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.