While shopping, I overheard someone complaining how they needed to park in the handicapped spot at the drug store because they sprained their ankle and it hurt to walk. A sprained ankle hurts like hell. I get it. You see my joints feel like they are sprained and/or broken most of the time. They swell, ache, and get red hot on a regular basis. The funny thing is, I lived in this pain for YEARS before I ever thought about getting a handicapped parking spot. I didn’t want to take a spot away from someone who would need it more than me. My rheumatologist suggested that I get a placard because I was an itinerant therapist who traveled between 6 schools. Some days, I had to park 4 or 5 blocks away from the building while carrying all of my materials only to find the janitor was parking his Hummer in the handicapped spot so it wouldn’t get scraped up on the street. I reluctantly filled out the application and I cried when it arrived in the mail. I then had to complain to the one school to keep the normally abled janitor from parking in the spot I needed. My email complaining was forwarded to an entire staff as “Here is a reason why no one should park in the handicapped spots”. I was gutted that someone decided to “out” me as a person with an illness who needed an accommodation. When I spoke to her about it, she left work because she was so devastated that she hurt my feelings. She went home, as I sat in a back office typing up reports while I cried my eyes out. I’ve had a serious complex about my parking situations ever since.
A few people, including family members, laughed at me when they found out I had a handicapped parking placard. I don’t look sick. I’m not in a wheelchair and I only sporadically use a cane, so in their minds, I am not a valid handicap parking spot user. Then I met people who just assume everyone NOT in a wheelchair is using someone else handicap placard. It seems everyone who doesn’t use handicapped parking see themselves as experts on the subject. I often hear complaints that stores have too many or too few handicapped spots. I see cars pull into the spots with the blue lines (for people to get out of vans with ramps) without hesitation. I also see the dirty looks I get as I limp away from my spot.
I recently complained at work about people parking in handicapped spots and ironically the person who parked there, didn’t realize it was handicapped because the plow team didn’t clear the spot and she couldn’t see the blue lines under the snow (this spot doesn’t have a sign in addition to the lines). Ironically, her car wasn’t the one I was complaining about. Worst of all, everyone knew I had to be the one who complained because I’m the only staff member who does have a valid handicapped placard. How funny is it that I felt guilty complaining about people parking in the handicapped spots without valid tags?
I’ve been off my biologic drug for over 3 weeks due to bronchitis, so swelling is out of control. I was walking out to my car at the end of the work day and was so happy that I didn’t have to walk very far because it hurt so much. If I have to live with incurable autoimmune diseases that make my joints look like this:
the least I deserve is to have a good parking spot.