Bleachers were my nemesis in high school. Since I had difficult with steps and didn’t want to feel like I was being stared at, I never went to football and basketball games. I couldn’t climb up the bleachers easily and without stress. School assemblies were particularly annoying because everyone HAD to go. I couldn’t exactly roam the halls when I was supposed to be in the gym with everyone else.
One solution would have been to sit in the front row. Can anybody say, “Loser?!” At least that’s how I felt. But the front row seats were also not very high off the ground and I was having a hard time getting up from chairs without grabbing onto something else, so that was out.
Our gym, however, had an upper level and I noticed some of the teachers and counselors would go up there and stand along the railing during the assembly. There were at least twenty steps to get up there, but twenty steps in an empty, quiet stairwell were much less imposing that 20 steps in front of a crowd, with no railing.
So I asked my guidance counselor, Mr. Foote, if I could watch assemblies from up in the upper level. He said it wasn’t a problem and for the first few times even climbed up there with me. Finally it became a routine and the other teachers knew it was okay for me to be there so I would just go right up there by myself. The beauty of this vantage point was that most of the time none of the other students even noticed I was up there, or cared.
In college, however, I got a little more excited about wanting to go to the sporting events because the quality of athletics at Stanford was amazing, and mostly free. In this case I simply did what I did in high school — scoped out the best spots and got there early to make sure I could claim my space. In some cases it was a standing balcony, in others it was a second or third row bleacher seat where the side of the bleachers were exposed so I could just slide in and out without having to climb steps. There were few times that I didn’t get a spot that I wanted, but then I would just look for another place.
Of course all this changed when I started using a wheelchair. Now there are usually designated spaces for wheelchairs and this removes the stress about worrying where to sit. This does come with its own set of problems, however, which I will discuss in tomorrow’s post. But my point is that most of the time, despite my difficulty with bleachers I was still able to find a vantage point, I just had to look around and think about it. This seems to be the case with most things that I can’t do like I used to. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.