Assumptions about disabled parking can wreck your day
Assumptions about disabled parking can wreck your day
Many disabled people encounter a certain amount of judgemental behavior directed at them from a few in the able-bodied community. One true story happened to a woman, a wounded veteran. She received a traumatic brain injury that gravely affected her short-term memory. Because of this, she had a permit to use disabled parking spaces. Without, she would panic because she couldn’t remember where she parked. Because she “looked normal,” she was often received scathing looks and remarks that she was a phony. Her story inspired this fictionalized story: ‘assumptions about disabled parking can wreck your day.’
“So, do you want to tell her, or shall I?”
Cameron, who was about to greet his fiancé with a kiss, pauses to look at his future brother-in-law. A wry grin tugs the corner of his mouth as he kisses his girl hello.
“Tell me what?” asks Lizzy as she follows him into the kitchen.
He snatches a can of soda from the fridge as she leans back against the countertop. Pulling the tab, he brings the can to his lips. “We had another…” he pauses, drinks, then finishes carefully, “encounter, today.”
“Another…?” Cam watches Liz as she trails off. She blinks at him, then shifts her gaze to her brother, Sean. The silent look they both give her has her groaning with a full-body eye roll.
“Oh, come on. Really?” she said. “And what did you two do to set it off?”
Cam takes a long pull from his drink then casts a nod toward Sean.
“The usual. He pulled into a parking spot.”
Sun glared off the hood as Guns N’ Roses screamed through the speakers of Sean’s truck. Axl Rose was welcoming them to the jungle as he turned into the shopping center.
“Everyone and their uncle must be out shopping today,” he muttered while looking for a parking spot. Turning down the radio, he called out to the others. “So, after we’re done here, what’s everyone in the mood for?”
Riding shotgun, Cam voted for burgers. From the back seat, a couple of their friends, whom Sean often refers to as Knuckleheads One and Two, spoke in tandem: “Pizza.” “Sushi.”
“Well,” sighed Sean, “that narrows it down for us.”
“Wait a minute,” said Cam. “Whose turn is it to pick?”
They were opening their doors as Sean pulled the key from the ignition. He said, “Mine, I think,” and got out. Shutting his door, he side-stepped Knucklehead Two’s door as it swung open. Two steps later, he was called out.
“Um, excuse me?” A woman spoke loudly at him from the next aisle over.
More of the truck’s doors slammed closed behind Sean as she strode toward them. Stopping just beyond his tailgate, the woman looked between him and his friends and pointed out, “These are reserved parking spaces. For the handicapped.” She stretched out ‘handicapped’ between all three syllables.
“That right?” asked Sean, sounding mildly enlightened, then resumed walking toward the rear of the truck.
“Yes.” She looked between the lot of them again, then back to Sean, “Which none of you are.”
Sean glared just a little bit as he rounded the bumper of his truck. “First, the word you want is ‘disabled’, and there is no way you can tell that we aren’t just by looking at us. Second, you’re right.”
She blinked rapidly at him, “You… what? You’re just openly admitting it?”
Stopping just behind the cab on the passenger side, Sean glanced at his crew. He propped an elbow on the bed of the truck and asked her, “What, that we’re not disabled?”
Bewildered disbelief had her nearly shouting, “Yes!”
He gave her a lazy shrug. “Sure, I admit it.”
“Then how can you justify using this spot? Taking it away from someone who actually needs it?”
Sean held up a finger. “I’ll be happy to answer that in just one minute.” Behind him, Cam’s door swung open, and Sean told her, “First, let me give my brother his wheelchair.”
He reached into the bed of his truck and then watched as the woman turned about five different shades of red as he lifted the frame to Cam’s chair over the side. Sliding on the wheels, he could practically see the big, neon sign flashing Error! Error! Error! in her mind.
Her attention slid past him to where Cam was easing himself out of the front passenger seat. The guy’s knees went a little soft on him as his feet found the pavement, and Knucklehead One stepped closer to put a supporting hand on Cam’s bicep.
Legs already trembling from the exertion it took him to stand, Cam looked at the woman as he braced a hand on the side of the truck and took one lumbering step forward. Sean set his chair down behind him.
“Oh… oh. I…” was all she could get out.
Cam kept his gaze locked on her as he reached behind and settled into the seat.
“Oh, I’m…” She looked between the four of them, blanching a little.
Sean didn’t blame her. Arms crossed over his chest, Knucklehead Two looked about ready to start chewing on someone’s shoe.
Her throat clicked as she swallowed. “Look, I’m…” She looked back to Cam and met his gaze as he angled himself back and shut the truck door. She raised an apologetic palm, then turned and power-walked across the parking lot.
Knucklehead One lived up to his nickname by throwing his hands in the air, shouting, “Hey, where ya going? You didn’t give him time to explain!”
Cam smacked the guy in the stomach. Hard. “Stop it. She feels bad enough. Just let her go.”
Sean blew out a breath, “Yeah, but at the same time, I get so damn sick of that crap.”
“I know,” Cam said as their group headed toward the strip mall. “Her intentions were good, though.”
Knucklehead One spoke up, “I don’t know, man. Sometimes I think people just like throwing their nose into other people’s business. Like, it’s their hobby or something.”
“There’s some of that, too,” agreed Cam. He popped a small wheelie at the curb, then gave the rims of his chair a shove and mounted the sidewalk. “But, for the most part, I think the parking lot vigilantes, in their own, slightly misguided way, really are just trying to help.”
“Some of them, I guess,” said Sean.
The sporting goods store’s automatic doors slid open, and they walked inside. Then, Sean looked at Cam.
“You want to tell Lizzy about this one tonight, or shall I?”
Christine Brazeel is an author living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Since being diagnosed, she's had to learn how to shrink her physical expectations on what she can do. Being exceptionally stubborn and hard-headed, it's a continuous battle for her.