This weekend, I was invited out to dinner with some very dear friends. I never hesitated and accepted the invitation, gratefully – especially since I have been suffering from a severe bout of cabin fever lately.
If truth be told, I actually wanted a girl’s lunch out with my close friend so that we could just catch up. I wanted to hold her down for at least an hour and just spend some time talking. There has been so much on my mind and heart lately. I need to share it and get some advice – a perspective from somebody I know cares for me deeply – somebody I can trust, and feel safe with, when revealing my truths – someone whose opinion I value – somebody who will look out for me no matter what.
At times life is just so busy. It feels as if you sometimes lose touch with the people you truly care for. I’ve been feeling like that a lot lately. The silly season is upon us. It is hectic and everyone – already worn out from a long year – always seems to be rushing around like mad things getting ready for the holidays – only to start the whole process over again in January. It’s crazy!
When my friend called and asked if I minded if we rather go out for dinner, I was disappointed momentarily but I was really excited about the opportunity of getting out of my house and spending some quality time with some really special people in my life.
I’m always thankful when somebody wants to go to the trouble of taking me out. I’m finding that less and less people are willing. Because, let’s face it, it is a mission and a half.
It’s time consuming. It’s an effort. It’s an inconvenience.
You have to drive to my house and leave your car there. Then you have to get into my old Combi (1998 model), adjust the seat and the mirrors to suit; scratch around in the dim garage light to remove the gear lock and orientate yourself. The indicators and light switches never seem to be on the same side as your car. My care assistants always help get me into the car before we leave but it is your problem once we get to the other side. Reversing out of my garage is no easy task as you negotiate the narrow space between your car and a concrete pillar – praying like hell that the electric gate doesn’t close on you as some bloody idiot put the sensor on the other side when it was built. What was he thinking? You then have to drive slowly and carefully. If you take a corner too sharply or hit the brakes too harshly my arms will inevitably fall off my arm rests. Then you will have to find a place to pull over to put them back otherwise I risk falling out of my chair completely. The difficulty in changing the gears is enough to shatter even the most confident driver’s nerves. The old air conditioner barely makes a difference in the heat and humidity of this area. So, by the time we get to our destination, the sweat will be dripping off of you. Oh yes, and I forgot to mention, I’m a nervous passenger and I tend to backseat drive – just a little.
So, it didn’t surprise me in the least when my friend admitted that she was too scared to drive me and that’s why she preferred taking me out with her husband’s help. And even he struggled.
But the worst was when we got to the Mall, all four the disabled parking bays were occupied. Only one vehicle displayed a legitimate permit to park in these spaces. My stomach immediately went into a knot as I know that now means more inconvenience for my friends and more hazards for me.
It meant that we had to find an alternative parking spot which is really difficult on a busy Friday evening.
Since other parking bays are not wide enough to off-load a wheelchair we had to park awkwardly – half-in, half-out of a parking space to give us enough room to get me out. Besides needing the biceps of a bodybuilder to maneuver the ramps and guide my electric wheelchair down onto the road, it is really stressful for all of us knowing that we were blocking the flow of the traffic. I felt a bit like a deer caught in the blinding headlights as the other cars waited right behind our vehicle for me to be off-loaded. I just felt so exposed – and unnerved.
I then had to get myself out of the way quickly so that my friend could pull my Combi into parking bay properly and let the other vehicles come past. As we made our way through the car park to the entrance, I got shivers down my spine as I remembered how I was almost knocked over by a car a few days ago at that very same Mall.
Once again there were other selfish idiots parked in the disabled parking area. A car started reversing and because I am so “short” we didn’t see each other. My brother, who was a few meters away, was yelling like a madman for him to stop but obviously he couldn’t hear from inside his car. He missed me by centimeters. I don’t know who was shaking more – him or me.
When we finally got into the restaurant we were all emotionally and physically exhausted.
But, we really had an awesome evening. Lots of laughs and good food. And I just pray that they enjoyed it enough that they will be willing to go to the trouble of taking me out again sometime.
I have to admit though, when it was time to go I felt a little anxious knowing that it was going to be another whole mission to get me home safely.
As we got out into the car-park, a man, who was clearly fully-functional pulled into the disabled parking bay. In fact, I had worked with this man many years ago but he pretended not to know me. So sad.
My friend politely asked him to move.
What amazes me is, that most people still argue, get defensive and some even get aggressive despite the fact that they are clearly in the wrong. I just shake my head. As if being paralyzed is not enough of a challenge all by itself already, we constantly have to deal with selfish and irresponsible people who are too bloody lazy to walk a few extra meters. I wish I could swap lives and bodies with them. Sadly, I am the one who has to deal with being a hassle or inconvenience and feeling like a burden to my loved ones. These inconsiderate people certainly do not deserve the healthy, able body that God gave them.
If you have a few minutes, please take the time to watch this short video. I have shared it before on Twitter and Facebook but I think it’s really relevant and deserves another view. It’ll make you think and perhaps give you more perspective – although I already know that my readers are the considerate and compassionate people of this world – and I’m privileged to be associated with you – thank you. Please share it with as many people as possible. If this video can change one mindset, it will be worth it because there is always a ripple effect.
My son and I face this all the time …he is a c5 quad complete injury…even my family is guilty of wanting to park in designated parking for disabled…my mom told my son the other day when he was with her that it was ok for her to park because he was with her …his reply was, “but Gran I’m not getting out so you can’t park here”! He calls me the parking lot patrol especially at the college he attends because im constantly trying to make sure people are obeying the LAW!!!!! Thank you Tracy for sharing this and your story! My son has only been paralyzed for three years, it has changed our lives, but slowly we keep moving forward sometimes only to be pushed back!!! I hope in time he can cope the way you seem too! I know he has to take one day at a time and just know that your blogs are helping him and myself to do just that!! Hopefully by making more people aware we can together make a difference…
I wish all could see the video. But watching it I forgot about your night out to eat and the difficulties it caused for you in the parking area at the Mall. I re-read your blog again and what can one say. I am a bit bold even these days and challenge people who park without a sticker. Even those with stickers I wonder about when I see them get out and almost skip into the shops.
The trouble with the world today is that too many people are so selfish that they do not consider others. My son has a permit for parking in a disabled zone, and he gets really annoyed when the disabled parking is full of “no – permit” parkers who are too lazy to walk that extra distance. He is an amputee which is no where near your disability, but he needs the space to be able to open the door to exist the car, and there are times that he has to use the wheelchair. And people think that when you complain about their inconsideration, that you have a cheek to be upset. God bless you, and I hope many more people will take you out to dinner or shopping.
Frigging hell I almost had a heart attack at the end of the video.
WOW ! What a video ! I do not park in the disabled parking space and if I do see any able body person park there I get very annoyed. I tend to give them a “dirty” look – wish I had the guts to give them a piece of my mind too. These people do just not have any respect. I had not even considered the aspect of being “short”, of course no one can see you then. Shows, you do learn something new all the time. Thanks Tracy 😉
Reading this gave me a better understanding of an aspect of living with different physical boundaries I don’t think about enough. The entry/exit process, the out-in-up-down-out routine of going from home into and out of vehicles is complex for you and requires more attention and patience on your part. Before automobiles, we all had to go through a complicated set of tasks to go to the barn, lead out and saddle the horse or hitch it to cart or wagon, make sure we had feed and weather gear for the horse (in case), exit the vehicle at every gate to open it before and close it after etc.
You exist simultaneously in the past and present. Your sensibilities are modern, but your transport process is as arduous as if you were in the 1870s. Additionally, you are in a position to observe that it’s more streamlined for others, an unaware privileged group you once belonged to. You are aware there is a random kind of injustice in this, more than someone would be who was never in the “faster/easier” group.
Trying to maintain a high level of compassion and understanding at all times, when you are ALSO an animal with territorial, self-preservative and group-preference instincts (can’t escape our own DNA) produces stress and cognitive dissonance. Your involuntary monastic cell does produce some spiritual benefits, but you (understandably) must struggle with having been coerced into the vocation.
Thank you for sharing your insights, Tracy. You’ve earned a reserved space.
My dear friend. The world is full of @ssholes.
To be an @sshole you:
Don’t have to be black;
Don’t have to be not-black;
Don’t have to be uneducated;
Don’t need an education.
You have great friends, and that is the greatest gift you can have, on top of your own personality.
I once parked in a parking place reserved for people with some, ummmm, “disadvantages”. Yes, inexcusable, I know. Fact is, if I didn’t stop there, at a time of day when the shops were closing, I couldn’t buy someone who had a “right” to park there a bunch of flowers. Be that as it may, I was cr@pped upon. Fair enough, but there are mitigating circumstances!
Good wake up video Tracy. It can be hard for able bodied folks to understand what differently abled folks go through just to buy some groceries.
I always park really far from the store door. I do it so that people who can’t walk or have troubling walking can be as close as possible to the entrance. Why not take advantage of a brisk, yet quick walk to the front door?
If you add up all the time folks spend shopping for stuff they really don’t need I bet it’s triple the time it takes to accompany you on a mission to the restaurant. I must say this on every blog I visit — we’re raised to be consumers not citizens and that’s the underlying problem. People dedicate a lot of time to things and very little to other humans.
When I make it to SA, I’ll be more than happy to go with you to dinner!
The world needs more people like you in it G. I’ve realized that humans by nature are incredibly selfish — sadly so. Hopefully we can continue to make a small difference in our own unique way through our blogs. Thank you for being an inspiration to me. 🙂