|Posted on July 24, 2011 at 8:13 PM|
At the risk of being offensive, which, I admit, is something I risk each day that I get out of bed, I’m going to address something that has bugged me for years.
Living a scant two miles from a Super Wal-Mart – what I’ve been told (and totally believe) is one of the 10 busiest in the entire chain – I often find myself driving round and round the asphalt jungle searching for a parking space. And while I am able of body and mostly strong of spirit, there is something so disappointing about having to park like a quarter-mile away to do your grocery shopping. This lot must have around 500 spaces, and yet they are almost always taken. This is only exacerbated in the height of summer when Myrtle Beach receives its influx of tourists. It seriously feels like I have won a mini-lottery if I get a spot somewhere near the entrance. It’s sad that I’ve given a parking space that much power to affect my happiness, but, well, here we are.
Of course, with such a giant parking lot, there are bound to be the requisite number of handicapped parking spaces; like the first three on either side of each lane. And it doesn’t matter what time of day or night you come, these spaces are nearly ALWAYS taken. And, I just have a hard time believing that there are that many TRULY handicapped people out there.
Now, don’t get me wrong; I am ALL for helping the handicap and for doing anything to help them out and to make their lives easier. I am fortunate to have good health, and from my brief bouts with acute back pain, I totally empathize with those who have to go through life suffering. And if giving them a space up front is going to make their lives one ounce easier then I will GLADLY walk the extra quarter mile. And if making that space extra-extra wider so they can get in and out with less grief and hassle – and that, oh heaven forbid! Anyone should possibly ever ding their car/van door! – then that’s great too. (Seriously though, have you noticed how the handicap spots also have the uncanny ability to be like the only places in the entire lot that are also shaded? And it doesn’t seem to matter what position the sun is at in the sky; those spaces have the preternatural ability to ALWAYS be in the shade. It’s a frickin’ geographical oddity!)
But, the other night I’m at the Mart driving up and down the rows in the futile attempt to get a spot that is somewhere within the first 25 spaces, when I see this new Mustang breeze into a handicap space. As I’m walking my way up to the store I notice that four young, totally able-bodied people hop out of this Mustang and skip and tra-la-la their way into the store. And let me tell you, it *totally* pissed me off. Also, with like 33 handicap spaces almost always taken, you would KINDA expect to see a bunch of wheelchairs cruising around the store. But...no.
I think that they are just WAY too liberal in handing out handicap parking tags. It seems like all anyone has to do is go down to the DMV, park in a normal space, walk in, fill out a form, pick some condition like, “I’m prone to bloody noses when it’s hot,” pay some fee, get a tag, and then start parking in the sweet spaces. And if I was in charge, you would have to TOTALLY earn that tag. And let me tell you, I would not be gentle in my assessment.
Below is a list of things that would NOT qualify under the new Sciacca Handicap Parking Tag Issuance Regime:
Blind: If you’re blind, chances are that you AREN’T driving yourself. This means that someone else is driving you. That means that someone else is probably leading you around as well. And I think that if you trust them enough to drive you, and you trust them enough to guide you around whatever store you are visiting and you trust them enough that when you say, “Is this a jar of olives?” that they are not actually tricking you into grabbing a jar of pickled herring, then you can trust them enough to lead you through the parking lot. If, however, you have driven yourself to the store, Al Pacino “Scent of a Woman” style, then, respect. You go right ahead and park up front. I salute you and your Jedi driving skills!
Deaf: If you feel that you are qualified to DRIVE A CAR even though you can’t hear, then I feel you are qualified to park in the regular lot. Plus, I see a ton of people walking around with headphones on – essentially “deaf” to what is going on around them – and they seem to make it through with no ill-effects. Since you can see, I’d just advise you to look both ways as you cross the road. People drive like maniacs in the Wal-Mart lot.
Blind and Deaf: You go ahead and park wherever the hell you want. This world has punished you enough, and you go right ahead and drive INTO the store if that makes your day one iota more bearable.
Fatness: I’m sorry, but being morbidly obese – or even just partially obese and feverishly working on it – is absolutely not a handicap. Food probably played a big role in getting you into this mess, and I don’t think that giving you a Golden Ticket pass to get you closer to obtaining more food is doing either of us any good. In fact, it seems a little enabling, and parking at the end of the lot and walking as far as possible will probably do you some good. Conversely, if this is actually some real medical condition, and you can get a doctor to say that walking would actually be detrimental to your health, well, I’m no monster. You can have your tag.
Missing an arm: Seriously? I mean, I totally empathize with you and I’m sure that missing an arm would TOTALLY suck – unless it got replaced with an awesome cyborg model, or something like what Luke got at the end of Empire – but, come on. We’re talking about an arm here and that in no way impacts your ability to walk. Frankly, I’m a little disappointed you even asked...
Missing a foot/leg: You are going to get *strong* consideration for a tag. Since a leg is the principal source of biped locomotion, I am going to be highly sympathetic to your parking needs. However, if you show up with one of those springy, U-shaped artificial feet that Special Olympians use to run like ultra-fast? Expect to see me whip out the (well used) DENIED stamp. I’m going to expect that you’ll want me to treat you like everyone else; and everyone else is parking in the normal spots.
Temporary medical condition: You might be experiencing a bout of vertigo, gotten into a car wreck, just delivered quintuplets or recently experienced a rather invasive hemorrhoidal procedure. Whatever. There are times when we’re not feeling our best. For you, I will have my friend Dan print up a special, TEMPORARY tag for you using specially developed ink that will completely disappear in a week. If you aren’t feeling better after a week, come back and we’ll be happy to re-evaluate your needs. Next!
Walk with a cane: This will be judged on a case-by-case basis. Are you the Charlie Chaplin or Farnsworth Bentley kind of cane user? Is the cane some kind of stylish affectation that you like to carry around to garner some sympathy? Or do you rely on that cane so much that your arm shakes and quivers and goes into a borderline spasm from the strain and pressure of supporting you with each and every step you take? That’s the guy that’s leaving with a tag.
Certain unpleasant stomach ailments: I am sympathetic to certain sudden bouts of stomach…discomforture. Not so much irritable bowel but rather the far more insidious and waiting-for-the-right-moment-to-attack vengeful bowel syndrome. If you can get a doctor to write up a note that says there are instances where you parking more than 30-feet away from immediate, urgently needed toilet will result in massive unpleasantness, then I will likely look with favor upon your application.
Miscellaneous other maladies both real and imagined: Understand that I am going to begin every interview process inking up my DENIED stamp and massaging out the carpel tunnel in my stamping wrist, and will be talking to you with the stamp hovering scant inches from your application. I am the gatekeeper, and I take my job VERY seriously. I shall be reviewing the surveillance tapes during our encounter, and if I see that you were able to stand up the entire time that you were in line without any obvious grimacing rictus of pain or and swooning or fainting spell, oh, that’s a DENIED.
You see, in my opinion, the people that are entitled to a handicap parking tag are the people for whom walking even a single…extra…foot is an interminable, painful struggle. People that have no use of their legs? APPROVED. People that are missing BOTH legs? Even with some awesome prosthetic, APPROVED. People that struggle to move one step at a time with those walkers with tennis balls on them? APPROVED. People that have such diminished lung capacity that they have to carry an oxygen bottle around with them wherever they go? APPROVED.
But, if you can walk for the entire length of your shopping trip – through a Super Wal-Mart for God’sake! – up and down the aisles pushing a cart, grabbing things off the shelves and then working your way through the checkout line, then you can definitely walk the length of the parking lot.
And I know that a lot of other people out there feel similarly, so I am going to empower them to help enforce my parking rules. Imagine kind of a Stalin-esque era where people are encouraged – and rewarded – for ratting out their neighbors. Except, instead of looking for people talking against the State, I’m looking for people out there parking in my spaces without need or cause to. First fine? $1000. Second fine, $2000. And so on. With half of the fine going to the person that reported it. (I'll work out the logisitics of reporting and verification later...) Hey, you got deep pockets and want to help subsidize things with your parking lot gambling? You go right on and keep parking there.
This means, no more lending your pass out to *anyone*. This means that if you happen to take someone’s car that has a tag just sitting there, all inviting and tempting and hanging from the rear view mirror, you had better resist the temptation and NOT park in that space. This means that if you have some miraculous, baffled the entire, worldwide medical community, the anatomical equivalent of actually regenerating a SPINE type of recovery, then I expect you to turn your tag back in. (If your condition should happen to just as miraculously UN-reverse itself, you will be fast-tracked through the approval process and all fees will be waived. We appreciate your faith and support of the system.)
Also, if you have a tag and you are going to display it in your vehicle, than I fully expect you to USE a handicap space if one is available. We understand that these spaces really are the shiz-nit, and we not only want you to use them, we’re pretty much going to DEMAND that you do. You see, there are only so many cush regular spaces out there, and we don’t want you Bogarting any of them from us. We’re sure you understand and appreciate your cooperation.
So, anyone who wants me in charge, say, “Aye!” (Deafening sounds of tumbleweeds rolling by...)