Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Classic Call Out

Being a driver with a disability who requires wheelchair accessible parking I can't tell you how many times that I've seen others parking illegally in handicapped spots and really wanted to give them an earful. I'm talking specifically about people parking in accessible spots without the proper identification, people without disabilities wrongfully using a rear view mirror disability parking placard (either via a friend or relative or obtained through other illicit means), etc. But despite the numerous opportunities in the past, it seems like I've rarely said anything to those people when it's come down to it for a handful of reasons.

Namely, that I more than many others realize that there are plenty of hidden disabilities out there, and the last thing I'd ever want to do is ream somebody out only to discover that they have a fake leg or something. That situation actually happened to a family friend once. He saw a guy parking his Harley motorcycle in a handicapped spot and called him out about how illegal and selfish he was being only to have the biker pull up his pant leg and reveal his titanium prosthetic leg. Thus he was fully justified in parking where he was and our friend was left doing all that he could to dislodge his foot from his mouth. Had I opened my mouth as much as I've been inclined to over the last thirteen plus years I've been driving from my wheelchair it would only have been a matter of when, not if, I would have experienced a similar, potentially mortifying situation myself.

One of the other primary reasons is that, unfortunately, I feel like more often than not I would probably just be wasting my breath. Because as much as I've always liked to think that calling someone out or even shaming them in public a little bit will make them open their eyes and change their behavior and quit wrongfully using handicapped parking it seems like that is hardly ever the case. I've seen it too many times where people just pretend to ignore you and/or walk past real ignorantly like they don't care. Or they claim to have some right to park there even though it's really only justifiable to themselves, and thus they don't believe that they're in the wrong no mater what you say to them. For example, they're using it because they drive their disabled grandma to medical appointments, but if grandma is not in the car then they shouldn't still be parking in accessible spaces. In fact, in most jurisdictions it's illegal and you should get a ticket for it. And worse of all is how ultimately many of these people start to feel entitled to use the accessible parking. So instead of using their parking placard, however obtained, only when they can't find other close parking spots (even though that's wrong too) they just seek out the closest accessible spaces immediately and without recourse. I always love it when some of those folks try to talk shop with me, as if we're on the same level of need, about how bad the handicapped parking situation is in a given location. Yeah, I'm really sorry that you had to drop Aunt Gertie off at the front door and walk an extra 20 feet after you parked in a regular spot instead of getting an accessible spot. On numerous occasions when I was in college I had able bodied students and staff cutting me off to park in accessible campus parking spots we were in the same "competition" for. They knew I was in a wheelchair, we both knew that that they had nowhere near the absolute need to park there that I did, but they hardly deferred to me nonetheless because they had built up this feeling that they were equally entitled to them. I probably missed a few dozen classes in total as a direct result because I had no other parking options.

But with all that being said, it really tickled my fancy to come across a handicapped parking related article not long ago that included the classic, classic call out note pasted in quotes below that someone with a disability, or someone looking out on behalf of people with disabilities, left on the windshield of someone who was parking in an accessible spot illegally. Given the opportunity, this is definitely how I would prefer to bring an accessible parking violation to somebody's attention. Check it out:

"This is not a ticket, but if it were within my power, you would receive two. Because of your Bull Headed, inconsiderate, feeble attempt at parking, you have taken enough room for a 20 mule team, 2 elephants, 1 goat and a safari of pygmies from the African interior. The reason for giving you this is so that in the future you may think of someone else, other than yourself. Besides, I don't like domineering, egotistical or simple-minded drivers, and you probably fit into one of these categories.

"I sign off wishing you an early transmission failure (on the expressway at about 4:30 p.m.). Also, may the Fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits. With my compliments."

The other side was signed "Shame on you. Where is your Handicap Plaque."

Now isn't THAT something? Fantastic. Love it. Nothing like calling someone out in general, but also in a way that makes them go, "Camel fleas, what?" But the real kicker in all of this is that it was actually the offending party that submitted this note to the paper. His reply follows:

"I do have a handicap parking permit, but was not aware that I was in a handicap spot. I should have been more careful. Nonetheless, the repugnant nature of the "violation" was quite disturbing. It seems to me that a "friendly reminder" would be more effective."

So there's a few things to chew on here. First, this notion that he or she has a handicapped parking permit but was somehow unaware that they were parked in an accessible spot. Say what? Anybody that has a disability placard or license plate and thus uses accessible parking knows exactly where the accessible parking spots are and when they are parking in them. To claim differently in this case is laughable. The second thing is how they put the word violation in quotation marks (i.e. "violation") as if because of this "I really do have a handicap parking permit but didn't have it with me" thing it somehow made their violation not a real violation at all. Parking in an accessible spot without the proper identifying plate or placard is illegal, period. Third, I love how all that combined with the word repugnant and the "friendly reminder" comment offers the strong implication that the primary motivation for this person to get all of the above published was for them to try and make a claim that they were some sort of victim due to the harshness of the note left on their windshield. This person parked illegally, got busted, and now they're the one with the beef because the person who called them out wasn't polite enough in how they went about it? Give me a break.

Regardless, this guy's call out note has inspired me to possibly start leaving a few interestingly phrased notes on accessible parking violator's cars myself. If they leave even a fraction of the impact that this note left then maybe I will ultimately become responsible for making some very necessary, positive behavioral changes in regards to accessible parking abuse after all. I will be leaving the camel fleas and armpit infestations commentary aside, however.


  1. I think you should create, say a notecard with a picture of yourself in your wheelchair, or better yet, a picture of you getting out of our van in your wheelchair, and write your notes on these. Harsh wording with a real life image, now that's gotta make an impact. I know I'd feel like a major douche if I actually saw the person I'd stole a spot from. If you send me a picture I'd be happy to make up these friendly little note cards for you :)

  2. That's a good idea and a nice offer. When I read that I remembered that I've had a lime green notepad in my glovebox for years with the symbol of access and some "you're parking wrong" type message on it. Thinking I'll start liberally utilizing those beauties, but write on the back so they know specifically why, in a given situation, they parked wrong (e.g. crooked, without ID, etc.). But I'll circle back to you if I run out and/or need to bust out the bigger guns!