outside staring at me. In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that my reaction to them was one of anger. I yelled that I had been pumping breast milk for my baby, and that I was sure they wouldn’t have preferred that I do so right out on the concourse. I then left, because, as I said, I needed to leave promptly, but I wish I had had the time to get the employees’ names and speak to a supervisor immediately.

I am unbelievably angry about the way I was treated. I repeatedly stated that the room was occupied and what I was doing and asked to be left alone, but the employees continued to act in a harassing manner. The pounding on the door and rattling the doorknob, not to mention the attempted entry, made me fearful.

I tweeted a condensed version of this story to the Nationals this afternoon, but after several hours, have not received any acknowledgement whatsoever. I also sent a message through their website, but I was limited to 3000 characters, so I couldn’t say everything I wanted to. I will follow up with a call tomorrow.

I have asked for an explanation for what happened, an apology, and assurance that they will make clear to their employees that what happened to me is not acceptable. I told them that nursing mothers come in all kinds – some nurse exclusively, some pump exclusively, and some – like me – must do both, and needing to pump shouldn’t interfere with my ability to attend a baseball game. If the Family Restrooms are available for nursing mothers to nurse, there is no reason they shouldn’t also be available for nursing mothers to pump.

We’ll see what happens.

Don’t Laugh at Me

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names
Don’t get your pleasure from my pain
In God’s eyes we’re all the same
Someday we’ll all have perfect wings
Don’t laugh at me
– Mark Wills, Don’t Laugh at Me

Something happened last Friday night, and though I vented about it on Facebook that evening, I still can’t shake it.

There is an elderly man in my neighborhood who has some kind of spine or neck curvature that causes him to walk with his head and shoulders hunched over and facing the ground.  I see him out on walks fairly regularly, and I always worry about him.  He shuffles slowly along and has to turn his whole body to look both ways before crossing the street.

Last Friday evening, David and I were at the gas station where the entrance to our subdivision meets the main road.  I saw the man walking on the sidewalk parallel to the main road.  When he came to the entrance/exit to the gas station, he stopped and turned his whole body both ways to check that there were no cars coming before continuing on his way.

As he made his way slowly, a white van on the main road slowed down, and the woman in the passenger seat stuck her whole body out the window and took a picture of the man with her phone, then the van sped up and drove off.

As I realized what was happening, I felt shock and sadness and, more than anything, anger.  I was sitting in our car and I yelled out, “You fucking bitch!  You goddamned asshole!”  Hot tears filled my eyes and fell down my cheeks.  I’m crying now just thinking about it again.  I was in the car with the windows up and it all happened so fast that she wouldn’t have heard me anyway, but I just wanted to keep screaming and throw things at the van.  I felt so, so helpless.

I don’t think the man saw her or knew what was happening, but that doesn’t make me feel any better.  Like I said, I worry about him when I see him out, because people can be so terrible, but I hoped that he was always ok.  Having seen what that woman did – took a picture of him for no other reason than her own sick amusement, surely to be shared with others and laughed at later – I’m reminded that there are people in the world who don’t seem to understand that every single person is a human being entitled to his or her dignity and to be treated with compassion and respect.  And I’m angry about that.

Buyer’s Remorse

I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.
– from The Poetics of Space, by Gaston Bachelard

I wasn’t really into today’s Writing Group prompt (which is too bad, because I had the perfect opening quote).  I’m kind of having a hard time at the moment and wasn’t going to write at all, but since I committed to a post a day, I’m just going to write anything.

I feel anxious about a lot of things and it’s making me very uncomfortable.  It’s not fair to talk about it all here, but I will talk about one thing.  I’m afraid we made a mistake buying our house.  I think we rushed into it, largely at my insistence, and I think it is not really working out the way I hoped.  There are so many things that I loved when we looked at it, but now that we’ve lived in it for 7 months, it’s clear that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  The people who lived here before made huge changes to the floor plan, and since we never saw the house fully furnished, I can’t visualize how they used the space, which makes it harder for me to see how to best use the space.  There’s SO MUCH SPACE (which is not a humblebrag complaint about how my house is too big; they created a great room/dining room/entry way/built-ins/etc. space that just makes NO sense and seems to leave a ton of wasted space).

The house doesn’t get a ton of natural light, which I didn’t realize – and I’m not sure how I could have known that before we bought it – and it makes me really sad.  In fact, it makes me wonder if the lack of natural light is contributing to how down I feel.  We have lots of windows, but our lot is wooded and we have long eaves, and so we just get indirect light, except in the great room, but you can’t grow plants in there because the direct sunlight falls in the middle of the room.  This really bothers me.

There are, technically, four bedrooms, two upstairs and two downstairs.  The more I think about it, the more I think we should have looked for something with at least three bedrooms on the same floor.  I worry about once we have kids.  You can’t move a little guy downstairs while the baby stays in the room we’ve dubbed the nursery, next to the master.  It’s not safe.  And the plan to move both kids downstairs in the future seems like it’s not really a good idea; the office, which would be the second bedroom downstairs, isn’t really set up to be a bedroom, what with the French doors that lead out under the deck and a fireplace.  And of course, this all so very cart-before-the-horse (which is another post altogether), but that doesn’t seem to matter when my mind starts racing.

I hate the paint color that we paid to have put up in the family room; we made a mistake when we picked the swatch.  We thought it would be super, super pale purple, but it’s actually lavender.  With the ugly sage/teal green carpet that’s down there – and which we’re not in a position to replace for the time being – it looks ridiculous.  I also sometimes think we picked the wrong gray for our bedroom.  David’s against repainting.

We still don’t have furniture or rugs for the great room, so we haven’t been able to have the open house I’ve dreamed about having ever since I imagined having a house.  We had a giant sofa all picked out – we used to go visit it at Z Gallerie – but then David decided he was having second thoughts and wanted to try it out again, but the last time we went, they’d taken it out of the showroom and it won’t ever be back, so now we can’t buy it because it’s too much money to spend on something we’re (he’s) not sure about.  Nothing else we’ve looked at has come close to being as perfect as that couch.

Our commute is at least an hour each way, sometimes longer.  That means I haven’t been able to find time to work out during the week in basically six months, and we rarely eat dinner before eight, which I really, really hate.  I often think we should have found something closer in, even if it meant settling for something smaller.  I worry, especially, about what will happen when we have kids.  When will we have time to see them if we’re spending all our time commuting and it’s basically bedtime by the time we get home?

Everything feels completely unfinished.  I mean, even after seven months, we still don’t have a workable (in my opinion) solution to where the mail goes when we bring it in.  The guest room still has shit everywhere, you can’t turn the stove down low enough, the bushes in front were planted too close together, it’s fucking impossible to keep the hardwood floors clean, and I’m an asshole who can’t do anything except keep a running tally of all the shit that sucks about her house.

I can’t talk to David about this.  He doesn’t worry the way I do, and he doesn’t see any of these things as problems (and I recognize that some of the things I listed are not actual problems, yes).  I also can’t bring myself to tell him outright that I think I regret buying this house.  And there’s nothing I can do except try to accept that it’s basically always going to be a work in progress (and therefore never perfect, which is problematic for me) and try to make the best of it.

Departure

“Try not to associate bodily defect with mental, my good friend, except for a solid reason.”
– from David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens

Disclaimer: This is a real work in progress.  I can’t seem to fix it so it doesn’t come across as a lecture, and that’s not my intent.  Please keep in mind that the “you” here is the general “you,” and is not meant to refer to what you personally might have done or said or thought.  Please also feel free to tell me to get over myself in the comments.

*************************************

I’m bailing on today’s prompt – my very first kiss was entirely forgettable and nothing to write home about (but if you want to know about a first kiss, you can click here – this is one of my favorites, despite the ending).  Instead, I want to touch on something that’s come up in a few comments lately but is by no means a new “problem” for me.

My hearing loss doesn’t make me special, you guys.  Here’s what I mean:

Toward the end of my third year of law school, a classmate I only knew in passing randomly came up to me and told me earnestly that she was “so impressed” that I’d managed to get through three years of law school despite not being able to hear.  This was clearly meant to be taken as a compliment.  And this happens a fair amount; in fact, it happened just yesterday in the comments section.

The other way it comes up is, “That sure must have been hard, but look how strong it made you.”  I call that the Magic Cripple.  This also just happened, on someone else’s site.

Let me be clear: I know there’s no condescension intended in these statements, that the people who say these things mean well.  I get that, and I appreciate it.  But the only thing statements like that do is reinforce the idea that I shouldn’t have been able to come through a thing like losing my hearing overnight, that I shouldn’t have been able to succeed at law school (or anything else) because I can’t hear normally anymore.

Having a disability and being successful are not mutually exclusive, and to imply that they are (even if you don’t realize you’re doing it) is harmful.  It perpetuates the stereotype that people with disabilities are less than and can prevent them from even being offered the opportunity to show what they are capable of.  It happened to me.  When I was finally ready to try to find a new job after losing my hearing (and my old job), I sent out hundreds of resumes (which stated that I needed to be contacted via relay) and called so many places (via relay) and was offered . . . three interviews.  And even each of those three places more or less openly doubted that I could do the job once they learned of my hearing impairment, even after meeting me.

The way I see it, there’s no magic in “overcoming” a disability.  It doesn’t make you brave or inspirational or strong.  You were either already brave and inspirational and strong before (or, at least, had it in you to be) or you weren’t.  What I mean is, some people will succeed after, say, losing their hearing or the use of their legs, and some won’t.  What determines that is who you were before, not the fact that a terrible thing happened to you.  I’ve talked about this before:

Sometimes people say, “You’re so brave,” or “I don’t think I could have handled it as well as you have.” I rarely think of myself as courageous, and people only see me that way because they think what happened to me is unbelievable.  They ask, “How did you ever get through it?” I say, “You do what you have to do. You get up every day, even when it’s hard, and you take it hour by hour – minute by minute if you have to: Get out of bed now; go to the gym now; eat lunch now; read this book now. Then you go to bed and do it again tomorrow.” Eventually, it isn’t so hard to get out of bed, and one day you realize that life can still be good and that you want to be a part of it.

You can’t imagine it happening to you, and if you tried, you’d assume that you wouldn’t be able to survive, let alone succeed.  God knows that’s how I felt when it happened to me.  But the truth, for almost everyone, is that you would.

Please don’t misunderstand me: I appreciate where you’re coming from, and I know you mean well.  I’m just asking you to think about the way you see me, and other people like me.  All I’m saying is, what I’m capable of with a hearing impairment is generally not more remarkable than what I would be capable of with normal hearing.  I’m different, but I’m not special.