Handicapped spaces fall prey to the craziness of March
March is the best of times and the worst of times in a mountain resort town. The snow is Dickensian, and the temperatures warmer, although that seems impossible after the balmy past two months.March is the busiest month on the slopes, good if you own a business, but bad, sometimes very bad, if you’re trying to get to one of those local businesses.Cars are everywhere, people are everywhere and, people being people, the best parking spaces, the close-in parking spaces, fill up first.The very best parking spaces, though, always seem to be maddeningly vacant, just out of reach unless you have a handicapped sticker on your car.It’s a measure of how self-centered and egotistical people can be that they would begrudge a few handicapped parking spaces instead of parking a few hundred feet farther out and, heaven forbid, walk.
But we’ve all felt that surge of irritation at seeing a gap in the row of parked cars just up ahead and thinking “yeah, my luck’s in,” only to find our hopes dashed by a blue no parking sign staring back at us.As good-hearted folks who haven’t completely forgotten our obligations to others less fortunate, most of us let the irritation go, find someplace else to park, and count ourselves lucky that we don’t need a handicapped sticker on our license plates.There are more than a few, however, who conveniently forget their obligations. These folks seem to think that if they drive an 8,400-pound Ford Excursion to the grocery store to pick up some steaks, or to the liquor store for a quart of gin and a bottle of merlot, that no one will mind if they park in a handicapped space for a few minutes.(When I was working at the U.S. Embassy in Syria, I had occasion to drive the ambassador’s fully armored limo, a monster black Chrysler with bullet-proof windows, steel side panels and an armored undercarriage to protect its occupants against attack. The total weight of this armored limo – 7,500 pounds.)But as you stand in front of one of the grocery stores around 5 p.m. any day this month, look for any four-ton SUV, and watch the drama unfold.
The lot is full, the traffic lanes choked. People either double park in the fire lane or circle the lot again and again to find a spot close in, rather than take the first spot farther out and walk.Parking in a fire lane is both pathetic and dangerous, because if a fire does start, or an emergency vehicle does need to get into a business because a customer’s having a heart attack, no one should have to wait for the driver of the SUV to get his or her vehicle out of the way. At times like these, parking in a handicapped space is tempting, so our driver sometimes rationalizes dropping off a spouse, then parking in a handicapped spot till he or she reappears.Inevitably, a truly handicapped person, not someone selfish and brain dead, comes into the lot and is faced with coming to a stop in the middle of the parking lot and trying to get the attention of the SUV driver by honking the horn.Most of us, if we notice at all, satisfy ourselves by giving the SUV drivers in handicapped spaces a fierce glare, but that’s not nearly enough.
We have a responsibility to bang on the window even if no one who’s eligible for the spot is waiting. We all have acquaintances and friends who have handicapped plates, and we can’t always be there to help when they need help, so it pays to be vigilant on their behalf. It’s one thing to get into a confrontation with someone else over a foolish thing, but in this case, we’re in the right.Marc Carlisle watchesparking lot follies on a daily basis. He also writes a Thursday column. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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