Ticket to Ride
Rummaging through my wallet the other day, it occurred to me that out of all the cards I’ve managed to accumulate through the years, only three made any kind of impact. The first was the library card, which became my gateway to knowledge. The second was the driver’s license, which became my gateway to freedom. Finally I became a mover, a shaker and a captain of industry with the American Express card. OK, I may be exaggerating, but it did help pay off those speeding tickets and overdue book fines.
But none of them could match the impact of the Holy Grail of disability: The Handicap Parking Permit. It was like the State of New York handing me the keys to a luxury high-rise condo. Even Derek Jeter didn’t have this. I’m “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” That blue and white guy in the wheelchair is the Beverly Hills of parking lot real estate where the three most important words are “location, location, location.” And that’s what the handicap spot is all about. No middle class here. There are the Fortunate ones … me … who have access to all the important stuff like … The Entrance. And then there are the Unfortunates … them … who have to trudge across miles of macadam to reach it.
The day it arrived I was more excited than when I got my Flash Gordon decoder ring. Marilyn and I hopped into the Civic, hit the road and headed to the nearest Stop & Shop ready to hang our elite membership over the rearview mirror and slip into our rightful place. We could have, if we were driving a shopping cart. Apparently “HANDICAP PARKING ONLY” really means “SHOPPING CART STORAGE AREA.” These things were all over the place.It was like a demolition derby gone wild. C’mon guys! You’re right at the door.
We may be relatively inexperienced living at these rarified heights, but I bet the word “defeat” isn’t in Jeter’s vocabulary, and it’s not in ours either. We enacted Plan B and headed to a matinee screening of “Batman Begins” thinking we would have the theater, and parking lot, to ourselves. Wrong! The place was packed. Every handicap spot was taken. I had a stroke to qualify but I guess all you need now is a hangnail. I’m surprised we didn’t see the Batmobile in a handicap spot.
“Holy packed parking lot, Batman!”
“Not to worry, Boy Wonder. I have a handicap parking permit here on my toolbelt.”
“Holy scam the system, Batman! How did you get that?”
“Commissioner Gordon owed me a favor, Robin.”
There were handicap spots at the drugstore next to the theater, but they were filled with … shopping carts. We circled the lot like a 747 waiting for the OK from the tower. Sure, there were regular spots, but I ignored them. I had the Holy Grail, and I was on a mission. Finally, we located a handicap spot across the street and pulled in. As we were savoring the moment a woman, who must have deputized herself the Handicap Police, circled us, leaned on her horn, and pointed furiously at the restricted sign. Defiant, I held the permit up, channeled my best Schwarzenegger and said, “Hasta la vista, baby.”
Adapted from Life at the Curb in the November/December 2007 issue of Stroke Connection magazine.