Can-Do-Ability: Answers and Solutions from my personal experiences of living with a disability

Fighting To See The Foo's

14 Dec 2011Last Thursday night I got to see one of my favourite bands, EVER, perform live: the Foo Fighters, who performed songs from their latest album, Wasting Light, plus, heaps of their greatest classics, and as usual, they were awesome! It’s a pity the same couldn’t be said for the venue they played at...

My husband Todd and I left straight for the concert, after I finished work at 4:30. I quickly went home, picked him up, and we drove into the city on our never ending road trip. By the time we hit the city, it was after 7:30pm. It normally takes just over an hour to get into the city from our end of Sydney, so we were not happy, and quite busting to use the loo.

The last time the Foo Fighters played a big show in Sydney, they played at Homebush Bay (where the Sydney Olympic stadiums were built), which is a much better venue to get to and around once inside, and it’s a lot better for people with disabilities. Unfortunately, this time, they played at the Sydney Football Stadium in Moore Park.

When we drove into the centre of Moore Park, all of the parking for the SFS was full, and the police were moving people along, to go to the next parking station, at the Entertainment Quarter, which is about a km away. So, off we went, stuck in the traffic, and onto the next parking station. Once we got into the Entertainment Quarter parking station, there was absolutely no disabled parking left at all, so I had to circle up and up the different parking levels to find a spot. There were still no disabled spots mind you, but I did eventually get a regular spot.

Off we raced to the SFS, to catch what was remaining of Tenacious D, who were the support act for the Foo-eys. We finally got into the stadium, and were told where to go by ushers, which ended up being the wrong level, by this time we were panicking because we could hear our beloved Foo Fighters already playing, they started without us! So we rushed to the right floor and out the glass doors, into the seating area of the stadium.

We gave our tickets to an usher, who had a puzzled look on his face, as he couldn’t find our ‘disabled’ seating, only regular seats down a few rows. In between listening to Dave Grohl belting out My Hero, and trying to hear the usher blabbering on about seating, I just told him I didn’t care, I wanted to hear my band and would just squeeze in anywhere, which is exactly what I did, in between a younger guy in a large electric wheelchair, and an older guy in a manual wheelchair. There was no room for Todd to sit near me, but I didn’t mind too much, because it was the Foo Fighters. We eventually found a seat a few seats up and one row in front of where I was, and after a bit of fast talking, I convinced the people in front of me to move up two seats and let Todd squeeze in, which was lovely of them.

Everything was going swimmingly and we were loving the show, that was until it got closer to the end, when the alcohol kicked in.... If you haven’t seen a disabled seating section at a concert in Sydney before, let me just paint a picture for you. We were in an actual huge stadium, in a big oval shape, Dave and the band were at one end of the stadium on their stage, and people were seated all around facing the stage, and then there was general admission (standing) on the field in front of the stage. We were in the grandstand part, and the stage was to our left. The disabled seating that I was in, was at the top of the second tier, which is just basically a row of seating, with some of the seats removed, to allow enough space for the wheelchairs to park in, and some spaces have seats next to them for their friends/relatives (I hate the term ‘carer’) to sit next to them.

It’s great that venues provide disabled seating, but because it’s just a row with seats removed, it tends to attract congregations of people who are unhappy with their own seats, and just decide to crowd around behind the crippy’s. Well that’s what happened to me anyway, and always seems to happen to me at rock concerts...

So here I was, between two disabled strangers, and many, many drunk guys behind me, who were mostly pushing each other, and jumping on each other’s shoulders at the top of the stairs, whilst cramming up the exit doors. At one point, I got so scared that I sat on Todd’s seat to be further away from them, while Todd went and got security guards to come and watch the larrikins so I wouldn’t get hurt, which was great.

Then right at the end, at my favourite part of a Foo Fighters show, the encore, it got crazy, and the security guards had left. I became so overcome with anxiety that I had to get out of there, so I left Todd and went on a search for some more security guards to help me out. After finding some, they looked at me blankly while I expressed my concerns to them. They told me that there was nothing they could do as nobody tends to listen to even them at this stage of the night. They did offer some other seats for me though, which were further down, still in the disabled area, and well away from the rowdy group I just left, so I was able to watch the last couple of songs without freaking out too much, thank goodness!

I sent a security guard off to find Todd, who I said was wearing a blue shirt, was in the row in front of the wheelchairs, next to the stairs, and in the seat in front of a big electric wheelchair. Little did I know, that there were about five lots of staircases in between us, and many electric wheelchairs, so the poor guard had to go down every aisle looking for someone in a blue shirt and just hope it was my husband. He eventually found him though, and we were able to watch the last song next to each other, which was great!

We waited about half an hour before we even attempted to brave the crowd, but even then, it was so packed, we constantly got jammed right in the middle of large, drunk and rowdy people, which was pretty terrifying for me, as I am claustrophobic and get scared of large crowds. We finally made it back to the car park, after a quick stop at the German pub for a beer and pretzel of course!

When we entered the parking station, I knew that I parked up about 3 levels, so we headed straight to level 3, we looked, and there was no car. I had let Todd out of the car to run to the toilet when we first arrived so he had no idea where I’d parked, and couldn’t help me. We went to level 4, no car, level 5, no car... Level 6, had no roof, and I was at least sure that I parked under a roof, so I said ‘maybe it’s level 2’, so off we went and there was my little blue car, at last! Thank goodness we were on level two, because during our search for ‘bluey’, we saw lots of people who had given up trying to escape the car park, and instead decided to have a nap in their cars until the traffic cleared, it was just a nightmare... Luckily, level 2 wasn’t so bad, and we got out pretty quickly.

Despite my brittle bones, I do love to experience all the great things in life, and try not to let it stop me, but when things happen, like at this concert, it really doesn’t give me much confidence in going out and coming home in one piece. Instead of just complaining about it, I decided to write a letter to the SFS, to make some ‘suggestions’ to them, when it comes to disabled seating. I advised them that they should have a disabled seating area, which doesn’t allow random able bodied people to access it, so that way, people like me can enjoy a show as much as the next person. We’ll see if they get back to me or put my suggestions into action. I sure hope so! I’ll keep you updated.

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