I write quite a bit about the United States Air Force, the AMMO careerfield, the places in the world I have traveled, and the people I have met because my time in the Air Force consumed just shy of 15 years of my life. I write quite a bit about being a United States Air Force Disabled Veteran as well since this “status” was given to me and has been a part of my life for the last 13 years. In a way, my “status” is no more than being a number in a system and a monthly disbursement of funds. Fortunately for me, I did not have the struggles that we hear over time about how people get denied benefits. I was fortunate to receive a 100% disabled rating from the start. One of the “benefits”, if it can be considered a benefit, is that my vehicles bear Texas DV permanent license plates. I’m one of those people you will see out in the actual parking lot and not in the designated handicap parking spaces. Why? Good question. Perhaps because I intend on confusing people who notice. It really matters not to me where I park, most days, as I get older, being closer to the entrance is nice, but not required. I can get there from anywhere, might take me a little longer, but I will get there eventually.
Why do I bring all of this up? I had an interesting interaction with a young lady at our local Big Box supercenter, insert the name you know belongs, who afterwords really got my son to thinking and asking questions he had never asked before. First, she asked to take a picture of my H1 Alpha where the license plate is visible to help her in her project she is putting together showing disabled parking placard fraud. When I asked why she responded with an interesting observation she made while watching me and others. She pointed out that each entrance to the Big Box supercenter has 21 handicap parking spaces yet there are 40+ vehicles out in general parking that have disabled plates. She continued to explain that there are only two vehicles with actual disabled plates using handicap parking spaces, the rest are using disabled placards of different varieties. He points out that half of them are expired, some of them have had the dates obscured some way, and a small percentage actually look proper. I still don’t see my place in this conversation yet. She continued by saying that the two vehicles that had actual disabled plates had people in them which were using the assistance of motorized chair, where all the placarded vehicles moved under self locomotion. Okay, so what is the issue or problem with me. She says she has noticed before as she has been doing her “study” for a few months that there are times I park is handicap parking when it is available. I was waiting for her to ask me why, but it never happened.
I soon walked off because I actually was there for a reason beyond looking who is parking where. As I walked off I made a call to a friend of my in the county sheriffs office and asked if what she was doing was legal. He said he would roll out there and see if he could talk with her. Why did I call? I called for 2 reasons, first of all her stalking people in the parking lot enough to recognize people who frequent this store (which is mega-creepy) and secondly because she was taking pictures of people, vehicles, and license plates. Is she doing anything illegal? We’ll talk about that here in a bit. This whole thing prompted my son to start asking a few questions of his own. We will talk about a few of them. First he asked why the police don’t tow, boot, or ticket vehicle in disabled parking with expired credentials. I actually know this answer, it is because disabled parking violations on private property is not exactly a high priority with the police department. Now this same problem in a public setting or at government facilities is swiftly handled. Why? My guess is money, logistics, and manning. Second he asked what were the requirements for getting a disabled plate or placard. Personally I don’t know what others needed to do, I had to fill out forms and be examined before being given my prescription to take to the DMV. I would only expect that this would be the same process for everyone. But, I don’t often assume things, so I leave this one as unknown.
Thirdly he asked don’t I wish that I could closer to the entrance all the time. Sure, it would be nice, but I don’t mind the longer walk. Last, he asked me a question which he shouldn’t be worrying about which was are most of the people who have handicap parking privileges frauds. Good question. People have their reasons for doing everything. Most people who know they are doing something wrong have already weighed the odds of getting caught and are willing to accept the consequences. Sure, I see people getting in the car and out their car and wonder to myself what the reason for their disabled plate/placard is. But then I would imagine that people ask the same about me. What they see is a man in his mid-40s who gets out or gets in his vehicles a little slower than others. They see a man who walks a little bit slower than most. Other than a modest limp, nobody would think nothing to be any different about me. I don’t where my medical history on my shirt for the world to read nor is it available at your request to review. I personally don’t know other people are doing or why they are doing it. In the end if I ever get to the point where my mobility is really shitty I can always have my wife do the annoying thing I see allot, which is to stop right in front of the front doors and drop me off.
Now, getting back to the young lady in the parking lot. She claims to be a college student here locally and a while back handicap parking fraud caught her attention and through some research she found it was a large problem that is mostly ignored. So, she has become an “advocate” for the disabled driver, she uses her website to get out her word and findings, I guess like an investigative reporter of sorts. She also does petitions and writes lawmakers in Austin to try to get the laws changed so the fraud will disappear. As well, she feels she is at least a little bit partially responsible for the fines increasing in Texas for violators. I look like at it like this, karma truly is a bitch. Everything has a way of catching up with you in one way or another. I know that I’m not the one who is a fraud, I’m not the one doing something illegal, I’m not the one who needs a lesson in morality, and I’m not the person who will get shot confronting someone over a parking space. Life is too short to let the little things ruin your day. It may seem that I don’t actually care, which is isn’t altogether true, I do care, I care that I have myself in-line, what someone else does with their life is their choice. Too many assholes have frauded the disabled parking system that Joe Public looks at all of us with scrutiny and in-turn sees no harm in the handicap space being mis-used. Not everyone is a thief and a liar, not everyone is a fraud, not everyone is lazy, and not everyone who has disabled plates needs to be in disabled parking. It would be nice however, if people did follow the law and that the laws are enforced. In a perfect world maybe, but not in the world I live in.
Overall I guess the actual point of this post is to show people that not everyone feels “privileged” with what they believe to be their undisputable right to park in a handicap spot. And yes, I am a person who could go either way. Most days my body decides to be cooperative with me living my life, other days not so much, but life must still carry forward. I think the only problem I have with people, in general, is the ones that admit they borrow a vehicle or a placard so they can park closer, because that is just lazy, and lazy isn’t a handicap, it’s a choice people make everyday.
The last thing I thought I would be doing this morning was changing a flat tire. I guess that is why it is such a surprise because one doesn’t expect it to happen. Well, it may always be in the back of our minds but we hope that it never happens. I would have to assume that most drivers aren’t thinking about it directly. Any way, while I was getting dressed to go to physical therapy this morning I get a panic phone call from my wife who is kind of hysterical. After getting her to take a few breathes she was able to calmly tell me she has a flat tire. I asked if she was off the road and in a safe place so she doesn’t get hit. She answered by telling me that she got the flat when she pulled into Starbucks to get a coffee. Which is ironic in a way because six months or so ago she got a flat at the exact same place doing the exact same thing. I should send Starbucks my bills. She tells me that she has not called USAA Roadside Assistance because I am much closer. Which, is a very true statement, I was less than five minutes away, if that. So, I finished dressing and headed over to change the tire. When I arrived I was surprised to see she had parked in a space pretty much out of the way. Luckily for me there were two spots on the her left side so I just parked in the middle of them to give myself some room to work since it was her driver’s side front tire which got the flat. Now, I don’t claim to be as fast as a NASCAR pit crew, in fact I am just the opposite, I like to do the task at a speed which is comfortable to me. I have learned that if a person rushes then they usually forget to do something or put something back. Since this is the second flat on her car and the last time was not too long ago I was familiar with where everything was and the whole drill.
As I was getting the spare tire from the rear of the car, she has one that is on the back with a plastic protective cover, this man walked by and asked if I had a flat. I turned to him and said “nope, just checking out if this was a spare tire or not”. He gave me a snotty ass look and walked away. My wife gave me the “WHY” look and I told her he asked a stupid question. So, I continue to go about getting the spare off and getting the jack and tools out to get started. After I loosened the lug nuts I began to jack the car up. To the side of me I hear “hey……you know you are in two spaces?’ I turned to her and told her “yes, I do know I am in two spaces, thanks for noticing” and then I turned back to jacking the car up. Before driving off she said “well, now I have to find a different spot farther away and surely it will make me late. I hope you happy!” Happy? Indeed. Your happiness is why I am here changing this tire. I mean, what a bitch. Don’t worry that I am here changing a flat. After a few minutes this 20’s something girl wearing a Starbucks shirt walks up to me to ask me how much longer I will be because she is getting complaints because I am parked across two spots and they have very limited spaces to begin with. The she asked if I knew what time of the morning it is and how busy they are. I’ve about had it. I looked at her and told her “That when I was done with my fucking picnic I would be sure to leave” and she turned to walk away. She mumbled some shit about her calling the cops. Okay, call the cops, why do I care. I carried on to remove the other tire and get the spare on. After I got it on I pulled the jack and went to the back of the car to put the flat in the spare tire’s spot. By now, I’m sweaty and my hands are dirty. I told my wife to wait for me because I was going inside to get washed up.
When I went into Starbucks I asked where the restroom was. I had it explained to me that the restrooms were for paying customers. At this point in time it was everything I could muster up not to come unglued on this bitch. Instead, I turned and went back out to the cars. I told my wife to follow me to the gas station so I could air up her spare. When we were done we both drove off, her to go to work and me to go to physical therapy. The whole drive I thought about this little tire changing episode and how much I actually hate the Starbucks Zombies. I understand having a habit since I smoke, but damn you don’t want to get in between a junkie and his coffee fix. Overall, I laugh at it all because it is pathetic that people flock to this mecca of coffee and don’t want any delays. Delays? I remind everyone I’m in a “boot” because I have to fractures in my left ankle, my whole life is a freaking delay because of it. Want to know what humors me the most? Not only did the people talk to me or bitch at me as well as drive by real slow gawking at what I was doing in “their” Starbucks parking lot, but not one damn person asked if I needed or wanted any help. I would have declined the help because I have zero problems changing a damn tire, but damn, nobody even asked. Is their fucking coffee that important that they can’t be human to another person without taking offense. Screw it all. What is done is done. As far as I am concerned it is all over. I just wanted to let y’all know I lost a little bit more faith in my fellow human beings today. I wake up every morning hoping my overall opinion of mankind will change for the better on that day and then bullshit attitudes like the ones I experienced today slap me in the face to tell me that kindness and thinking beyond yourself is too much to ask.
As a small housekeeping note, the pictures, graphics, and artwork were snatched from the internet using a Google search on the subject matter. I have no idea who they belong to so I can’t give credit. I am, however, grateful that they were available for download or else this post would be pretty boring to look at. Plus, it proves my theory and others in the world see the same thing I do when looking a Starbucks Zombie dead in the eye.