I parked the jeep and began to walk to the park building when I immediately saw the blue minivan sprawled across all three disability parking spots near the front of the building. I immediately walked to the van, as I have done many other times before, it was occupied by a mother perhaps a few years younger than myself and most likely her mother in the passenger seat.
I knocked on the driver’s side window, the driver startled and rolled down the window.
“This is a handicapped spot; do you have a permit to park her?” I asked.
“What?” the woman asked.
“This parking is reserved for people with disabilities, do you have a permit?” I repeated, more forcefully this time.
“We’re just waiting for my kids.” She stated.
“You need to move, you don’t have a permit and you aren’t allowed to park here” I demanded.
“Why are you making such a big deal about this?”
“Because you don’t have a right to park here” I explained, again.
“Why do you care? “, she asked with irritation in her voice.
“Because I have a son with disabilities and I often park here when I’m dropping off my other son” I said.
“Is he here now?” she asked.
“No, but that doesn’t matter, you don’t have a right to be in this parking spot and you need to move.” I repeated my demand.
I walked into the building to check Ryan out…two minutes later I return to the parking lot, and the blue minivan is still there.
I walk over again.
“Why are you still here?”
“Why does it matter to you?”
“You need to move.”
The mother chimes in from the passenger side: “I’m sorry you are such an angry person..”
“I am not an angry person”, which was an absolute lie, “you just need to leave this parking space that you have no right to park in.”
Other moms are walking by, I wasn’t aware if any were paying attention to us or not, but Ryan was and as we walked back to my car, my nine year old suggested that I call the police.
I snapped a photo of her license plate as she drove away and decided that public shaming on Facebook was her punishment for the crime.
I drove home, hands shaking, heart racing.
Little did she know what she’d be up against that Wednesday afternoon.
I was smack dab in the middle of a crap week.
Six days earlier, Dermot had spent the day having seizure after seizure, getting pumped up again and again with emergency doses of Diastat and phenobarbital to stop his seizures.
Two days earlier Dermot was brought to the ER by ambulance to try to stop his reoccurring seizures that were too stubborn to respond to our household regimen of rescue medications. While my husband was spending the day in the ER with Dermot (it was his turn), I was preparing to have my cat of 16 years put down that afternoon because for the last two months she was blind and had peed everywhere on the basement carpet. I watched the boys say their final goodbyes, drove to the vet and sat with my feline friend and held her as she passed over the rainbow bridge.
On edge, grieving and on a vigilant watch for clusters of seizures, this was not the day for anyone in my path to park in the handicapped spot to add to their privileged life.
I will say I never dreamed the confrontation would go that far, I never imagined someone would argue with me about breaking the law and then refused to move.
The day after, I received a phone call from an old neighbor that I see out and about. She asked if I had a minute to talk. I lied and said yes. I had just turned off the carpet shampooing machine I had been using to try to get the cat urine smell out of my carpet. This isn’t a task I was planning to do that day, but I wasn’t about to leave the house while my nanny was counting and tracking another round of seizures Dermot was experiencing.
My friend informed me that she had seen my Facebook post and realized that she knew the woman who had “idled” in the handicapped spot the day before and wanted to work with both of us to reconcile.
She told me a few things about her friend, how her friend was put off by how aggressive I was and that she didn’t know that “idling” in those spots was illegal and that her mother (the one who called me the “angry person”) actually has experience working with individuals with special needs.
I stopped. No explanation was going to make it okay. I told my friend to tell this woman and if I saw her again, I would not “beat her up” or cause a scene, unless she was parked in those spots again. I told her that I would just ignore her. She again continued with her defense of the offender and I stopped the conversation abruptly and told her I was done talking to her. I hung up the phone.
I wonder if it occurred to my friend to say to the offender that she fucked up and shouldn’t have argued with a special needs mom.
When you argue about one issue with a special needs mom, you aren’t just arguing about the parking spot. You are arguing about the vast unfairness of her life compared to yours. The fact that it didn’t occur to her not to park in a spot she hadn’t earned through ten years of character building thru suffering amplifies everything.
All the pain and sadness of my journey, all the powerless moments I’ve endured, all the uncertainty that I carry with me each day, it shapes who I am, how I feel and how I interact with others. When I’m stretched too thin and worn too bare, that’s when I lose it.
I took a break from Facebook for a month, regretted my public shaming incident, cleaned up my account and am currently editing my friend list. Changing my priorities and valuing my true friendships. I’m sharing this with you to remind you:
Your true character is revealed by how you treat those who can do nothing for you.