(the following article originally appeared in The Patterson Irrigator in 2007)
We all have our pet peeves. The little habits or incidents that prickle our skin with annoyance, making us wonder if we may be developing hives. I know I have many pet peeves, and the other day, right in the Save Mart parking lot, I came face-to-face with one of them.
A woman was parked in a disabled parking space with her motor running, impatiently drumming her fingers on her steering wheel waiting for someone to exit the store. After a quick inspection, I noticed no disabled placard in sight. As someone who has been disabled since birth, I immediately felt my irritation flare at the woman’s carelessness.
So, after being forced to park in an alternate parking space, I approached her car in my wheelchair. When she saw me, her eyes widened and she quickly avoided my reproachful stare. Then, she busied herself by fumbling with the contents of her purse before finally backing out of the space. I could feel her guilt waft through the windshield, but despite her embarrassment at being caught red-handed, I was still aghast at the audacity of her actions.
I’d like to say that this is the first time I’ve seen something like that. But, it isn’t. In fact, if I had a dollar for every time I’d seen it, I could probably buy myself a nice new iPod and matching rubber case. But, its frequency of occurrence doesn’t make it any more right, or legal, for that matter.
And there are also the people who seem to think that those white diagonal lines in the boxes next to the disabled parking spots are mini motorcycle parking spaces or a convenient area to tuck their discarded shopping cart. On several occasions I’ve been tempted to back into an illegally parked motorcycle with my wheelchair hoping the metal kick stand would give way and the whole thing would topple onto its chrome-accented side. But, I have no desire to dent my own wheelchair in the process, so I haven’t given in to the urge—thus far.
Before I drive off my metaphorical soapbox, I’d like add one more thing. Even though, in my example above, the woman didn’t have a disabled placard, I have also witnessed countless abuses of the system which was designed to help people like me. Some disabled placards change hands more often than most people change their underwear. When a disabled placard is issued, it is only meant to be used by the person to whom it was issued. But, this policy isn’t always adhered to. And so, very often, people who are parked in disabled spaces with visible placards aren’t even disabled. So, that leaves less open spaces for those of us who truly need them.
If you happen to be one of these offenders, please give thought to what I have said. And if you spot someone parking in a disabled spot without a placard, perhaps give them a gentle reminder: like a note tucked in the windshield wiper. We all have busy lives, yes, but no excuse justifies breaking the law – especially when that person has two working legs that can take them the extra twenty yards to the door.
Well, I’d best get off my soapbox before it collapses under the weight of my wheelchair. I’d hate to damage my wheelchair before I get the chance to back into an illegally parked motorcycle.