By John H. Foote
It erupted very quickly and without warning. Mere minutes before the lights went down an older lady, maybe 70, a scowl on her face, came into the cinema with her walker and immediately began accosting anyone sitting in the handicap-capped row. She was late, knew it and wanted a seat, a good seat.
Now I dislike it when able-bodied folks take a handicap-cap seat, it angers me, but I have ALWAYS found that if you quietly approach them, remind them they are sitting in a row meant for folks with disabilities, they are only to happy to move. Chances are they do not know or being from another country are unaware.
This woman came in itching for a fight and her sole argument was that she was handicapped, or so I thought. One decent young woman gave up her seat as she was not in any way handicapped but it was not the seat this lady with the walker wanted. Oh no.
Five seats down from me was another large lady who I had seen come into the theatre very slowly, walking like me with a cane, in obvious pain. She was sitting reading her programme book when this other lady, lets call her Walker Woman, approached her asking her to switch seats with her so so could be near her walker. The festival volunteer happily offered to take Walker Woman’s arm to aid her to the chair.
Her tone was abusive and aggressive as she went at this other lady, already seated, who had made the time to get to the cinema on time.
Suddenly Walker Woman exploded, “For fuck sakes, just move. I am far more handicapped than any of you!” She looked down our row in disdain. The lady stirring declined to move, saying it was very difficult for her to rise, she was seated, she was comfortable, she was not budging.
“You phoney bitch” roared Walker Woman.
A gentleman suggested if Walker Woman calmed down, someone might be inclined to give her a seat.
“Shut up, mind your fucking business” she roared, “I want that seat!”
By now no one had sympathy for Walker Woman, she had burned every bridge. The lights were dimming, she had no choice but to sit. She sat and was escorted to her seat beside the lady she attacked. When she stumbled, the first hands to her, where, you got it, the lady she had ripped into. This lady helped her sit, asked her if she was all right.
Walker Woman replied very loudly for all to hear, “Yes. I am all right, now fuck off and leave me alone.”
Class. Total class.
None of us choose to be handicapped, and granted some are worse than others. But when did it become a contest? We are treated very well by TIFF, and our advise is often sought. I need that row because stairs are very difficult for me, especially coming down. While I walk with a cane, I need to keep my always aching legs stretched out resting on my cane to help with the pain. I always sit smack in the middle of the row, never on the end of an aisle, and now I have great reason to do so.
Walker Woman is out there, targeting her next victim.
Not going to be me.
Whose to say whose handicap is worse? Seriously! It might be just a cane, but with it might come the kind of intense chronic pain that reduces one to tears over the course of the day. The person might need an end seat because they need a fast exit to the washroom, or get claustrophobic. Having to use a walker sucks, I had one for a month when I was forty one. But to abuse the rights that walker brings you, is obscene.
You, Walker Woman are a horrific person. And I wonder why?
One of Canada’s best-known film critics, he spent 10 years on TV as co-host of Reel to Real, and another 10 in education (still writing as a critic) as Director of the Toronto Film School, where he created the curriculum for three programs and taught film history. Film has always been his passion. He has written for magazines such as Toronto Life, Fashion and Hollywood North, been quoted in the Los Angeles and New York Times, as well as the major Toronto dailies. Online he has written for such sites as The Wrap, In Contention, Awards Circuit and The Cinemaholic. His first book Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker, was published in 2010. His second Steven Spielberg: American Film Visionary, a massive volume, has just found a publisher and he’s working on American Film Renaissance – 1967-2018 with Nick Maylor. As a critic, he has had the good fortune to interview directors and stars such as Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Robert Duvall, Emma Stone, Jane Fonda, and countless others. As he quips, “Everyone but Jack Nicholson!”