Friday, April 27, 2012


I wish I was the kind of guy who could just sit back and enjoy his sweet parking space. I mean, look at it. Ain’t she a beaut? She’s extra wide, clearly demarcated with bright yellow lines. The diagonal stripes warn the noncrippled to trespass at their own risk. It’s even got a sign with my picture on it. That chalk-white stick cripple in the stick wheelchair looks just like me, except he’s much skinnier and has a smaller head.

I’m a privileged character. I’ve got more parking privileges than his Royal Douchebag Highness Trump. He has reserved parking spaces all over the world. But in this McDonald’s parking lot, I don’t see any signs with his picture. He has to scramble for one of the every-man-for himself spaces like every other workaday schlump.

I count my blessings. I know my parking space is a monument to tolerance. I am crippled yet I am tolerated.

But whenever I park, I feel guilty. My sense of injustice is stirred. I can’t help but think of my misunderstood brethren on other points of the cripple spectrum who are not as tolerated as I am. Take, for example, those with irritable bowel syndrome. When it comes to the need to be parked as close as possible to the entrance of a building, they can make a far more compelling case than I. But will this alone qualify them to receive a license plate with the stick cripple on it that grants them that status? Not necessarily.

But even if it does, they will still be the object of resentment. When Joe or Josephine Pedestrian witnesses the driver of a car with special cripple plates park in a special cripple parking space and then sprint from the car into the Mc Donald’s, that’s when the backlash begins. If that person’s crippled, then who isn’t? Where does it end? Give those cripples an inch and they’ll take a mile!

It’s like how my mother felt about signs in Spanish in public places like city buses. There are tons of Polish people in Chicago, she said. Why no signs for them? Why not the Lithuanians? If you put a sign up for everyone who speaks a different language in Chicago, the bus will be 13 miles long!

So it goes with the Pedestrians. Even if you explain to them the finer points of IBS and the urgent need for reserved parking it potentially poses, that’s not likely to help. What’s next, they’ll think? Will we have to have special parking spaces for those people too? And oh God, what will the picture on those signs look like? What other kinds of cripples will then demand parking supremacy? Pretty soon the parking lot will be 13 miles long!

So the mundane act of parking throws me into moral turmoil. For as much as I feel deep solidarity with cripples who don’t wear their crippledness on their sleeve like me and thus still have to prove themselves worthy of toleration, I fear speaking up for them. I don’t want to fuel the backlash. I don’t want the exasperated masses to mourn the demise of the well-defined days when everyone knew exactly whom the cripples were. Cripples looked like the guy on the sign. But today, anybody who’s missing a big toe can claim they’ve got a right to prime parking, they might think. So maybe we’ll just take the privileged parking away from them all! That’ll teach them!

I wouldn’t want that to happen. So I don’t challenge the status quo. We wheelchair cripples were the first to penetrate the parking frontier. We stuck our flag in it, the blue flag with the white stick cripple. We claimed it for ourselves. If we open it up to all the less obvious cripples, we run the risk of that being too much of a mindfuck and we’ll all end up with nothing. Only so much can be tolerated.