Thursday, October 29, 2009

One Man's Annoying/Aggravating/Interesting Access Picture of the Week

I took the picture below at a Byerly's, which is the grocery store that I shop at in Minneapolis the most often. With the mostly meager bottom line that I’ve carried through my four years of law school, plus the handful of years since, I probably shouldn’t have continued to shop there with such regularity because it’s a grocery chain that caters to a wealthier clientele on the whole, and has higher prices on average as a result. But I’ve continued to do so nonetheless for three main reasons: 1) I workout in the neighborhood every Friday afternoon so it’s convenient, 2) they bag my groceries for me, and 3) I can either drive up to retrieve them or they carry them out to my van for me if I can't handle them myself. It's a huge selling point for me.

What’s the big deal with the latter two points some may now be asking themselves. Well you don’t live in the greater Minneapolis area, where for some reason hardly any prominent grocery store chains bag shopper’s groceries for them. In fact, it’s one of three cultural observations that immediately struck me upon moving to the cities: 1) the vast majority of common grocery stores don’t bag groceries, 2) no grocery stores have liquor stores attached to them, and 3) liquor stores aren’t even open on Sundays. I grew up my whole life in Wisconsin with grocery stores having hired baggers on hand for every checkout aisle, so I found the fact that they don’t do the same thing in Minneapolis very out of place, not to mention unfortunate for me personally since it can be quite difficult for me to bag all my goods by myself. And not being able to buy a case of full strength beer on football Sundays over here is just plain mind-blowingly asinine to me; I mean the state of Wisconsin would shut down if that was the case over there. That’s not even a theory, that’s a true fact. Wisconsinites come strong in that department.

Anyway, two things immediately stick out to me when I witness a parking scenario like this. First, this person is parked crooked across the yellow access stripes. As I’ve mentioned before, those striped zones are vital for someone like me who needs extra parking room for my ramp and wheelchair. I have what I think is a pretty strong theory that drivers who don’t have true, permanent physical disabilities are the primary culprits for parking crooked like that. Those of us that do live with more significant disabilities always park straight, even if we're in a rush, because we respect the fact that other people might need to use those striped zones for their own access.


Second, the car is a Lexus. I’ll admit right off the bat that people with all kinds of disabilities drive all styles of vehicles. But that notwithstanding, whenever I see a luxury vehicle parked in a handicapped parking space, let alone when it’s both a luxury car and parked crooked, it always raises an eyebrow. Moreover, in all of my vast accessible parking experiences spanning thirteen years I have yet to see a person getting in or out of their luxury vehicle who looked like they needed to park in an accessible space. When I see that I always picture a doctor doing a favor for a golf country club buddy so they can park close everywhere and not get their nice car scratched.

A quick relatable anecdote: About six months after my accident my parents were invited to attend the Governor’s Christmas party down in Madison, WI. At that dinner my parents were seated next to some wealthy desperate housewife who was talking openly about how she had her doctor friend write her a script for a handicapped parking hangtag, and how great it was to be able to always have an open parking spot when she went shopping. My parents didn’t say anything at the time so as not to potentially make a scene with so many of my dad’s Secretary Cabinet colleagues around, but my dad said that my mom was pretty upset by it on the drive home. Granted, it was still a highly emotional transitional time for my family, but on the whole that was a pretty classless move by that lady to be so ignorantly boastful, even if she couldn't have reasonable predicted that someone within earshot had a disability connection. And unfortunately that's not an isolated incident in that regard.

I had a similar experience my last semester of college when I was doing an internship at a law firm. At the spring firm picnic I started to overhear a handful of guys, including one of the senior most partners, standing about eight feet away from me talking up the great advantages of getting to use handicapped parking whenever they got the chance (i.e. through friends, wives, relatives, etc.). I didn’t say anything at the time because I was the low man on the totem pole and had it in the back of my mind somewhere that if I got after them and caused any embarrassment (even if it was due) that I would blow my chances of working there someday, if I ever applied for an attorney position after law school. But I always regretted it, even if one of the lawyer’s names was placed most prominently on the firm’s letterhead. If I could do it over again I probably would have said, “Do you guys mind not talking so loud about how great handicapped parking is in front of the guy in the wheelchair?"

But all in all the point of this picture in particular is that in my world a person parking crooked in a handicapped spot + driving a luxury vehicle usually equals a shady disability situation + I have to park somewhere else.

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