Revolutions and ramps

Revolution cafe SF

Originally uploaded by baratunde.

For a few years in the 1990s I experienced San Francisco from a combination of wheelchair, crutches, cane, and my own legs, which occasionally cooperated. Merciful time has intruded and helped me to forget all the valuable lessons learned as I was carried up and down the stairs at the 14th St. faerie house and as I inconvenienced everyone in countless restaurants. Now, from a slipped disc, I’m back in a chair for a while, so I figure I’ll put my navigational adventures on Metroblogging SF. The landscape of a city is very different when you’re on wheels! Every bump and incline counts.

My goal last night was to hang out with friends and to get to the Make-out Room to see Writers With Drinks. My friend and I were able to park in the 21st and Bartlett Garage. Whoa! Did you know that between 21st and 22nd, there is an ever so slight incline? My wimpy triceps don’t make the cut, yet, so I needed a push.

As a creature of habit, “stodgy” even, I have routines, and one of them is to stop at Revolution Cafe for a latte before going to Writers With Drinks. And at Revolution… whoops! A significant step up, about a 4 inch leap, not completely impossible if I had a sportier chair. At a table outside on the sidewalk, I was able to lurk and chat with a stranger while my friend ordered our coffee. My new table buddy, a dude from Sacramento, had extremely beautiful long silver hair, nicely clean and brushed. It’s the rare hippie guy around here who knows how to use “product”… We struck up an acquaintance. I told him where to get pizza (that place around the corner that sells it by the slice, or Little Star on Mission, or Pauline’s on Mission). He told me all about the Piedmont Piano Company, where they have incredibly fancy 10 foot concert grand pianos and have amazing shows with famous blues and jazz musicians that are cheap and have only 15 or 20 people show up, sometimes. Meanwhile, I stared with the most basilisky, baleful glare I could muster at the wooden railroad tie that prevented my going into the cafe to use their bathroom. If baleful glares could melt wood… Hey Revolution people, build a tiny ramp – how hard could it be? Just smooth it out a little.

The Make-Out room had a nice smooth entrance, a bit steep but I could back up it easily in my chair. Clearly someone just smoothed it out, as I wish Revolution would do — it was not the regulation sort of wheelchair-ramp concrete slope, but it was *way* better than a step. In the 90s from my chair I used to argue with business owners all the time, and they felt that if they made an effort but didn’t comply with regulations, they’d get into more trouble than if they didn’t do anything! Anyway. The Make-Out Room women’s bathroom, though, forget it! Once my tiny child-sized Quickie II was in, I was stuck in a labyrinth and also my chair blocked the door completely. So it was the cane and lurching wildly while clinging to the top of the bathroom stall, which, fortunately, I can manage.
Oh, more about bathroom anxiety. The night before I woke up in a cold sweat several times thinking “HOW will I even get near the bathroom when I’ll be trapped in a crowd?” I forgot the magic power of Wheelchair. People magically part before it, as long as they see you. They melt away like panicked smoke.
Pet peeve though, people who bump and jostle a wheelchair or *hold onto it* and don’t apologize. When I’m in it, it’s part of my personal boundary and it should be considered like part of my body and respected as such. For example, do not lean on my handlebars or use them for hat stands, dear strangers, any more than you would put your elbow on my *head*. There’s some free education for you able people, pay attention, you’ll be old someday.
As always, Writers With Drinks was amazing! The readers blew me away and the room was packed.
Afterwards, about 20 of us went down the street to Bahia. I waited an hour for a ceviche tostada. Really, I think they don’t have a lot of business (yet) and so having 20 people appear broke their process. I’m willing to give them another chance; the menu looked good and the appetizer they brought us was delicious: crunchy-soft toasted bread drizzled with various yummy sauces with baby lettuce (what kind of restaurant is this again… brazilian italian mexican seafood fusion? or something?) Plus I was very happy to wheel in the door and into their actually-accessible-bathroom.
You can see that for a while my Metroblogging will be all about hills, inclines, narrow passages, and anxiety about where I’m going to pee next. Stay tuned for more accessibilty reports, because I’m going to have some fun with it.

2 Comments so far

  1. anna (unregistered) on April 15th, 2007 @ 12:40 pm

    I got a lot out of this article, thanks for writing it Liz! I do want to make it out to Writers w/ Drinks too.

  2. Mark (unregistered) on April 16th, 2007 @ 4:31 am

    Yes, I’ve been to Piedmont Piano Co. They have New Music there in addition to jazz and classical. Cool place — a bit out of the way, but come to think of it, doable on the new T line.

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