One day in June, I stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts to buy an iced tea for the road. I noticed an SUV with a driver and three passengers had just parked in a handicap parking space. The vehicle displayed no handicap license tag and no handicap hangtag, and the driver did not appear obviously handicapped.
The reason I was on the road that day, as it is for most days, is that I manage a half-dozen assisted living homes. My caregivers and I assist handicapped people in their daily struggle to accomplish what you and I take for granted: dressing, bathing, feeding oneself, walking, toileting and personal hygiene – also known as activities of daily living (ADLs). The four people I saw on that day seemed fully capable of those things.
Three young women passengers came into the Dunkin’ Donuts store to order for themselves. The sarcasm bug bit me at that moment, so I asked which one of them is handicapped. One of the young women, perhaps meeting my sarcasm with hers, volunteered that she was (it was clear that she was not). I pointed out that they had parked in a handicapped space and asked why they had done so.
The middle-aged female driver of the SUV had walked into the store by this time and she answered the question: “Because I didn’t want to walk.”
In a split second, I recalled an episode of the TV drama “Hill Street Blues” (1981-1987) in which the undercover, and hygienically challenged, Det. Belker arrested a handicapped man. It seems the perp had a unique way of punishing people with no detectable handicap who insist on using handicap parking spaces: He spray paints the universal handicap parking symbol on the body of the car! (Season 4, Ep. 65)
But, no, my reaction was limited to sarcasm. As I work with mobility-impaired people every day, I pointed out to the driver, “At least you can walk.” And then I walked out.
Did I sarcasm too far?