Autism Today Foundation

Terror at the Baseball Game!

Several summers ago four friends journeyed to Montreal for an Expos game at Olympic stadium (before this baseball team became the Washington Nationals). The crowd was scarce, and we didn’t bother to get tickets in advance, but instead, took the best seats that were available. Even though it was the day of the game, we secured seats four rows behind home plate. Four rows! We couldn’t believe it. None of us had ever sat that close, and although the seats were not handicapped accessible, my friend Jim carried me down. We settled in, and sat next to the guy operating the radar gun for the Montreal pitcher. Our luck couldn’t get any better. Man, was I going to pick this guy’s brain on baseball. Little did I know, that by the fourth inning, everything was going to change? I laugh about this now, but that night, it was not so funny.

My name is Pat; I am 33 and live with Becker Muscular Dystrophy. A disease with no cure, certain proteins in my muscle cells slowly leak out causing a progressive weakness. This is what the doctors tell me. From my mind, I walked until I was 30, and now use a chair full-time. Whatever happens will happen, there is no stopping it, and this is why I live life to the fullest. Everyday is a gift, and since I am a teacher (with summers off), I road-trip whenever I can. Anything can and will happen. And, on a warm August night at a Montreal baseball game, it sure did.

O.K. Here goes. Call it bathroom humor, but not the kind you are used to. Somewhere during the bottom of the third inning, I told Jim that I had to visit the men’s room. The look on my face must have told him that this needed to happen now. Mike and Joe (my other pals at the game) went to look for my stashed wheelchair tucked neatly away with the usher in our section, while Jim piggybacked me up the stairs. (I have the best friends in the World). We got to the bathroom; I quickly rolled in, and transferred over to the toilet. I was only thinking that I had to go right then, and did not pay much attention to the fact that the toilet was really, really, low to the ground. Until I was sitting on it. Dismissing the thought, I took care of my immediate business while Jim told me he would be back in a few minutes to wheel me back to our seats. After a beat, I began to realize that there was no way I was getting off this can under my own power. At a friend’s house, this is always a laugh, but in a public stadium, this brought about different questions. How would I get dressed? How would I get over to the chair? How could I push off with my legs on a toilet so low? Why is this happening? How can I put Jim through the trouble of having to come in here? Wait, he can’t come in, since the door is latched. O.K. calm down Pat. First, reach over and un-latch the door. Uh-oh, no good. Can’t reach the door while sitting on the bowl. Another design flaw. I began to sweat. A man came in to the bathroom with his young son, and I had this image of Jim trying to bust in to help me while this man figured he must be some pervert….

What to do! I had been in precarious places before, but this was new. Such is life when you have a chronic illness, you have two choices: either break down and be defeated, or figure a way to deal. In my case, it is always the second choice, and this is what makes me laugh, as the solution is usually humorous and not anywhere near middle of the road. 

I quickly scurried and bounced left to right and pulled up my shorts. I almost completely fell off the throne twice, but I was dressed at least. I waited. Time passed. I heard the crowd cheer and remembered I was at a baseball game. I was glad that Montreal did not draw millions of fans each night, because the men’s room was quiet, and clean. (Side note: I live near Boston, and the men’s rooms at Fenway Park are never clean..). Anyway, Jim returned and I said something like: “Thank God you are back.” He laughed, and I told him I was dressed, still on the toilet, and unable to reach the door to unlock it to let him into the stall. Silence. Then he laughed again. Not really thinking, he climbed up on the bowl in the neighboring stall and looked in at me. 

We brainstormed, and both agreed that even though he was my best friend, Jim was NOT crawling under the door. Clean or not clean, that was too gross. Looking around the bathroom, Jim grabbed a big, gray trash barrel and pushed it to the locked door of the stall I was stuck in. He tried to climb up and reach in to unlatch the door, but as his arm came over the top, the barrel collapsed and he fell slowly. Now we were both laughing, as the barrel made funny deflating noises. He tried again, with the same result. Outside the crowd roared. 

“Thanks for making me miss the game man.” Jim quipped.

“Dude, it’s not the Red Sox.” I responded.

Still stuck, I had an idea. If I took the removable arm off the chair, I could swing the metal arm at the latch and unlock it. I shared this with Jim, and went for it. Since my muscles are weak, the metal arm was heavy for me, and I had to move my arm back and forth like someone about to aim a skee-ball up the chute. Swing and a miss, swing and a miss (get the baseball reference?). Nothing. Perhaps it was time to admit defeat and call security. Perhaps I would go to customer service and ask them if they knew that their men’s room was a death trap for people in wheelchairs. Perhaps I would eat no more sausage at baseball games. Finally, it hit Jim.

“Hey, push the arm under the door out to me, and I will use the barrel again. I should be able to reach the latch and unlock the door.” 

“O.k. coming at you.” I said.

Clang, clag, the metal whizzed across the bathroom floor. During the whole ordeal, people came in and went out. Jim explained to one man that his friend was stuck in the stall. No one offered to help, no one offered to get security. Such is life. Pushing the barrel up one final time, Jim jumped up on it, and tried to use his free arm to hang over the stall so his weight wouldn’t crush the barrel again. He swung the wheelchair arm a few times and finally undid the latch. Of course, the door swung out, so it hit him, the barrel moved and he fell one final time. At this point both of us were in stitches. Jim kicked the plastic barrel across the floor and came in like Superman to rescue Lois Lane. Complete with hands on hips pausing in the now open stall doorway, he said:

“Did someone call for Roto-Rooter?”

He popped me back into my chair and we returned to the game. More than two innings had past. Our friends thought we changed seats, but they knew we would be back; when they heard what happened, they laughed first. Years later, I laugh now.

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