The majority of my incredibly eventful yesterday was spent at the Empire State Book Festival; however, a post about that will be forthcoming at a later time because of an incident that sadly fills my mind. Especially since these tweets were cryptic at best and I don’t want to cause people any unnecessary alarm.
After the Book Festival and a trip to Crossgates to see Source Code, my friends and I decided to visit Flights of Fantasy, one of the local independent bookstores here in the Capital District. I have many fond memories of spending inordinate amounts of time at this particular store; I’ve spent countless dollars on books over the years and endless hours gaming under its roof. And I certainly love that they’re an indie store and am always happy to support such establishments. So, it is with extreme sadness that I say that I have no intention of gracing this store with one single penny of my money nor do I expect to step foot on their premises ever again.
Last night, we arrived as they were setting up for a jazz concert. As we passed by the front counter we were asked if we were there for the concert to which we replied that we had come merely to shop. Nothing was said of that and so we passed through the front room of the store and into one of the other rooms. As I walked through the rows of chairs in the first room we caught the attention of one of the “store cats” who did not seem at all taken by Uschi’s presence. My guide dog was completely professional through this and ignored the cat entirely. The cat, on the other hand, followed us into the next room while vocally alerting all to her displeasure.
In this next room one of the staff members of the store explained to us that the cat has a heart condition and is supposed to be avoiding any type of stress. I immediately apologized for causing her any possible harm by way of my dog’s presence, but was basically told not to worry and that it wasn’t my fault. I walked through the shelves with my friends with the cat trailing behind us still making noises of disapproval. Shortly after she cornered Uschi and hissed and swatted at my dog. Things for me were kind of a frenzy at this point: I know that Uschi jumped in alarm and started to mildly freak out in terror and so I was distracted by calming her and lost track of anything else going on. When I had her settled, the owner had come into the room and was fetching the cat to remove her from the stressful environment lest she cause herself harm. Again, I apologized about the situation and was again basically told it was a non-issue.
Twenty minutes or so elapsed while my friends and I continued to browse through the many bookshelves. I divided my time between comforting my dog, who was still trembling from the cat flipping out on her, and trying to pick my way through potential books to buy. I had finally settled on one when the owner’s husband entered the room. Instinctively I braced myself for the inevitable questioning about whether Uschi was my guide dog and the usual drivel.
Instead, he told me that his wife wished for me to leave because of the distress I was causing the cat. This was said with obvious discomfort and I took note of the fact he wouldn’t look me in the eye. It is possibly because of this or perhaps my own shell-shocked state that I didn’t have a total meltdown and make a huge scene about the entire thing. Instead, I glanced at my friends, placed the book I was holding back on a shelf and calmly walked out the front door.
Initially, I was incredibly hurt and offended by what happened. Obviously, I had given them the opportunity to let me know if my dog’s presence was at all an issue and had someone said as much either of those times I would have respected the cat’s health and my friends and I would have left immediately. We would have come back another time when the cat was not in such a delicate state and I wouldn’t have thought a thing more about this. But as I thought about that I realized that I wasn’t just hurt at what had transpired I was pissed off at the illegal nature of these actions: essentially denying me entry into a PUBLIC BUSINESS because of my service dog.
I’m still quite angry. Though, this is tinged with disgust because I’m left honestly feeling truly ashamed of how much I praised this bookstore over the years and in one fell swoop they left me feeling degraded, as if I were a second-class citizen whose money wasn’t good enough to grace their establishment. I’m not a crier, but I’ll let you know that the whole thing actually reduced me to tears.
To conclude, I just want to say that I am not posting this to stand on a soapbox of any kind. I’m not trying to spread bad publicity or wage war on the store; I just feel it is important to share this experience because what happened was not only incredibly hurtful but entirely wrong. So, take from it what you will; I’ve said my peace.