Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Parking Wars

I live in an apartment complex, on the second floor of my building. Just over to the left is a disability space, then the dip, then another disability space. A few months ago, two cars kept parking in said disability spaces constantly, even though there would be spaces to either side and directly across the way. I finally got annoyed and left notes on their windshields much like this one, a note I left Saturday night (at about 12:30) for a new neighbor that has been in the same disability spot for a week:

The pun is new, though- we'll see if I do that again

(Also, the license plates on the car are Minnesota plates- so this person is obviously quite familiar with snow. The first draft of the note had a VERY snarky comment about how I'm from Las Vegas and park further than they do, so they, being from Minnesota, need to grow a pair and walk. I realized that was a bit... forceful... and toned it down for the one you see there, obviously.) 

At this point, I feel like I should make a stack to just keep on-hand for general purposes. The first time I did it for those first two neighbors worked- they haven't parked in either disabled spot since (as far as I'm aware, anyway). And I'm happy to report that when I stumbled outside, coffee-less, to let River do her thing Sunday morning at 8, the car had moved. So that's three-for-three. Maybe I should make some sort of thank-you sticker (I'm picturing the universal handicap sign and adding a smiley face somehow, with a speech bubble thanking the person... too snarky?).

If they hadn't moved, no, I would have no qualms in calling the police and giving them the licence plate number and vehicle description and stuff. Hell, not that I think they'd care enough, but it'd be so hilarious if the cops showed up at their door, "Now look, see, we've been getting complaints that you keep parking in this disability space..." 

Now yeah, I may not have a disability, and sure, it's cold- I certainly don't like the walk from my car to the building (or vice-versa). But I get so fed up with people insisting on using the disabled parking spots, or disabled bathroom stalls or changing rooms. Or sitting in the seats reserved for the elderly and disabled on the bus. And the worst is when someone with a legit claim to the thing shows up and the person occupying it gets huffy. I've seen it a million times on the bus- some asshole college student rolls their eyes and mumbles under their breath as they change seats when someone with a walker or a stroller or even a gorram wheelchair- the living version of the image on the seat- gets on the bus. I once had to ask a woman to vacate our big changing room in the store I work at a while back so a woman in a wheelchair could use it, and the former grew extremely uppity and had absolutely no shame- she gave both me and the woman in the wheelchair icy looks before scoffing loudly, tossing her head, and slamming her new room's door shut. I'll have you note, all of the other changing rooms had been open at the time, too- she had just gone in there on her own and was miffed when I asked her to switch.

I know what you're thinking:

Yes, really.

So before you think I'm some fearless crusader, flitting about like some disability-rights fairy and kicking people out of stalls, seats, and parking spaces all the time, I'll be real with you and tell you that I actually had trouble sleeping last night for a lot of reasons. Sure, there was some serious wind rattling the apartment and River kept shooting her head up and grunting at the window and walls. But I was also imagining my neighbor coming to my door, demanding to know if I left the note or not and pushing their entitled position, fishing for an ally in their insistence that they deserve that spot just as much as anyone, etc. It was one of those terrible daydream-type things (I say "type" because it was, obviously, night) that I couldn't get away from- every time I tried thinking about something else or clearing my head entirely, it came back, this image of a stranger yelling at me and telling me they'd done nothing wrong, deserved to park there, didn't like threats, etc. It was a scary thought, and I legit almost went back outside to retrieve the note to prevent it from coming to fruition.

Because while I'm all huff-and-puff on my blog, I'm actually a very non-confrontational person, to the point where I'm often reamed and insulted if I ever try to point something out to someone else. I get flustered when someone Schopenhauers me- which is the goal, to be sure, but still. So watching myself cower and start crying like that in my head, that seemed like a very plausible outcome if the person did come after me like I was envisioning.

Especially since if they were that pissed, they'd be the type to not listen to anything I'd have to say, too, even if I was somehow able to convince them I hadn't actually written the note but was playing Devil's Advocate for the writer. 

But what I'd do is try to explain to them that when a building doesn't have ramp access to the inside and elevators inside, it's de facto discriminatory toward persons with mobile disabilities- and blocking the ramp access to the building by parking in it does the same thing (because even if the inside was totally accessible, a person with a mobile disability wouldn't be able to get up the curb and thus not even be able to enter in the first place). 

I know  I seem petty and like I'm butting in. I have no idea whether or not anyone with a mobile disability lives in my building, or if anyone that would need that dip has tried getting in before. But that doesn't matter, and it's not the point. Access is about opportunity, not just direct need. It shouldn't take someone with a wheelchair showing up for a person without one to move- the latter shouldn't be there in the first place. 

Now let me tell you a more positive story.

On another day while working, this time at a different, busier location, I ran out of regular fitting rooms and a guest that was walking just fine asked to try some clothes on. So I let her into the disabled stall, when a few minutes later, a woman in a wheelchair showed up. When I asked the first woman if she'd be willing to come back out so someone in need could use that stall, she obliged warmly and we stood there chatting jovially for a while until one of the other changing rooms opened. 

That's sort of the unspoken rule about disabled changing rooms (or seats on a bus or in a theater or something)- non-disabled use them as a last resort with the understanding that they'd have to give it up if someone entitled to it came forth. So it went over just fine, because the gal in the big room was cool with that norm.

Parking spaces are different, though. Because unless someone was standing there, watching the parking lot, there'd be no way of knowing if someone needed the space- and anyone  that would, well, they'd probably settle for what they could and either make the longer route to the dip in the curb, or find some way to heave theirself up- or, you know, just give up, too.

Bathroom stalls are trickier- if you're behind the door of the stall, you wouldn't know if someone else needed it, and anyway, it's not like you can just quit mid-dump to let someone else use the stall, even if they did knock or something. 

I remember being a little girl and exiting the disabled stall to face an old woman with a walker, staring at me with brimstone in her eyes but not saying a word- the unspoken admonishment was prolly something like, "Young lady, how dare you?" I felt so ashamed, knowing I should have used one of the three regular stalls, instead. I'll still use a big one every now and then, if and only if every other one is occupied, and I've waited for a regular one to open up without entering the big one before. 

But I'm not guiltless, is the point. I don't think anybody is, really. And sure, maybe some of us are guiltier than others. But people being more respectful and courteous and conscientious, and willing to step aside or move over for others... I think that's what's important. And sure, I may have been annoyed that my neighbors kept taking handicapped parking, I'm actually really, really excited and pleased they've all moved their cars out of the way, and that none of them have done it again. I can't do anything to help the rude gal that scoffed at me for asking her t change fitting rooms, but my neighbors and the gal that switched, they're the ones I root for- and I hope they pay it forward and lead by example with their friends and families. And then maybe we'll reach the point where even without universal design, mobility is a little less difficult for people with physical disabilities. 

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