I want to blame it on the stress of getting 3 kids dressed, breakfasted and out of the door in time for school that morning, or the numbers on my bathroom scales, or the fact that my socks were feeling a little tight that day. I want to blame it on the weather, or the state of the inside of my car only 1 day after I cleaned it, or the worry that my beloved ‘Neighbours’* may be cancelled. I want to blame it on anything other than what it probably was, a sign that I am finally becoming embittered by my disability. You see, I don’t do rages, at least, not publicly. I don’t like confrontation, I don’t like arguments, I don’t like unnecessary negativity. And yet, here I was one morning last week, muttering angry abuse at a lady who I didn’t know, and who looked as though she had never done anything in her life before to warrant being shouted at.
And this is where the problem lies. No-one ever thinks that they are doing anything wrong when they casually rock up to a disabled space because it’s empty and out of the way and no-one actually needs these spaces, do they? I’ve come to discover that a lot of people don’t ‘see’ the wheelchair symbol when they see a blue badge space. They simply see ‘space’. “Oh, this’ll do while I wait for my wife to finish her shopping.” “Ahh, lovely, an out of the way space with no yellow lines, I’ll just leave the car here while I quickly run that errand.” Or they see a nice spacious space in which to manoeuvre their precious car, always living in fear of it getting scratched should it be squeezed into a regular space. Pre-disability, I would never have dreamt of parking in a disabled space, or a parent and child space, or any space that is specifically reserved for someone who needs it, and yet every day I come across some nincompoop doing just this. And most of the time they don’t even look like nincompoops, they look like perfectly nice, normal people who would be shocked to learn that they’ve caused any upset or inconvenience. Perhaps this is why I am usually very good at remaining polite and calm when I ask them if they wouldn’t mind moving. And bar one abusive man who was “only going to be 2 minutes,” they have always moved without a fuss, which leads me to believe that they do know they are doing something wrong.
So, when I arrived at work to find a colleague who I was yet to meet parked in the disabled space with her boyfriend, who was clearly just dropping her off (there was no sign of a blue badge or anything to suggest that they had parked legitimately), I thought I might wait a moment for them to move. But they didn’t, they just sat there, canoodling. I found the only remaining space far from the building and with barely any room to wriggle my crutches out of, let alone my wheelchair if I had needed it that day, and I staggered over to the building. Just as I was passing the illicitly parked car, the woman got out and, out of nowhere, I found myself sarcastically saying, “Nice blue badge!” The anger in my voice took both her and me by surprise. Looking at me with innocent confusion, the woman said, “I’m sorry?” To which I angrily replied, “You’re parked in a disabled bay.” Clearly unaware that she had done anything wrong she simply said, “Well, he’ll be moving in a minute.” “It’s too late now!” I spat, as I hobbled into work, feeling utterly shocked at myself. I know that I could have handled that better, flip, I know that I should have handled that better. What had become of me?
I spent the whole day analysing my actions, trying to justify my anger but at the same time condemning it. Who was in the wrong? Her? Me? Both of us? None of us? Had I really turned into one of those old men I’ve encountered who become obsessively territorial over parking spaces and bark at unwitting strangers just because they’ve built up too much frustration over the years and can no longer hold it in. Is my anger a result of years of suppressed stress at the world and at the disability that exploded into my perfectly happy life, causing frustration and disappointment at every turn. When you are faced with continual challenges in a life that needs constant justifying, the one small, ignorant act of stopping a person with a disability from accessing a disabled space becomes a huge deal. And when it happens on an almost daily basis it is very difficult to remain cool. The poor lady on the receiving end of my wrath was simply the ninny who broke the camel’s back.
*Channel 5 are ditching my favourite programme on TV, Australian soap Neighbours. The devastation is real while we await a knight-in-shining-armour-channel to save it. #saveneighbours