Grab Bar Follies

The Reno strip at night. The Eldorado, Silver Legacy and Circus Circus are all connected by interior walkways. In the background at left is the famous Reno sign (“biggest little city in the world”).

RENO, NEVADA

We recently returned from a quick weekend getaway to Reno. The idea was to relax in front of the video poker machines at Baldini’s, our favorite locals’ casino across the river in Sparks, Nevada (Rock Boulevard at Glendale Avenue). The buffet is long gone, but Baldini’s has a popular 24-hour café known as the Empire Diner (excellent food, large portions, great service, and half the price of the restaurants in the hotels on the Strip). They also have a taphouse with pub grub and a little sandwich place called The Brickyard on the casino floor. We love Baldini’s!

Alas, the Baldinko does not have an attached hotel, so we stayed at the Sands Regency just off the Strip. We have been here many times, mostly due to their promotions that keep things affordable. This time, we paid for Saturday night and got Friday night free. The Sands is an older hotel, badly in need of modernization. Hence, the promotions. The place is huge, with accommodations spanning three high-rise buildings.

The Sands at night, with a view of one of its restaurants, Mel’s Diner. I admit to enjoying the ability to chow down on oatmeal and fried potatoes at three in the morning while listening to the Flamingos and the Chiffons (shoo-bop, shoo-bop).

It had been a year since we last graced the Sands with our presence, and I had completely forgotten what you get for the cheap rooms: Horrible parking, pricey food, Saturday night crowds, and downright stupidity when it comes to reserving an “ADA room.”

Compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires most hotels to make a certain percentage of their rooms accessible to those with physical disabilities. This encompasses a wide variety of accommodations, from having fire alarms with visible strobes for the deaf, to making doorways wide enough for wheelchairs to fit through, to providing roll-in showers. While new hotels are built to ADA specs, older establishments like the Sands limp along on a few barely adequate retrofits.

I have learned from hard experience that about the best you can expect at the Sands in terms of accessible bathing is a tub with a grab bar. Well, if you happen to be in a wheelchair, then good luck to you. You’d better be traveling with someone strong enough to lift you in and out of the bathtub without injuring themselves. As for myself, so far unfettered by a wheelchair, the difference between being able to bathe or not frequently hinges on the height of the tub. I no longer have enough strength in my legs to lift them up high and swing them over the side of a tall tub. Most of us take this maneuver for granted, but it is an insurmountable obstacle for me. The Sands plan seems to be to reach into the tub, hang onto the grab bar for dear life, and haul yourself into the bath on the strength of your arm and back muscles. You’ve got to be kidding. I mean, really?

For me, the bottom line is that if the side of the tub is more than a few inches high, no grab bar is going to help. At the Sands, I struggled mightily to lift myself into that tub by contorting my body any way that I could. The end result was that I pulled a muscle in my back, spent the remainder of the weekend hobbling about hunched over, and stank like a vagrant. You simply can’t clean your body very well with a washcloth, at least not without flooding the bathroom.

Next stop is Oregon for a Scrabble tournament. Why am I surprised that the host hotel has no walk-in/roll-in showers? This weekend, I will be shopping for a basin large enough to stand in while I’m giving myself daily sponge baths. And lots of deodorant.

As for any of my esteemed opponents bowled over by my nasty B.O., kindly keep it to yourselves. Just hold your tongue while you’re holding your nose over there across the board.

ADA or no, traveling will always be a challenge for those of us with disabilities. The best we can do is to keep the dialogue going and let hotel management know in no uncertain terms that our needs are not being met. We will be heard and we will be seen. And come what may, we will travel the world for work and for play. Our days of staying at home and hiding are over.

On Traveling with a Disability

The fact that traveling with a disability can be a challenge is nothing new to millions of people around the world. Some hotels will bend over backward to accommodate you, others will give you the stink eye, while still others will be utterly dismissive as if you are a nuisance and not a paying customer.

Where it gets really tricky is when you have a “hidden” disability. Hotels may not recognize that you have a disability unless you come right out and tell them. Even if you don’t feel embarrassed or uncomfortable doing so, you never know what type of reaction you will elicit. Some staff will think you’re trying to scam something for free or that you’re unfairly monopolizing the hotel’s resources.

For example, you’re a lot more likely to get what you need if you roll through the front entrance in a wheelchair than if you walk in on your own two feet and explain to the clerk that you have limited capacity for ambulation. Visible disabilities are one thing, but less obvious conditions may have to be explained. If your disability is not immediately apparent, there is a reasonable chance that you will be barely tolerated as some type of faking miscreant.

Granted, even the wheelchair-bound will be mistreated in some places. There will always be those who believe that we, the disabled, should just stay home and avoid appearing in public lest we make someone uncomfortable. After a while, you come up with techniques of suppressing your ire and politely expressing that you’re not looking for special treatment and certainly don’t want their misplaced sympathy. Just comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, would ya?

When traveling with a disability, there is no substitute for advance planning. As a frequent business traveler, I enjoy the distinct advantage of the services of secretaries and other support staff at my place of employment who will patiently make my travel arrangements. When necessary, they will yell, threaten, cite the ADA and demand to speak to management. I am truly blessed to be insulated from this crap. Our support people are worth their weight in gold, and then some.

No amount of planning, however, will guarantee that what you reserved will actually be available when you reach your destination. You get out of the car and say a little prayer as you approach the lobby, hoping that everything will go smoothly and all you’ll have to think about is how to best explain that one tricky concept during your presentation tomorrow.

Some hotel chains are more reliable than others when it comes to accommodating disabilities, and after a while, you know which ones can be counted on and which ones cannot. Bill Marriott, wherever you are, take a bow for your hotels’ reliability and for your unfazed staff. Ditto for the Westin and Holiday Inn Express. Other places, not always so much. Names withheld to protect the guilty.

Most of us with disabilities have a pet peeve or two related to our particular limitations. In my case, it’s reserving an “accessible room” or “ADA room,” only to arrive and find a bathroom with a wide doorway that accommodates wheelchairs — and a shower inside a bathtub that is so far off the ground that there is no chance whatever of me being able to lift my legs high enough to get in. So what do I do now? Find another hotel at the last minute, or endure three days of sponge baths? I hope I brought along plenty of deodorant and Ammens powder. By the time I get to the third day, my poor trainees are going to be holding their noses and gagging. Is it too late to teach this class via Skype?

“But this is our only available accessible room,” the desk clerk will demur when you ask to be moved. “That’s what you reserved, right? Did you see that the shower has a grab bar?” You want to cuss a blue streak at everyone and everything, including the desk clerk standing before you, the secretary who made your reservation, and the bad luck that left you with a disability in the first place, even though none of them had anything remotely to do with your current predicament. Instead, you smile sweetly and squeak out the words “okay, I guess I’ll make it work.” You count your blessings, thanking the Lord that you’re not blind or a paraplegic. Take deep breaths. Perspective, dude.

Later, you may learn that the hotel has another room with a roll-in shower, but the staff failed to mention that fact when the room was being reserved because someone else had already booked it. And, sooner or later, you will reserve a room with a roll-in shower only to find that the hotel gave it away to someone else who arrived 15 minutes before you did.

You learn to grin and bear it. After all, horror stories are more than balanced out by the trips that achieve textbook perfection. And so today I raise my glass in a toast to those hotels that are scrupulously honest about what’s really available and what isn’t, that honor their commitments, and who treat those of us with disabilities of any type as valued customers and fellow human beings. You engender the undying loyalty of road warriors the world over.

Mount Rushmore, Part 1

Keystone SD

Downtown Keystone SD

The 2017 Great American Escape

KEYSTONE, SOUTH DAKOTA

U.S. 16, the road from Rapid City to Mount Rushmore, is studded with tourist kitsch of every ilk and description.  Reptile Gardens.  The Dinosaur Museum.  Bear Country USA.  A wax museum.  Miniature golf.  You can just hear the kids in the cars yelling “Mom! Dad! Pleeeeeease??”

But that’s nothing compared to the raucous assortment of rock shops, souvenir emporia, tchotchke mongers and cafés lining the main  drag in Keystone, two miles from the famous faces carved in stone.  As a result of the association of Theodore Roosevelt with the monument, it seemed that about half the commercial establishments contain “Teddy’s” somewhere in their names.

We picked out a likely looking café for dinner; the food was quite good, but the accommodations lacking.  Perhaps I should have been tipped off by the middle school sensibility of the rest room signs that read “Pointers” and “Squatters.”  So call me dense and clueless.  Guilty as charged.

We had three choices of seating:  Perched on high tops on the main floor, up a steep flight of stairs to normal tables, or outdoors.  As we are no longer able to comfortably climb either stairs or chairs, we ended up eating out on the patio.  With the sun beating down on us.  In 95 degree heat.  With flies landing on our food every two minutes.  Psssstt!  Ever heard of a little thing called the ADA?  It’s a really lovely law that we have in our country to protect those of us with disabilities, and I believe South Dakota is still part of the Union.  Well, last time I checked, anyway.  Um, should I have brought my passport?

My wife has about had it with my griping, and I can’t say I blame her a bit.  My generally poor attitude has been exacerbated by my own stupidity in bringing along only one pair of shoes, a pair that, as luck would have it, offer no support whatsoever and are painful to walk in for even the shortest distance.

Happily, my sour disposition took an about face as we drove up the mountain, rounded a curve… and suddenly, somehow unexpectedly, there it was in all its glory, Mount Rushmore and its famous presidential faces.  We came upon it all at once, unprepared even, and joined two other cars in pulling off the road to gawk, mouths hanging agape in awe and amazement.  The only experience I can compare this to is stepping out of Paris’ Trocadéro métro station to find the Eiffel Tower right in front of me.

Let’s just say that no photo of Mount Rushmore you have ever seen can begin to compare to the view in person.  I now understand why people from every corner of the earth have this site on their bucket lists.

As the sun was rapidly setting and we had done a long day’s drive to get here, we will return to the monument in the morning to visit it properly.

More to follow.

 

 

Stupid Signs Seen in Retail Establishments

Listen up, business owners!  Today’s topic is:  Stupid signs in retail establishments that annoy the crap out of me.

These are signs that are not cute, are not funny and generally bespeak the fact that the owner and/or manager is a cretin with the IQ of a cockroach.  The fact that the establishment believes that its customers will enjoy such signs is indicative of its belief that the patrons are as soft in the head as the management.

So without further ado, I present to you the top four items on my list of infamy:

in God we trust

In God we trust, all others pay cash.

These days, most stores do not accept checks for obvious reasons:  Too often, they are worthless.  Cash is backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government (although the bank will send a counterfeit bill directly back to the merchant, but that is another issue entirely) and credit card payments (with proper I.D.) are guaranteed.  I cannot fault businesses for wanting to be paid.  If this means not accepting personal checks, I am fine with that.  I occasionally run across a business that does not take credit cards due to the fees involved, and I can accept that as well.  But please do not insult my intelligence.  Prominently display a sign describing what forms of payment you accept.  Please do not bring God into it.  Not only is this blasphemous, but it gives you away as a hick that is not worthy of my patronage.

you break it

Lovely to look at and lovely to hold, but if you break it consider it sold.

Aww, what a cute rhyme.  This informative sign immediately tells me three things:

  1. Children not welcome here.  I definitely would not bring my little grandniece into such an establishment.  Everyone knows that children like to touch things; in the case of my grandniece, she has to put them in her mouth and taste them.  Yes, parents are responsible for controlling their children in public.  However, there is a limit to what a parent can do.  Children will be children and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Even if you are holding your little one tightly in your arms, there is no guarantee that he or she will not suddenly thrust out an arm and unintentionally knock over one of your precious pieces of inventory.  And guess what?  My grandniece doesn’t have any money.  But I do.  And you’re not getting any of it, sucker.
  2. Customers with disabilities not welcome here.  I am probably lucky if I can get a wheelchair through the door of your shop.  Having surmounted that hurdle, however, I now have to deal with maneuvering tight little corners and narrow aisles so that you can get the maximum amount of stock into the postage stamp that you consider a store.  If, in the process, a wheel should happen to hit the edge of one of your displays and jar loose an item that a previous customer has replaced too close to the edge, I will have the pleasure of arguing with you (and probably the local constabulary) about why I am not paying for your overpriced schlock.  The same goes for those of us who, while still able to stand on their own two feet, have balance issues and might end up breaking something when quickly grabbing onto a shelf to avoid falling.  But really it’s not a problem, as it is obvious that you don’t need our money or our business.
  3. You are an ass who does not understand costs of doing business.  Your sign is forcing me to assume that you are an uneducated peddler who failed to graduate from high school and does not have even the most rudimentary understanding of economics.  So allow me to educate you.  Breakage/spoilage is a cost of doing business.  (Ask your accountant how to deduct this from your income taxes.)  If you are unprepared to assume this risk, or your paper thin profit margin does not allow for this, get out of business.  The fact that you wrongheadedly attempt to pass these costs onto your customers will not bother most patrons who walk through your door… until they break something.  If your merchandise is really that valuable, make sure it is enclosed in a locked case the way jewelry stores do.

Note:  Just because a retailer posts such a sign does not necessarily impose liability upon a customer who accidentally breaks an item.  How much a hapless customer must pay (if anything) largely depends on the law of negligence in your state or country.

helen waite

Our credit manager is Helen Waite.  If you need credit, go to Helen Waite.

Ooh, now we’re getting back into religious territory again.  No matter, I need to make an appointment with Ms. Waite, please.  I need to meet with her to discuss my excellent credit rating, my superb purchasing power and why your sorry business will not be the beneficiary of any of my disposable income.  In my magnanimity, however, I have added your establishment to my Christmas list.  Your gift this year will be a recording of “I Gave Her the Ring, She Gave Me the Finger.”

free beer

Ye Old Announcement:  FREE BEER!  December 32nd

I actually saw this one today when the family was having lunch at Shakey’s Ye Old Public House (otherwise known as pizza parlor) in Oroville.  This type of sign is the progeny of the old-fashioned candy store notice in which the proprietor announced “Free Candy Tomorrow” — and never took the sign down.

I so wanted to take a bit of white paint and a brush and very carefully change the “3” to a “2.”  I wonder if anyone would notice, not to mention how the management would react to the lines outside the door a few days before Christmas.  My guess is that the sign would mysteriously disappear without delay.  Which is a step that the management should take immediately.

Idiots.