Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Don't even think of parking there ...

     Please tell me why perfectly able-bodied people park in the handicapped parking spaces, especially at every WalMart in town?  I have never in my life seen as many cars parked in the disabled slots as those at WalMart. They have four  handicapped slots on every row, and every single one of them is  filled. Problem is, I can't seem to find the disabled bodies that go with them.  Oh, they've all got handicapped tags plastered to their windshields. Many are expired, some are stolen, most are abused. The tags actually belong to grandma, a cousin, a neighbor, a dead relative.  Once, a lady actually told me that she was so excited when her mama died two years ago because she got her handicapped parking pass.  She didn't realize at the time that I was the parent of a child in need of that space, but I didn't think for a minute that would have kept her from parking there.
         I see teenage girls in 4" stillettos whip into the handicapped spot, jump out of the car, and boogy on in to the store.  Carloads of young boys, rocking the radio, squeal in peeling rubber, hop right on out, and amble up to the front door. Pickup trucks with push mowers, weed whackers, chain saws and weed blowers pull in. Excuse me, but if you can operate heavy equipment, cut down small trees, blow debris off your sidewalk and plow through uncut grass, shouldn't you be able to walk into WalMart from a regular parking space?
     And please explain why you can walk back to your car pushing a buggy loaded with enough bags to feed a third-world country, lift all those bags into the trunk of your car, heft a forty pound bag of Purina in,  push the buggy back to the store, but you can't walk into the store empty handed from a car parked in a regular space? I just don't get it.
      It has become my mission in life to educate the able-bodied idiots who abuse those spaces as to why they are needed for the truly physically impaired.  It embarrasses my daughter to no end. "Please, mom, just let it go. I don't need to go in. Don't say anything, you're going to embarrass me."
     "You are not the one that's about to get embarrassed," I answer, as I knock on the window of the souped up Chevy that just pulled into the last handicapped space, loaded with teenagers anxious to hit the mall. This is one mad momma they're going to wish they hadn't met.  I have found with teenagers the thing that works best is to simply write down their license plate and tell them I have no choice but to report them. I am bound by law to do so, and they will get a call from the traffic court in a week or two, which will result in the forfeiture of their license for a 6 month period.  Let them sweat that one out for awhile.  They beg, they whine, they cry, but I continue to make a huge ordeal out of writing down their tag number and make and model of car.
      I have left countless notes on windows,  driven around parking lots until I found security guards, called in placards that were expired, and argued with countless numbers of insolent drivers who pulled into handicapped spaces in violation of the law. The most common excuse, of course, is "I was only going to run in for a minute." Do you think I care? It takes 15 minutes to get someone in a wheelchair loaded in a van and strapped into position, and you have just taken the only spot that allows them access to the mall because you were in a hurry? Get over yourself.
     I have become the PETA personality of handicapped parking advocates....obessessed with tracking down those who abuse the system, righting wrongs on the macadam, fighting for those who actually need the extra space to let down a ramp and unload a wheelchair. 
    It's a losing battle. The system depends on values that have long been lost in our culture: honesty, courtesy, compassion, and selflessness. We live in a world with a "me first, too bad that doesn't work out for you" attitude. So if you park in that handicapped space and don't really need it, please count your  blessings with every step you take, thank the good Lord for your perfectly functioning body, and don't back over the crazy lady writing down your license plate number.

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