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Car Talk: How not to respond to a safety problem

Posted Aug 11 2012 10:54pm
I saw a great show today, Car Talk, The Musical, at the Central Square Theater in Cambridge.  The performers were terrific, playing on a clever set (see above) and the show is funny and vibrant.  That part was terrific.

What was not terrific was that my seat was at the left end of the second row, on a riser about six to eight inches above the floor level.  As I learned halfway through the show, there was no lip at the end of the riser to protect against movement of the seat.  My seat moved slightly to the left, and I went tumbling off the end of the riser in the darkened theater, falling on my arm and jarring my neck and back as I fell.  Apparently, I instinctively reached out for stability with my right arm as I fell, pulling along with me the neighboring chair.  This person's chair also got pulled off the edge, and she fell along with me, also landing on her arm.

The show went on, which is fine (and pretty impressive given the noise and disruption that we made.)  But no one from the staff came to see if we were all right either immediately or after the show, even though it was evident that cast members had seen the event.

After the final curtain, we reported the incident to the house manager.  She apologized and filled out a form, asking us to add our information to the form.  She did not, however, give us any advice about what to do if we were injured or had medical issues that became more evident over subsequent days.  Nor did she offer a first aid examination or any other assistance.

Beyond those points, though, here is the major problem.  We both said, a few times, that this was a dangerous arrangement and that something should be done to protect against a similar fall by future patrons.  The house manager gave no indication of hearing that concern and made no mention of any follow-up actions she or the theater were likely to consider.

In the hospital world, when there is an unsafe condition that has caused harm and a patient reports it, we train people to give a sincere apology; we offer immediate remedial assistance; we offer to make recompense or compensation in proportion to the degree of harm; and--most importantly--we explain how the institution will learn from the error so that other people do not suffer the same result.

My fellow patron and I both left the theater feeling that the final step would not take place.  That made us resentful that the third step was never offered.  Frankly, I never even would have thought about recompense or compensation if the final step had taken place.  Like a patient who has suffered harm and has not heard the appropriate response from a hospital, resentment leads to a desire for financial compensation.  What an unnecessary outcome!

Finally, instead of talking with friends about the wonderful show we had seen and the great performance by talented actors and musicians, we found ourselves talking about the unsafe condition at the theater and what we felt was a poor response to harm that had occurred.
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