Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The View from My Wheelchair: Gillette Stadium (part 1 of 3)

It’s always great fun, and one of the highlights of our year, to make our annual trek to watch the Patriots play football at Gillette Stadium. But our experience this time was unusually memorable, for a couple of reasons.

I’ve mentioned many times before how fortunate I am to have Kim as my wife, best friend, and primary caregiver. But I’m also blessed to have two very supportive brothers and their awesome wives. I wrote about Tom and Diane after our trip to Jamaica in February of this year. This post is about spending the day with Andy and Karen in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

Planning for a day at Gillette Stadium is all about food and drink. Diets and any counting of calories, carbohydrates, or even cookies are suspended for the day. This year we brought several flavors of ribs, buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese (yes, you heard me correctly), chips, a bacon and cheese dip, whoopie pies, roasted almonds that I couldn’t stop eating once I started, and several varieties of beer and soft drinks. We brought a small grill for cooking, a folding table, a cooler, and three folding cloth chairs. Thank goodness for my packing spreadsheet.

Of course I brought my iBot wheelchair, as I always do for these big outings. But at the last minute I decided I would also bring my Invacare chair, if only for the ride down and back. The Invacare chair has the added feature of the easy-lock system, so that I can safely and effortlessly secure the wheelchair to the floor of the van.

We’ve gone to a Patriots game every year for a while now. One of the benefits for disabled people at Gillette Stadium is (or was) the handicapped parking lot, situated directly in front of the main entrance to the stadium. All parking lots open four hours before game time, so we arrived promptly at 12:25 for this late afternoon start.

As we approached our special parking lot, I became confused by what I saw. The lot was closed, and nobody was parking there. We were quickly redirected to the adjacent lot and found a suitable handicapped parking spot with room for my ramp to open on the right side of the van. No problem.

We asked someone why the other parking lot was closed. They indicated that since the Boston Marathon bombing the parking lot nearest the stadium was being used as a security buffer between the stadium and the mass of humanity outside of it. Thanks, terrorists. Now the available number of handicapped parking spots at Gillette Stadium has been cut roughly in half. This will make it even more critical that we arrive early in the future. There’s nothing like forcing the cripples to compete for parking.

In concert with thousands of other people around Gillette Stadium, we quickly emptied our vehicle, and within five minutes we had our grill, table, chairs, cooler, etc. all set up. Each of us had a fresh, cold beer opened, and we were ready to go. I transferred from my Invacare chair to my iBot and elevated myself to balance mode. In no time at all, people were walking up to me and asking questions about the iBot. I love it when that happens.

One of Andy’s many fine attributes is that he knows everybody. He and Karen live in Bangor, the third-largest city in Maine. Andy has been active in countless civic organizations and more than a few business ventures. All three of their kids went through the Bangor Public school system. He’s like the unofficial mayor of Bangor.

It turns out that a company which works closely with the New England Patriots is headquartered in Bangor. Of course Andy knows the owners quite well. When they learned that we were attending the game, one of them stopped by where we were tailgating and gave us four complementary passes to their corporate luxury box.

The tickets we had purchased months ago for this game cost us $147 each. They weren’t bad tickets, but they weren’t great either. It was a no-brainer for us to accept this generous offer. Then we started toying with the idea of doing something with the tickets that we had already purchased. Ideally we would’ve invited friends to join us, but it was already too close to game time. We certainly didn’t want to walk around the parking area like a sleazy scalper, shouting, “Anybody want to buy some tickets?” Yet, the thought of recovering at least some of the $588 was enticing.

Soon we noticed a commotion off to our left. The Patriots were hosting the New Orleans Saints that day, and a group of about a dozen Saints fans were making their rounds in the tailgating area. They were dressed flamboyantly, as residents of New Orleans are prone to do. They were very friendly, and Patriots fans were friendly back. Kim and Karen joined them for a photo.

Several folks in that group were former New Orleans residents now living in the Northeast. It was a long shot, but Karen asked one of the ladies if she would be interested in purchasing any tickets. Much to our surprise and delight, she said she might like one more ticket, but needed to make a phone call to confirm. When she got off the phone she said, “Actually, we could use three tickets.”

We negotiated a $100 price for each of three $147 tickets. It was a classic win – win situation.

This day was starting out really well. But there was so much more to come.

Part 2 tomorrow…


  1. Since I am not a sports fan of any kind (well,except the Olympics), I look forward to your second instalment which I doubt will be about baseball. ;-)

  2. I left a comment on your last post, but it didn't print. ??? Anyway, just wanted you to know that I'm rooting for the Sox since my team was El Stinko this year. I also like the Pats, but I'm not that into football. Looking forward to the continuation of the story.

  3. Webster, my goal is to make these posts interesting to even the least knowledgeable sports person out there!

    Muff, I was getting a lot of comment spam and so I disabled comments for a couple of days to try to clean it up. It didn't work. I'll just have to live with the spam. I'm glad to hear that you're rooting for the Sox!