waldorf

By Mark E. Smith

When I roll into my suite at the famous Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan, around 5:00 pm, nothing seems different from any other hotel – that is, except the suite is a multi-room apartment, with lavish mid-1900s furnishings and a view straight up Park Ave. I picked the room online through my Hilton Honors reward program based on location and accessibility. Frills don’t impress me; practicality does. I need a bed and an accessible bathroom – no more, no less. That’s how I ended up here.

So, late for a dinner engagement, I dump my well-traveled adventure backpack luggage on the rug in the entry and split.

Nice suite. Who cares. I’m out of here, late for dinner.

Around 11:00 pm that night, I return to the suite with my wife and her friends and everyone who’s met up in the city, and we gather in the living room. Good friends, great conversation, New York City on a Saturday night – great times. As the late night gets later, right before crashing into bed, I wind my way to the bathroom. I pass through a huge dressing room, and stop dead in my tracks as I gaze at the truly palatial bathroom. While it’s the biggest, most lavish bathroom I’ve ever seen – gold and marble throughout – that’s not what’s stopped me in my tracks. Rather, what’s stopped me in my tracks is there’s a step up to the bathroom, steps to every feature in the bathroom, and even the commode is recessed in a tiny closet.

It’s some time past midnight, I have to use the bathroom beyond belief, and I have no access whatsoever.

In these situations, I strive to retain the dignity we all deserve. And, I need to clarify what I mean by that. Sure, I could call the hotel staff and have an entourage of them do whatever it takes to get me into that bathroom. But, at what personal price? And, why, in 2016, at arguably the most prestigious hotel in the world, at which I booked an accessible room, should I have to?

I just want to pee like anyone else, and it shouldn’t have to be an all hands-on-deck production with strangers to do so.

I pick my battle, and just want to crash into bed, so we find a water bottle, I pee in it, and go to bed. The next morning, I use the wet bar in the foyer to get cleaned up for the day. Of course, I roll down to the manager’s office, and we have a very candid and poignant talk about my experience, where the error in accommodations occurred, and how they need better protocols.

If a dude books an accessible suite, he should get that.

Disability is a fascinating life experience. It’s not just grounding and humbling, but it demands that we maintain perspective. I suppose the Waldorf Astoria exists because some people see luxury and lavishness as adding some sort of value or meaning to their lives – and that’s fine. However, for me, for better or worse, I’m just genuinely grateful to use a bathroom.

Comments
  1. JANE HOGAN says:

    Mark, I had a similar experience a couple years ago when I traveled (alone) to meet a dear friend in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not my first time traveling alone in a chair, however the last time the chair was manual. And therein lies the problem(s). The accessible shuttle to and from the airport that was provided by the hotel did not include power chairs and as a result I was required to procure my own transportation to the hotel and back to the airport; and extra $100 that I had not planned on. Upon entering my wheelchair accessible room, like in your situation, “I had to pee”. However a water bottle was not an option! The commode was not ADA compliant and as a result, I was unable to get up from it without my friends assistance. The “roll in” shower was merely a regular step in shower that had been altered with some kind of “bridge” built over the step. The ADA regulations were basically met but the location of the grab bars and how the fold down seat was situated made my shower a terrifying experience! I am wondering who decides that the accommodations that are made to a room make it acceptable to be called a wheelchair accessible room?

  2. Well, my experience is not nearly as concerting as ya’lls however, i do have a compatible complaint, that i need to know where to lodge it?
    being in a wheelchair for almost 7 years now.
    wife and i enjoy going to the movies. one of our local movie houses, (the behind the mall cinema)
    has several emergency exits that ARE NOTwheelchair friendly, (no ramps, just stairs.

    so, this means in case of fire, i am either burned toast, or trampled, after crashing head over wheels, down the stairs.WHO, and WHERE do i report these people to? thanks

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