I was going post this after I finished up my trip report but we all came down with a nasty stomach virus a few days ago and I, obviously, haven't been able to work on blog posts. I'll be back over the weekend.
We have a handicap parking placard for Anna. Currently, the only place where we consistently need to use it is at the school parking lot when we pick up the girls. The parking lot is fairly small compared to the size of the school and cannot accommodate all the parents picking up their kids. Approximately 85-90% of the spaces are occupied by those working in the school so parking spots are created or parents park along the street or in a slightly larger parking lot across the street. It's a crazy, hectic scene each afternoon. Back in December, I watched a town parking enforcement car driving around. For a few weeks, people stopped parking illegally (the "created" parking spaces) but now it is worse than ever.
There are only two handicap parking spots in this lot and right now, there is only one other parent (I actually think he's the grandparent) with a handicap placard. On occasion, there have been other cars with handicap placards parked in the spots. We park there because otherwise, it would be too long of a walk for Anna.
Is it ever okay for someone without a placard to park in a handicap space?
There have been an increasing number of incidents of parents, guardians, nannies, people parking in the handicap spaces without the appropriate tags. Rich told me that on Thursday a guy in a pick-up truck (no placard) had taken one spot. Rich had the other. The other guy with a placard left a note on the pick-up truck's windshield.
It's not very often that Rich and I both pick up the girls from school together but on Friday we were able to. He was telling me the story of the pick-up as we drove to the school and when we arrived, I was bit surprised to find two vehicles (a car and a Suburban) without visible placards parked in the handicap spots. How ironic! The car was unoccupied and a young woman was sitting in the Suburban. I jumped out of the van and walked between the two vehicles, looking for handicap plates or placards. I was also looking at the ground because while the big blue handicap square was visible at the end of one parking space, it was not in the space where the Suburban was parked.
Without me saying or doing anything other than looking at the ground and at the backs of the vehicles, the woman in the Suburban rolled down her window and said, "This isn't a handicap spot."
"It is. We park here everyday and these two spots are handicap."
"No, it's not. It's not clearly marked. That one is."
Because the Suburban was so big, I couldn't see the blue painted square on the pavement under it.
"If you pull out, I'll show you that it's handicap."
"No, it's not. That one is. Why don't you go find the woman who parked there? She has blond hair and she's standing in front of the school right now."
That was a conversation, not an argument.
So I walked back to the van and stupidly enough asked Rich if I was wrong. It had been more than two weeks since I had picked the girls up from school. "Did they paint over the handicap sign or something?"
Now Rich was getting annoyed. "No, it IS handicap." I walked up to the front of the school and started looking for a blond woman I didn't recognize. She wasn't too difficult to find.
"Excuse me? Are you parked in a handicap spot?"
"OH MY GOD! AM I GETTING A TICKET? AM I?"
I opened my mouth to say, "No, but you shouldn't be parking there," but she took off running and quickly moved her car. I returned to find Rich and the woman in the Suburban having a heated discussion. Rich had asked her to move because she didn't have a placard. He told her that we have a five year old with a handicap, which is why we have a placard and park there. She told Rich that he was harassing her and the only reason why he was harassing her was because she was sitting in her car. If she had been standing up at the front of the school, he wouldn't have been harassing her.
Another parent walking by told Rich to call the police.
With Blondie's car out of the way, we were able to park the van and go wait for the girls to be released. As we were strapping them into their car seats, Suburbia returned with her two boys. As soon as she pulled out of the questionable parking space, guess what appeared right in the middle the pavement? That's right. The big blue painted box.
As soon as that happened, as soon as I saw the handicap mark, I started running (it was really a jog) after her SUV, calling out, "WAIT!" She wasn't able to make it far in the crowded lot. I didn't want to start an argument but rather prove a point. This wasn't only about us but about the other parent (or grandparent) who has a legal right to park there.
"The spot is marked handicap! Do you want to go back and see?" I wasn't yelling. Almost but not.
She SCREAMED at me. "Really? You want me to hold up traffic to go back and look?" (All she really had to was drive around in a circle.)
"You insisted that it wasn't handicap and we told you that it was. The proof is there now. I have a child with a handicap which is why I need to park there. You shouldn't have been parked there."
Her response - "I'm sorry. I'm sorry that your life is so terrible that you need to take it out on me."
Okay, so I like to think that I'm fairly witty and can think fast on my feet but this one just blew my mind. I was speechless. At that point, I didn't know that Rich had told her about Anna so apparently she'd had time to process this information and that was what she decided to do with it.
She then proceeded to tell me that I needed to step back and breathe and to listen to what I was saying. Meanwhile, she's screaming all of this at me. I can't even remember what I said because what was coming out of this woman's mouth was just unbelievable.
Finally, she screamed, "I'm sorry! Is that what you want to hear?"
"Yes. And don't do it again." I had to say it.
Her ending comment was "I can't wait to run into you somewhere else. We both have kindergarteners, you know."
First of all, like I care.
Secondly, what does that even mean? Is it a threat? We know a ton of people in the school system. How many kids attending school have spina bifida? How many sets of identical triplets are there? My kids are some of the smallest in the kindergarten class (plus they are really freaking cute) so they attract attention. I have no doubt that our reputation will stand out over anything that this woman has to say. Plus, what would she say? I was parked in a handicap spot and they yelled at me.
We stopped by the police station on the way home. The officer Rich spoke with was very understanding and told Rich that if it happens again to give them a call and they'll come down and ticket those parked in the spots without placards. (I'm sure they would love the revenue.)
At first, I thought that maybe she had erroneously parked there. But then it didn't make sense. She started the discussion with us by telling us that it wasn't a handicap spot. I hadn't said anything to her. Maybe I had walked through there earlier and dropped something on the ground. She deflected blame on the other woman to take attention away from herself and then she was extremely defensive. Presumptuous of me (maybe) but I think she knew exactly what she was doing. She just never expected anyone to confront her over it.
You know what, lady. My life is pretty freaking great. Maybe you need to look at yourself.