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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  • Reply Kiersha.

    So sorry this happened to you, that is awful! People need to be more respectful of any kind of disability. Thinking of you.

    January 27, 2014 at 2:33 pm
  • Reply JaimeLovesStuff

    This really ticks me off.

    I have a disability placard for my daughter. She has a severe traumatic brain injury which caused her to have a left sided hemiplegia, cerebral palsy and she's pretty weak. One time, I pulled into the handicapped spot (at this time, my daughter wasn't walking yet and in a wheelchair) and the security came up running to me just as I was putting the placard up. He started yelling that i can't park there. I said the hell I can't. He started screaming that I am not disabled, etc. etc. etc. I said WTF does a disability look like? You can't tell by my age and shell whether I have MS, a heart condition, lung condition, etc. I also said Are you basing this assumption on my age? He said Um…. yeah. I said okay, hold on. Let me show you something… I opened my back door, pulled out my (then) 3 year old with her helmet (missing part of her skull), wearing leg braces and her hand splints and said "Is she too young to need handicapped parking?"

    I was livid. I had this happen at a Starbucks. I couldn't pull in because a Mercedes was in the spot and I had to go through the drive-thru. I mentioned something to the cashier and she said It's our manager. Just bringing in milk. I said Oh interesting. I already called the police. Boy… they flew. The dispatcher had dispatched an officer who has a wheelchair bound wife and this is one of his pet peeves. Oh and I wrote Starbucks corporate and they had an ADA and awareness training for the entire city to remind them that is not okay. I was happy 🙂

    People are jackholes but good for you for speaking up. I am so sorry that she was such a witch. Chin up, there are a lot of sucky people out there but there are many good ones. Lots of hugs your way!

    January 27, 2014 at 2:36 pm
  • Reply suburban prep

    I understand why you were upset.
    I have fibromyalgia and I have DVT for which I wear a compression stocking so I can walk.
    I also drive my parents around (both in their 80's). My father had a stroke 2 yrs ago and is unsteady when he walks even with a cane and my mother had to aortic dissections last year and has had both knees replaces. Both do not drive now as a result of their health issues. When I do the driving (most of the time it is one of my brothers who drives them) they do have a handicapped placard. I will usually drop them off in front of where they need to go and then I will park somewhere in the parking lot –not even in the handicapped.
    I have used it sparingly as people look at me and think I am fine especially in the winter when I am wearing layers. One person yelled at me for parking there when I could not find another space because they stated that I had nothing wrong with me. I proceeded to roll up my pant leg to show them the stocking–they rolled up their window and left after releasing some words not fit to print.

    January 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm
  • Reply Kenzie @ Life According to Kenz

    Reading this makes me want to scream, throw stuff, and do lots of other mean, mean things. There are few situations in this life that have made me feel that way. First off, I'm sorry Kate. I'm sorry that people are ignorant and I'm sorry that you had to even encounter someone who would treat you this way. The reason I get out of bed and share my story on the tough days is to prove the same point you proved here in this post…Awareness is all we can focus on in situations like this. I'm so proud to know you and I'm so glad you weren't alone in dealing with this.

    January 27, 2014 at 6:46 pm
  • Reply White Lace and Promises

    I applaud you honey! I appreciate your ability to be real and transparent. I can in no way compare my situation to yours. Physical pain produces emotional pain as well as what you just described. I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The Christian and medical community are even quick to judge. I look fine on the outside, what's my problem??? So, I hear you. You hang in there! Stand up for yourself and cry if you want to!

    January 27, 2014 at 11:29 pm
  • Reply Rambling Hermit

    I am a firm believe in karma and that woman will get hers!!!!

    January 28, 2014 at 1:29 am
  • Reply Emily

    So sorry to hear this happened. People can be SO cruel. 🙁 They need to learn everyone is different and requires different thing and how to obey the law dang it.
    When I had surgery on my foot 6 years ago and was on crutches I got a temp placard to use. I found it super annoying when my dad wouldn't let me use it because "he forgot I had one"…..wasn't a big deal to him, but with a foot problem….kinda was one.

    January 28, 2014 at 3:54 am
  • Reply Lex R

    Geez! That woman sounds absolutely awful! Ableism is one of those -isms that people always seem to forget about. It's wrong, and it's extremely hurtful. This woman had some nerve going off on you when she was, in fact, in the wrong. I'm sorry you had to go through this! At least she learned a lesson, and likely won't do that again to another person.

    January 28, 2014 at 3:38 pm
  • Reply CurlyRedHead

    Been there. Reacted the same way. People are so mean sometimes. At the eye doctor, a woman went out of her way to pull up and yell at me that I parked in a handicapped spot. I immediately yelled back, yes I did. I have a hang tag. I was already having a very bad day. I'd just left the Rheumy's office after finding out my Psoriatic arthritis was getting worse. I was at the eye doc because of the vision issues I have from my arthritis.

    You are not alone.

    January 28, 2014 at 9:52 pm
  • Reply Cece

    I would never park in a handicap parking spot. First of all it's wrong, second of all I don't want a ticket. If I did and someone called me out on it I'd at least have the humility to admit I was wrong and apologize. This women got defensive and turned it around on you which was totally rude. It's terrible you had to deal with that. I hope she's learned her lesson.

    January 29, 2014 at 12:42 am
  • Reply Kakers

    I've had this happened before, my uncle is a disabled vet and I myself from a chronic pain disease. We went out for breakfast and someone decided to park right in the middle of all the handicap parking because he felt entitled I guess. I get into it will people all the time about handicap parking and lines, because they can't see my disability so it's means there is nothing wrong with me. Humans are horrible creatures. I'm sorry you couldn't even get out and enjoy and evening especially with RA. People with disability look for small victories each day and yours was ruined by some nut job.

    January 29, 2014 at 6:19 am
  • Reply Rose Thompson

    I know exactly how you feel. I admit, I used to be one who looked at people parking in the handicapped spots and thought " they seem to be getting around fairly well, why are they parking there? They should leave that for those with true disabilities who need it." I know now how wrong that way of thinking was. In fact, I was taught this lesson on a very personal level. I was diagnosed and treated for stage IV cervical cancer a little over three years ago. The result of my cancer was 2 fractured vertebrae ( for which I had surgery and pins inserted) I also underwent 20+ surgeries to remove cancer and other organs impacted by it and treatment. The result of such surgeries was a colostomy, urostomy, and a reconstruction which took muscle and tissue from my legs. On top of this, the cancer caused irreparable kidney damage. Needless to say, I was declared "disabled" by the Department of Social Security. Sadly, because I was not eligible for financial distributions, this was revoked a yr later and I have been in a fight with them to regain it. While my physical abilities have not changed, they figure since they do not have to pay me, they do not have to declare if I am disabled or not,so I am not permitted to park in parking places or such, but that is another story. What I have learned though is that when I do seek accommodations, when or where permitted, I am looked at with disgust and/or skepticism. All because they can not see the scars or even bags I wear. For every condition which is "in our face" there are dozens which aren't. I do not go around promoting the fact I have cancer or wear my appliances in the open for all to see. I try to live my life as "normal" as possible for my benefit and for that of my kids and family. While my scars are not visible except to my hubby, they still exist as do my disabilities. Like you, I try to remind persons when they may suffer a lapse of memory in this area, of this fact. Like you, I am not always able to control the manner in which I "enlighten" said people. I agree that there are far too many of out there whose scars are not always easily visible, but it does not mean that they do not exist!

    February 25, 2014 at 3:05 am
  • Reply Michele Graves

    Understand completely! We have a 5 yr old granddaughter that is Manic 1 and disabled. At times she can walk perfectly, at others, mom is dragging her out of the store screaming and kicking. She will only get worse. People can be so cruel.

    February 25, 2014 at 3:11 am
  • Reply Tracey

    I just found your blog through Hello Rigby…and you have yourself a new follower.

    This post broke my heart. My mom was diagnosed with RA about three years ago and now she also has cancer and has not been able to take her RA medicine. She is always so strong and most people have no idea what she is going through. She has taught me that many people are struggling with issues/medical problems that are invisible to us. It has made me more aware and considerate.

    July 10, 2014 at 2:05 pm
  • Reply Alanna @ Alanna and Company

    I had this happen to my friend once before. You can't tell his disability at first glance, we had a guy yell at us for "borrowing a handicapped placard" which of course we didn't and I lost it! People are so rude. I'm sorry this happened to you! And I hope she learnt her lesson.

    June 3, 2015 at 5:07 pm
  • Reply WhyMeLord

    One of my hospice patients a retired Marine DI and I pulled into a HC parking space (we had the proper tags). Someone took exception to our parking in the HC zone and yell rather loudly ‘You don’t look handicapped’

    My Marine friend as only a Marine DI can yelled back ‘And you don’t look like an a** h*** either.’

    July 25, 2015 at 6:47 pm
  • Reply Kate the (Almost) Great | Boston Lifestyle Blog - How To Become an Advocate for Patients | Kate the (Almost) Great

    […] which includes a t-shirt, stickers, and more. I wrote about some of the things I experienced, like someone not believing that my accessible parking placard was actually mine. All of this picked up a lot when I quit my teaching job due to my health. In the year between when […]

    October 10, 2018 at 7:30 am
  • Reply Steven Gordon

    My wife is very recently disabled after suffering a fall in the shower that broke both of her legs and she also has ESRD (on dialysis). I frequently have to take issue with those who park in disabled parking with no documentation, and I have found a very useful app called Parking Mobility to report them. If they are in the car, I just ask them about their placard/plates. They will usually move. If they are not in the car, I get pictures and report them discreetly. I have had a couple of run ins with people with no documentation, and the usual (I was just in there for a minute). No matter. I say” If you’re not able to walk, like my wife (and I open the van door to show her in the wheelchair—she has no problem and she will usually say something to that effect), then you should not park here unless you have a plate or placard”. They usually move. Every once in a while I get flak, like the young man who scolded me because he has a TBI and was upset thinking that I was getting on to the business where the parking space is located.

    Simply put: no placard or plate, no park in the disabled spot. I completely understand about unseen disabilities. And the BEST sign I have seen is in front of Mobility Works in San Antonio: “If you are able to walk, please save this space for those who cannot.” FTW!

    November 6, 2019 at 11:16 am
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