Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"Is You Is or Is You Aint" ... Disabled!

My doctor’s office is in one of two six story buildings. It is in a Health Complex that includes a large sprawling hospital. There is surface parking everywhere and they have just recently completed a six story-parking garage. I would venture to say that there is enough room to park several thousand cars. But I have found only FOUR (4) ’Disabled’ Parking spaces. There once were 8 Disabled Parking spaces, but they repainted 4 of the blue curbs yellow and made them delivery spaces.

Maybe I‘m easily confused, but that parking area leaves me puzzled. A Health Complex is like a magnet for disabled people. You see them all over the parking area struggling to get to one of the two doctor’s buildings. Why are there only four (4) Disabled Parking spaces? Maybe the man that paints curbs ran out of blue paint.

When I went to work for a very large company I was labeled ’Handicapped’, but I was assigned parking way out in the north forty. The man that I worked for yelled at the parking supervisor and I was given a slot right in front of the building, but, and this is a very big BUT, a man in a suit paid me a visit. He had a large, piece of heavy paper in his hand. He said it had to be displayed in my windshield. That was fine I could do that when I was parked in front the building, but he didn’t think that would fulfill the need. He proceeded to accompany me to my car and made me watch as he literally glued the paper onto the inside, lower, right hand corner of my windshield. In large, heavy, black lettering it said “HANDICAPPED PERSONNEL, PARKING PERMITTED BY ___________ .

This was the early 1970’s and if I had used that word to describe myself to my parents they would have been heart broken. That word had never been allowed in my vocabulary. Now I was going to have to drive everywhere with it splashed on my windshield.

Society was just beginning to paint curbs blue. Frankly, I hadn’t paid a whole lot of attention to the blue curbs. I didn’t consider myself ’handicapped’. Apparently neither did the parking authorities of the State of California.

A group of my women friends and I decided to go to Century City for lunch and shop strolling. As I pulled into a brand new parking structure one of my friends pointed to the blue curb with the disabled logo above it and said, "Park there!"

"I can't park there. I'm not disabled."

'Well someone disagrees with you. There's a big sign in your window that says you are."

She had a point. So I parked there.

Hours later when we returned to my car I had a ticket under my windshield wiper. I got ticketed for illegally parking in a handicapped parking space. The Automobile Club fought that ticket. I heard the argument. But the law is the law, or so the argument went. Remember this was the '70's, and although most of the parking done in the Disabled Parking was done by people that were healthy, I didn't have a 'California' issued placard so I had to pay the ticket. I am the only person I know that has had HANDICAPPED plastered all over the window of their car and had to pay a ticket for not being officially handicapped.

In the early 80's my doctor demanded that I get a disabled placard. When I told him that I had never applied that word to myself he responded, "Well, it's time to re-think your application. You are now disabled. Here's the form. APPLY!" In the early 90's he suggested that I get disabled licensed plates because I was never going to be un-disabled again and he was tired of re-affirming my disability every few years.

Sitting in my car I look like I am hale, hearty, and healthy. People just naturally come after me, I guess. I have had people scream, yell, threaten, and throw themselves at my car. I once had a young man and woman hold hands and lay themselves across the parking space so I couldn't pull in.

Last year John and I pulled into the McDonalds disabled space to get a cup of coffee. I had had four people that were part of my family die that year and I had completely forgotten to renew my car registration. Frankly, I forgot to do a lot of things that year. John had gone in to get the coffee. I was sitting quietly in the car when a bicycle riding policeman pulled up to my passenger side window and said that I did not have a current registration and he wanted me OUT of the disabled parking immediately. "Your illegal, I want you out immediately!. Now! Did you hear me? NOW! I looked up and there was an armed policeman standing at the front of my car with his arms crossed over his chest as if he was trying to restrain the urge to pummel the offending car. I laid my head on the steering wheel and all the crying that I hadn't done when all my loved ones died came flooding out of me. The bicycle riding policeman didn't care that he was looking at a hysterical female. He just kept at me. I tried to explain to him that I was half ou o my mind with grief. He wouldn't listen. "I have the right to take this car from you. You'll be taken to jail and your car will be put up for auction." This story is long and ugly so I'll stop here, but once again I'm the only disabled person driving a disabled person to McDonalds that almost got arrested for parking in a Disabled Parking space.

A few months ago I had a man call me a white, lazy bitch until his wife scooted ahead of him and yelled back that I had 'current' disabled plates. The woman in the car parked next to me apologized for his rudeness.

I tried to pull into the Disabled Parking at a restaurant and a woman grabbed her husband and yelled at him to demand that I move my car immediately. She had him so worked up he came over to my car window and threatened to go get the restaurant manager if I didn't move immediately. When I quietly asked him if he knew what polio was he nodded and backed away.

Last week I had had my fill. When the man with the wife and two children called me a rude, inconsiderate driver I hit the button, rolled up my window, turned my head away from him, and flipped up my finger.

To all the people who have been kind. To all the people that have been generous with their time and energy when they stopped to help me. To the man that pushed my wheelchair for me when he saw how exhausted I was. To the women that have carried shopping bags to the car for me. To all the people that cared, I offer a heart full of thanks and gratitude.

But to the man that I flipped off. You may have thought you were protecting the disabled parking space for a disabled person, but you didn't make certain I wasn't one of them did you? You could have verified my disability if you had looked at my license plates. I hope you do that next time. I have never given anyone the finger before. I'm not really proud that I did it that first time, especially in front of the children,


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