Parking has always been my Achilles heel in driving. I once received a notice in a parking garage that my parking was extremely poor and that my license plate number had been recorded and were I to park that way again, I would receive a ticket. I cannot judge distances appropriately, and I notoriously do not get close enough to the car in front of me and my Lincoln is sticking halfway out of the parking space. My younger son is in the Lord Botetourt Marching Band (the Marching Cavaliers) and the handicapped parking is adjacent to the football field; the only problem is that you have to back up all the way up a small incline and park parallel to the car to your left – I can’t do that; my wife drives me and parks the car.
The handicapped parking placard I have helps me tremendously. Before I consented to the placard (I’ve had trouble coming to terms with some of the modifications I need to make in life), walking into Walmart or Kroger seemed impossible (walking into a store isn’t always easy now). I vividly remember obtaining my placards in West Virginia: I remember the embarrassment of finally admitting I have a disability, I remember the kindness of the lady at the DMV who processed my request, I remember the special handicapped window in the seemingly endless line of clerk windows at the state’s largest DMV branch – a lower window where I could sit instead of stand – I remember the excitement of my boys who were with me (no longer would they have to walk so far to get into a store if Daddy was with them!).
Using handicapped parking has taught me several things:
- Sometimes we need to put on our big boy britches and deal with life.I’m embarrassed by my disability. OK, I just admitted that, and this blog is helping me come to terms with my disability, but I’ve not wanted to use a cane because I didn’t want people to see me with it; I refused to use my walker at one of the boys intramural baseball games, even though I had to hike down a sidewalk, because friends were joining us (Craig and Courtney couldn’t see me use a walker); and I’ve been humiliated as people point and laugh as I attempt to “walk” (I’m not sure that “walk” is the right word for the shuffle I do).The disabled parking placard in my windshield tells the world that I have a disability. No hiding it. No pretending it doesn’t exist. It’s there. It’s even a permanent placard (I never need a doctor to vouch for my disability again; it’s not expected to get better). I park in a designated spot. With disabled parking, there’s no hiding my disability. That has helped me come to terms with the fact that I really am disabled.
- Don’t laugh.When I lived in Charleston, West Virginia, I used the YMCA not far from the state capitol building. The Y had several disabled parking spots; I remember laughing and saying to Tammy, “Why would someone who is handicapped come to the gym?” I go to the gym and swim daily. Wanna guess where I park?
- People are forgetful.I’ve ranted and raved about people parking in disabled spots without a placard. One evening at Cracker Barrel I could barely walk to our table, because by the time I walked from a parking spot a looooong way from the front door, I was exhausted. Right there in front of the restaurant was a car parked in a disabled parking spot. A handicapped placard or license plate? Nope. I was furious, and I was even tempted to call the Sheriff’s office.Well, I’m a lot more forgiving now. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a disabled person is permitted one placard. Sometimes I’ve forgotten the placard was in the other car – Would anyone want to guess where I parked? Yep, I didn’t have a placard in my car, but I forgot and parked in a disabled spot anyway. I’ve learned to be more patient.
- I’ve learned to bite my tongue.There have been many times I’ve really wanted to be rude and stopped myself. One lady tested my patience like no one else has. She was parked in a disabled crosswalk, and I was attempting to park in the spot beside her. The way she was parked created a challenge in parking in the parking place I wanted. After a couple tries, I was able to get into the spot, but I was very close to her car. This woman was quite perturbed, and she said, “You could have asked me to move, you know.” I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the smart aleck side of me wanted to say, “Ma’am, the sign says, ‘Disabled Parking Only.’ You’re not disabled and you’re parked here – I shouldn’t need to ask you to move.”You wouldn’t believe what some people will say: “I sure wish I could get one of those permits and could park close to the store.” Fine. Take my disability, and I’ll be happy to walk from the far side of the parking lot. Trust me when I say this: “I’d rather park a long way from the entrance and walk in. I wish I was physically able to do that.”There’s no point in being rude, though. It might vent my frustration but cause a needless argument. It might allow me to blow off some steam, but I wouldn’t show upright character. I’ve learned just to vent under my breath and to go on.
- Looks can be deceiving.Just because someone doesn’t look sick does not at all mean he/she does not need to park in disabled parking. There are days where I can walk fine going into the store, but I know that coming out of the store is going to be tax me because of all the walking I’m going to do inside. I have good days and I have bad days, but even on the good days when I’m walking well, the pain can be pure torture. The way someone looks says nothing at all about what’s going on inside.
Yes, using disabled parking has taught me some important things about life. Even the little things in life can teach us if we stop to listen. What are you learning on life’s journey?