Health Uncategorized

The Time I Ended Up Sobbing in a Parking Lot

If you follow me on Twitter, then you probably saw my tweets on Saturday morning about an incident that happened Friday night. Since the full story was really too long for Twitter and I really want to share it for awareness purposes, I figured that it would make a good blog post.

On Friday night, my boyfriend and I went to dinner at  restaurant that was really within walking distance, but too far away for me to walk. I drove since I have permanently disabled parking (for my rheumatoid arthritis, for those of you who are new), and when we got to the parking lot all of the parking spots were full. There was even a car in the handicapped spot. This car did not have disabled plates or a placard, and the hazards were on.

Luckily, someone else pulled out of their spot (right next to the handicapped spot) so we could park. If this hadn’t happened, we would have either needed to circle around the parking lot for a while waiting for an opening or leave all together. After a few minutes of trying to get into the tight parking space with my big SUV, I was able to park, and as we got out of the car the owner of the one in the handicapped spot got to her car.

I immediately started with, “Ma’am, you know that this is a handicapped spot and you can’t park there?” She shot back about how 1) her hazards where on so it was legal 2) I seem fine and got a spot so it doesn’t matter and 3) she doesn’t care.

As a whole, she starts yelling at me, and will not listen to me tell her about my medical issues that actually make what she did a problem. I’m not talking about legality, I explain. I’m talking about morally. It’s not morally right to park there. She keeps yelling at me, I’m yelling, my boyfriend is yelling, and finally she gets in her car to drive away, yelling the entire time.

By now I’m extremely upset. First of all, I am sensitive to people actually believing that I have a disability and judging me for parking in the handicapped spot when they can’t see what’s wrong with me. Second, no matter what she was in the wrong and shouldn’t be yelling at me. This is when I start crying from being hurt and angry.

We turn to walk towards the restaurant, which is across the street from the parking lot, and she pulls up next to us. She rolls down her window and starts yelling at us that we should be ashamed of ourselves because what we’re doing is wrong to park in the parking lot when we are going across the street. At this point I am sobbing.

J just yells at her to go away, to leave us alone. It is then that the woman notices that I am crying, and asks what’s wrong with me. Since I am furious and upset I yell my medical conditions at her (RA, for which I’m on an infusion of chemotherapy; fibromyalgia; and tarsal coalitions, for which I had 4 ankle surgeries). J pulls me away – I’m a bit of a tornado when I’m angry – and, to be quite honest, I don’t remember exactly what happened after that. I was so upset that I didn’t notice what the woman and J said to each other after that, all I know is that when she finally did leave we were left in the cold while I sobbed.

Situations like this are why I am so open about my medical experiences. If we hide that people of all ages experience these medical problems and can look healthy and still be handicapped/disabled, then there will still be awful people out there who act like this. 

Later, J consoled me by saying that he was pretty sure that she felt awful. My response was, “Good. She should.” I don’t regret feeling that way, and I stay by it.

Thank you to everyone who responded so kindly over the weekend to this. I really appreciate it. And, like I said on Twitter, I don’t know what would have happened had J not been with me. Between my anger and my hurt feelings, I was pretty incomprehensible early on into the altercation. I am eternally grateful for him and for all of the support I have received from followers and friends. And, thankfully, the rest of my weekend was smooth sailing!

For the record:
– Parking in a handicapped spots with your flasher on is still illegal
– Your convenience is not as important as my health. If you think it is okay to park in that spot to load/unload your car, you are in the wrong.
– 96% of disabilities are invisible, so just because you can’t see that someone needs the handicapped spot doesn’t mean that they don’t
– An experience like this demonstrates what is called ableism (discrimination against disabled people)
– If you see someone parking in the handicapped spot without plates or placard, take down their license plate number and take pictures that they are in the spot without a placard/plates and take it to the police. In Tennessee, I believe that the punishment is $200 fine and can include community service hours.

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