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Picture Stories

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I generally don’t use my blog to comment about stories posted on the Internet (by others), but today I read something that touched a personal nerve. Assumptions. We all make them from time to time. Even in a world that puts such a high priority on not judging. However, I find it more than ironic (and  bit hypocritical, too) that some of the same people who berate others for judging don’t try to check their own assumptions.

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I remember the comments I read after the first time I saw this photo, comments from people of all walks of life. Most of the comments were critical and sarcastic, but the most scathing remarks came from fitness fanatics. They ranted about how ironic it was that a fitness facility would install an escalator, and that perfectly healthy people would use it (as opposed to the stairs) when going to (or from) an exercise facility. Now I’m no an angel, but my first thought was a little different. I approached this picture from a handicapped point of view. I thought about the scores of people who’ve had hip replacements, knee surgery, back surgery and various injuries and broken bones, who need access to a gym to continue their rehab or fitness regime. When I mentioned that point, most people chastised me, pointing out that neither of the people on the escalator LOOKED handicapped. Ah. The old appearances and assumptions game. So apparently we’re told we shouldn’t judge others, but it’s OK to make assumptions about people based on how they look!

To be perfectly honest, I also thought about a few other scenarios regarding this photo. I wondered if the city or town had certain zoning regulations about how business must manage traffic flow, safety and accessibility. I know most gyms are swamped by crowds of members during certain, high-traffic times of the day. Perhaps escalators were installed to comply with a specific zoning criteria the facility had to meet? I also thought back to those days in my own lifting career when I trained to absolute failure and inhalation. There were many times when I left the gym and found myself nearly incapable of operating the clutch on my standard car. Would I have chosen to use an escalator some of those days? You betcha! With no hesitation, shame, or loss of pride I might add! My ego simply isn’t that big.

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So today’s photo that gave me pause was this:

http://nydn.us/1hAYyOI

The comments about this photo were scorching. Lots of  angst and hate toward everything from SUV drivers/owners to bad park jobs and vehicular dings obtained at parking lots. Now I’m no stranger to parking arrogance or vehicle dings, but I don’t particularly like ostracizing people for their choice of vehicle. While I might not choose to drive a big SUV myself, I like having the right to pick the vehicle that suits my needs. Therefore, I don’t think all  SUV drivers or owners are the “bad guys” any more than I think all hybrid drivers are raging liberals and nerds. I think most people are a lot like me: they drive what they like or (sometimes) what they need.

Upon further inspection, I noticed a tag hanging from the rear view mirror on the windshield. My first impression of this photo instantly changed. Was that a handicap tag? If so, that would totally change my interpretation of this picture. I have a handicap parking tag. I don’t always use it, but when I do, I can’t help but notice the vehicles and the people parked around me. First of all, let me say that handicap people (or their drivers) drive all kinds of different vehicles. Sometimes the vehicle is specifically designed to transport the handicapped, while other times the handicapped person is a passenger in the driver’s car. I’ve seen vans and trucks that that have been fit with lift kits to transport several wheelchairs, and station wagons and hatchbacks with walkers and wheelchairs stashed in the trunk. Handicapped parking spaces are extra wide so doors that swing open can be opened all the way and wheelchairs can be wheeled alongside the vehicle to ease the transition in and out. Lucky is the handicapped person who has a vehicle that has been customized with a lift kit for their chair. More often than not, the elderly and temporarily handicapped (think: trauma, critically ill) must make do with grossly inadequate substitutes. Many have to improvise on the fly.

Handicapped people come in all shapes and sizes. Some wear their handicap on their sleeve, meaning, you can tell just by looking at them that they have a handicap. But some (like me) don’t look impaired. In fact, I work very hard not to show my disability. And even though I have a perfectly legal handicapped parking tag, I’ve had perfect strangers come up to me and point out that I’ve parked in a handicapped parking space. Um yes, I know, and  I’m legally entitled to park there. I have to submit a signed medical form to the DMV every four years for the right to park in a handicapped parking space. Not to mention that I often forgo the handicapped space on days when I think I can manage OK. In my state, there are so many people who have handicapped tags that you’re lucky if you can even score one. I know the average person thinks there’s tons of spaces devoted to the handicapped, but  they just have no clue how much need there is and how every year the need is growing for more. Handicapped spaces are based on the overall number of parking spaces in a given parking area, not by estimates based on need. I remember when my father-in-law was in the hospital dying and I was taking my 84 year-old, severely arthritic mother-in-law to visit him daily. Seldom could we find a handicapped parking space in the parking garage, despite what seemed like plenty of handicapped spaces. It was enormously frustrating, getting her in and out of that facility every day.

The vehicle in the photo looks like it might be a Humvee. So what? Handicapped people have been known to be passengers in all sorts of vehicles. My niece’s future husband drives a Humvee. Should that exempt him from parking his vehicle in a handicapped parking space if I’m a passenger in it? No. If I had a wheelchair should he park in a manner that allows safe access and prevents his vehicle or the wheelchair from dinging the cars parked next to it? Of course not!

Let’s not make assumptions, folks. There’s enough shame in this world without having to carry chalk in our purse to draw signs around a vehicle on those occasions when we think (maybe) someone has over-stepped the boundaries or broken the rules. Do you know the whole story behind everything? Probably not! And who cares! If a certain situation forces you to park a little further out of the way then embrace the exercise and don’t let it get your panties in a wad!

3 responses

  1. It’s not a Humvee, it’s a Dodge Ram. I, too, have a handicap that enables me to park in the spaces allotted. I, too, have a handicapped hanger for my vehicle..but I only use it when I absolutely need to.

    The bad thing is, the hangers are readily available and I’ve seen people whom I KNOW aren’t handicapped use them to get into a parking place that they don’t need…they think it’s funny, they think the ‘good people’ are merely chumps,to be taken advantage of.

    I have a honking big Tundra Toyota that I don’t like to have dinged up, so I park it waaaaaaaaaaaay the hell out in the parking lot. I don’t park like the guy in the picture…but if I’m towing a trailer, I have to take up more than one spot. The point being, the driver of that truck took up four spaces in what appears to be a very crowded parking lot. That is being selfish, and, yes, an asshole. If he doesn’t want his truck dinged, or he thinks he needs all that space, he needs to park out as far as possible, so that he doesn’t inconvenience other folks. Because that’s what he’s doing: he’s making a statement: I am better than you, and I will take up as much space as possible.

    He’s lucky-in my area, someone wouldn’t have done something as harmless as chalking up the asphalt around his truck. They would have keyed his paint at least and possibly flattened his tires…or just stolen the truck.

    April 21, 2014 at 11:15 AM

    • In my state you can’t just “get” a handicapped parting tag. You need a signed doctor’s form and they are hard to get. You might be able to talk your doctor into signing a form for a temporary tag (a few weeks or months worth), but you won’t get a 4 year tag just for the asking, so unless you’re using a tag that belongs to someone else (illegal) I’m going to assume you or someone in your vehicle needs the tag. There is no way of knowing (from a photo) if the driver of the vehicle parked in a “busy” parking lot or not. The photo doesn’t show the whole lot and for all we know, maybe when they parked they WERE waaaaaaaaaaaaaay the hell out at the edge of a lot that, over time filled up around them. I’ve been to plenty of events where I thought I was parking way out in the boonies, only to go to leave five hours later and not even be able to find my car because the lot is so full. My whole point is that I prefer not to be so judgmental about how people park a vehicle. I don’t see it as being any sort of a statement or the manifestation of a superiority complex. It’s a car (or a truck) and a parking lot. So what? Who gives a rip? Unless there’s a parking attendant who says otherwise or you’re paying a fee per spot, you’re free to park wherever and however you want. Here, keying a vehicle, flattening a tire or stealing a truck is illegal, not to mention a pretty damn hostile and a juvenile response to taking up more than one parking spot …. which isn’t illegal. And really not such a big damn deal in the long run.

      April 21, 2014 at 3:04 PM

  2. Unless you’re handicapped, and the person who took up four parking spaces truly makes life difficult for you. Then it IS a big deal.

    April 23, 2014 at 12:32 PM

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