Went to see Borat on Saturday night. It was at one of the smaller screens at the 12th street cinema [look at 12th street and 2nd avenue] but the place was packed. We got some cozy seats on the aisle and are waiting for previews like everyone else when an unexpected patron strolled in: a service dog, in training.
A nice looking couple sat three rows ahead, on the aisle, dog in tow. The dog carried his own leash, as doggies sometimes do. He had tan colored fur, big brown eyes and pointy ears and he immediately made himself quite comfortable, lying down under the couples’ seat and not making one sound. You couldn’t ask for a better Service Dog in training.
I, however, did not ask for ANY kind of dog especially as I am highly allergic to them. And I really wanted to see Borat as I was in need of some cheering. So what to do? Whose rights win here?
Service dogs: I’m totally down for the endeavor, they are wonderful for people who need them and I’m grateful that there are people who train these pups. However, the people who had the dog were not disabled themselves therefore should they be asked to leave? I paid admission to see a movie, not get sick. I could see a later show or come back another night but frankly I didn’t want to. It was 8pm on Saturday, this was my plan I wanted to stick to it.
We went to talk to the nice but overwhelmed and somewhat out of his element manager Josh. Josh came into the theater and looked at the dog, who had his little “I’m a Service Dog” vest on, all official and looked at me with some serious puppy dog eyes himself.
“Look I can’t throw them out. I looked it up, they have the right to be here. And I can’t ask them to leave.”
“You mean training a dog for someone who has disability trumps my allergy to that dog?”
The answer was a somber, “Yeah, kinda.” He added, “Look, I will refund your tickets for this show and you’re free to come another time.”
But as I said I wanted to see it at 8pm on Saturday. So I said, “I’m gonna stay. If in 30 or 40 minutes I get allergic, I’ll know and we’ll leave and come another time.” He was fine with that.
So we went back in and I decided just to forget about it until I couldn’t. The theater was air-conditioned, the dog wasn’t in my lap and I really wanted to see the movie. So I pretended I was in an airplane. I’ve been on many flights with dogs or cats in carriers in the passenger cabin without major incident and I just figured if I could do that for three hours, I could stand a big movie theater with high ceiling and lots of a/c. I had one big sneeze about halfway through and that was it. And I laughed my ass off.
Of course when we left I was still thinking about the disabilities act and how even training a dog for a disabled person to be trumped someone who could potentially suffer in the moment. Do allergies fit into a disabilities act? If not, why not? There was an article in the Times recently about diabetes and disability. If allergies disallow one from functioning normally in certain situations, would that be considered a disability? I think I need to investigate this much further.
PS Disability follow-up link