Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Open Letter: The Occupied Space

I am not one for open letters to so-and-so. I think it's something we've taken too far, along with fancy pizza crusts and gigantic hair bows for our babies. I don't need cheese-stuffed, bacon-topped, pretzel crust, nor do I need to read the open letters of every Tom, Dick, and Harry about the various injustices they come across on a daily basis. 

But alas, here I am, with an injustice having been witnessed and the need to just say something about it.

To the woman in the handicap parking spot at Roy City Recreation Center, 

I pulled in next to you, in a rush to get my son in to his swimming lesson to which he was already late. It had already been a long day at the hospital for two separate appointments for my daughter. I had considered skipping out on my son's swimming lessons tonight due to sheer exhaustion, but it was the last lesson and he loves it so much.

I took the last available handicap parking spot, as I had my disabled daughter and her wheelchair in tow. Normally I try to park in regular spots and leave the handicap-accessible spots open for people who are in more need of them than I am. But tonight, for some reason, I took advantage of my right to a handicap parking pass and slipped right in next to you.

I noticed a glow coming from the interior of your SUV and wondered, in the back of my head somewhere, if your interior lights had been left on and your battery was being drained. We were late, it was cold, I had an anxious little 5-year old that needed to get in to his swim lesson and a severely disabled 7-year old attached to a feeding pump. I had a lot happening. But still, my thoughts drifted to making sure some poor sap inside the building didn't come out to a dead battery. I made a mental note to let the front desk know someone left their lights on and maybe they could make an announcement and you would be grateful that someone took the time to notice and all would be right in the world.

But then I noticed you sitting in your vehicle. You were what I'd call an older woman. You looked warm and comfortable and it was then that I noticed your engine was running and what I had originally thought to be the interior lights of your vehicle, was actually just the glow radiating from a digital reading device. Sitting in the driver's seat, you were enjoying some sort of publication on your Nook. Or maybe it was a Kindle. I didn't think much of you.

I try not to ever judge a person that uses the handicap parking spots. I understand that there are so many conditions that are unseen that would make walking long distances very difficult and therefore entitle a person to the coveted handicap parking pass. For all I knew, you had a muscular disorder and tired easily when walking from your car to the door of the rec center. For all I could see, you were an amputee who struggled to even stand up, let alone cross an entire parking lot. You left my mind.

When the swimming lesson was over we headed back out into the cold night. I noticed, as your parking space was a straight shot from the door of the rec center, that you were still there, car running, enjoying what I imagined to be a terribly written harlequin novel on your e-reader.

I walked past your window and muttered to myself, "she's been sitting here in the handicap parking space this whole time?" I was kind of miffed. But, I reminded myself that I don't know everyone's situation.

Maybe you were just the driver, and you were waiting for someone to come out of the building. Maybe you were early for your water aerobics class and you were just killing time with Fifty Shades of Grey. I tried not to judge you. God knows I don't want to be judged when I use the space because my daughter is disabled but I walk perfectly fine.

As I was loading my kids into the car, I noticed you turn your headlights on and put down your sexy time story. I thought you'd be heading into the building for aerobics class or getting out to help some disabled or elderly person into your passenger seat. But you didn't do either of those things.

After I got settled behind the wheel of my own SUV, with my kids buckled safely in the back and the wheelchair strapped securely onto the cargo hitch, I took a minute to check my phone. And I noticed you back out of your parking stall and drive away. Alone.

You were alone in the car when I pulled up, and you left alone. I had given you the benefit of the doubt. I tried. But I just couldn't figure out why you would have been sitting there that whole time, 30 minutes, using up a handicap parking space for nothing other than reading.

Are you disabled? If so, why didn't you ever get out of the car? Were you just there to have a quiet place to catch up on Christian and Anastasia? If so, why did you need the prime parking real estate at a local recreation center to do it?

Were you just the chauffeur? If that was the case, why didn't you drop your rider off and park somewhere other than that very first parking stall? You could have circled the parking lot. You could have left that spot open for someone else.Furthermore, why did you leave without them? Did you decide it's just too much hassle and head to the airport for a one-way ticket to warmer climates and drinks with umbrellas in them? Don't worry, I bet all caretakers have entertained that fantasy. Was the person you were waiting for going to be pumping iron for an extended period of time and you didn't really need to wait in the parking lot at all? Then why sit there for thirty minutes?

Like I said, I try not to judge but I just can't understand this. I've tried.

I know this isn't a big issue for some. Who cares, right? It was just half an hour in one measly parking stall.
Well, just about every person who has every had an actual need for those spaces cares. Those are the people you affect with your ignorance. I hope you had a sincere reason for what I witnessed. I hope I'm wrong about you. I hope next time you go somewhere, you'll park appropriately. I also hope you weren't reading that terrible trilogy.

The Frustrated, Feeling Overwhelmed, Emotionally Drained, Assumes Everyone Is Honest mom who parked next to you for those thirty minutes that you were catching up on your reading 

I know I'm not perfect, and I shouldn't judge others, but this makes me crazy. It's like when a single, able-bodied person uses the handicap bathroom stall just because they like to stretch their legs while they pee. Well, guess what. I'm the mom who has two kids, one wheelchair, and a tiny bladder that is forced to wait for you to vacate the stall in order to use the restroom. 

Let's all just be aware that there are actually other people in the world, shall we? 

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