The best of Handicapped Parking

Over the course of 42 years using a chair I’ve had some truly unusual, even strange things happen. I’m not sure exactly what is more irritating, watching a person climb easily from their car and jogging into the store, or actually finding an available spot, only to discover the hash zone has been cluttered with used carts. In any event, I laugh with other friends about various handicapped parking adventures, and here’s a few that have happened to me.

So, talk about bad luck. Several years back I pulled up to my local pharmacy, and in typical fashion, the handicapped parking was taken. I really just needed to duck in, pick up some meds and get out. I decided (knowing it was not the right thing to do) to park in the hash zone. Knowing that this zone is used to unload wheelchairs, drop vehicle ramps, assemble chairs and more, but I did it anyway. Only 15 minutes later I emerged from the store and found the dreaded ticket. I’ve seen tickets for various denominations, however this was the grand daddy of all tickets–$400! I decided that was a fight worth having. After filing and appeal my day in court finally arrived. I met the adjudicator in a private room and we spoke for a while. I told him that I did park in the zone and he followed up by showing me the picture of my car illegally parked. I can still remember his words, “much as I might think you’re a nice guy, you are still going to have to pay this fine.” I accepted my guilt, as I had done wrong. The fact that I was in a wheelchair, no matter how long, still could have caused someone who needed that zone a real hassle.

Of course, I have so many parking stories after 42 years in a chair, but this one was a doozy. I had just moved to Florida. Now if you know anything about Florida, besides that its hot, its that 60 percent of the population has a handicapped placard. Needless to say, it is a battle royal to get an available spot. Not long after arriving in state I had my plates changed from California to Florida. At the time I was driving this pretty nice black Nissan Altima, not your typical old person car. In Florida you only get a rear plate, so consequently I inadvertently left the California plate on the front. It was pouring as I arrived at the local gym and not a spot was available. So what do I do, park in the motorcycle parking spot up front. Not only do I park in the motorcycle parking, but I back in! Tinted windows, fancy California license plate up front, backed into the spot–I bet the volunteer police officer needed extra blood pressure medication!

I went to court as I just had to fight it, though once again, I was in the wrong. This was another killer, high dollar ticket. As I rolled into the courtroom, I immediately locked eyes with the officer and his eyes dropped. I’m sure I was not what he expected. The judge and I spoke about the whole situation and when it was done she reduced my ticket to the lowest price infraction she could apply. I thanked her and rolled out to pay my ticket. Seconds later the officer came out behind me and said “young fella, I’m sorry, I thought this was a different situation.” I thanked him and went on my way.

I could probably go on for several pages, but will conclude with a time I finally got an apology! Just a couple years back I had to park in the worst handicapped spot at the center where I typically grocery shop. You know, its slanted downhill, its more narrow than the rest and the pavement is kind of torn up. I was pretty eager to get done with my day and just took it rather than waiting for one of the better spots to open. So I come out on this 90 degree day only to find a car parked ridiculously close to my car door, infringing on the handicapped spot. This is where I usually ask someone to back my car out, but this was the day I finally let the pot boil over. I called the city parking officers and they arrived 20 minutes later. While in a discussion about how this was going to play out, the woman who parked next to me came running toward us. She literally came up with a laundry list of reasons as to why she did this. The justifications, validations and excuses just spewed for a couple minutes while the officer and I just stared. Finally she stopped, looked at me and said “I’m sorry.” The officer asked me how I wanted to proceed and I simply looked at this woman and said, “all I wanted was for you to say you were sorry and that you knew this was wrong.” She moved her car and we parted paths.

Its funny, and I say that tongue in cheek, but what people don’t realize is that we don’t know what store you went into, we don’t know how long you might be in there and that the inconvenience of being blocked in, is huge! Still, at the end of the day, may this be our biggest problem!

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