Yesterday my daughter and I decided to brave the crowds and head to the Esplanade from Newton. Before we left I checked the July 4th web site put up by the city, and specifically looked for information about handicapped parking and seating. On the site they indicated that there would be parking spaces for the handicapped with placards on Storrow Drive as well as a parking lot at Mass Eye and Ear with shuttle buses. That seemed to be decent information, so off we went at 4 pm, thinking we had plenty of time to get to town, park, get the bus, and find a nice space in the handicap accessible area. On all accounts I was DEAD WRONG.
Leaving Storrow drive at Back Bay, I headed around Government Center and past Mass General to get to the part of Storrow Drive that had handicapped parking. I stopped and asked a pile of Transit Police at Leverett Circle just how to get on to the blocked off part of Storrow Drive. "How should I know?" one policeman responded. So helpful! Then I asked some Staties blocking the road by the bridge, and they told me to go down the side road past Mass Eye and Ear, up to Lechmere/Science Park site, then bang a U-ie and go down Storrow from there. Which I did. And got stopped by the Bomb Squad and a couple of mounted Staties who were livid that I was there. So they made me turn around and go back around Leverett Circle.
Second time though I asked yet another cadre of Staties just where the handicapped parking was. They told me basically the same thing, and when I told them that that wasn't the case, they told me to go some convoluted way around Leverett Circle for the third time, then take a side road, turn left and hang a U-turn at the T-shop, then take a left.
OK. Except the cop at the gate wasn't happy to see me again and told me that the other cop's info was wrong. But first he yelled "Get outta here." before he saw that I was really confused. NOBODY knew where the handicapped parking was and they had no clue as to how to get there. Isn't that part of their job?
I headed down Storrow towards the Hatch Shell again, and looked over and saw a parking lot with a lot of RIDE buses. It was on the other side of the road. I literally made a U-turn on Storrow and drove the wrong way to get into the parking lot, but we made it. It took 1 hour and 45 minutes to get the car parked.
The Ride drivers couldn't have been nicer, but they were all harassed by the Staties and were horribly apologetic. We got on the bus, and the took us at about 10 MPH down Storrow to the Hatch Shell. At that point the horror really started.
All of the handicapped people were shuttled into a TINY area on the very left side. The area was completely packed and there was no place at all to sit. More than half of the handicapped people were put behind a large tent and had no sight at all of the stage. They were behind metal barricades like caged animals. They had run out of wristbands, so getting into the regular crowd might have proved difficult save for the national guard who let us in, but told us we could not go back into the handicapped area again. Where the bathrooms were. OK.
We found nice seats not far from the handicap corral and sat down to enjoy the show. It was great and we had a fabulous time. Not one single niggling complaint at all, that is until the end of the evening.
After the fireworks were over, we were told to gather back in the handicap corral and wait for the shuttle buses. Wait being the operative word. The State Police refused to let the handicap vehicles provided by The RIDE onto the road for a full hour. Yes, the people that needed the medical care where the absolute last to depart. One man ran out of oxygen. Another person's wheel chair battery died. There was no seating and people were exhausted and freaking out. There was no place to get a drink of water or a soda because we were not allowed to leave the corral. Really. The State Police went ballistic if anyone tried to get out of the corral. One woman was almost in tears because she was so thirsty and I gave her a can of soda we had left over. I thought she was going to kiss my feet she was so grateful.
We yelled, we complained, we cried, and still the State Police treated us like caged animals. They were nasty and rude, and they honestly did not understand what harm they were doing to people.
After an hour, the first ride cars for ambulatory people came, and we shared a cab with the guy without any oxygen left. Our wonderful and kind driver from Uganda took him right to his hotel door so he wouldn't have to wait in the horrendous traffic. You see, they wouldn't let the RIDE cars go onto Storrow to get to the parking lot to pick up our cars, so we ended up having to take a very long and tiring tour of downtown Boston. With all the roads closed or blocked off, we drove around in bumper to bumper traffic for another 3/4 of an hour. And when we got our cars out of the parking lot, we still couldn't go down Storrow or cross over to Memorial Drive, so we had to tour the Back Bay again. I've never been up and down so many back roads and tiny streets in my life just trying to get the freaking 6 miles home.
We ended up getting home well after 1 am, when the fireworks ended at 11.
There is no excuse for the way the entire situation was handled, from start to finish. The handicapped parking was NOT MARKED except for a tiny handicapped sign (like the ones at handicap parking spaces) that was leaning against a sawhorse on the ground. It was impossible to see.
The place that they shoveled the handicapped into was so inadequate and so mortifying as to be shameful. What do foreigners think of the way we treat our wheelchair citizens in this city, shoving them behind metal barricades behind tents like 3th class citizens? What kind of message does this send to children? How are we to enforce treating citizens equally if the less fortunate medically are siphoned off to be hidden in a corner.
I have to give kudos to the women working at the handicapped corral. They were appalled and horrified by the treatment we were given and apologized over and over again. Same with the National Guardsmen stationed there. However, I have absolutely nothing nice to say about the State Police who were surly, dismissive, and downright nasty. They should all be given some training in how to deal with situations like this, and the city should never, ever again embarrass and denigrate the disabled by treating them like this again.
In Summary, great fireworks, State Police suck and should all be punished by using a wheelchair for a week to learn what it means to be disabled.