In day-to-day life, I typically have a “live and let live” perspective. This post is about one thing that challenges me. Often that happens if I am lacking some information. I sincerely invite your feedback.
For the past five years, I have taken many morning walks along the Naugatuck Valley River Trail. I park in the lot of the big-box store just across the dead-end street from the trail parking lot. Most often, the trail parking lot is full, including the two handicapped parking spots. It may seem odd to have handicapped parking for a walking trail. I have seen people in wheelchairs and walkers on it.
This particular morning as I pulled into the store lot, I passed a huge, brand-new, spit-shiny black Dodge Ram pickup truck parked kitty corner, taking up two spaces as people do when they don’t want anyone to damage their vehicle. Walking away from it was an older man, quite small in stature. As I passed, I saw him glance back at the truck. His pride and joy, I imagined.
I parked my car at the far end of the same row, took a minute or so to ready myself and walked the short distance across the street to the trail. As I did, I noticed the same black pickup truck parked in one of the handicapped spaces! I saw the same man walking away from the truck. I was puzzled; I saw there was now a handicapped parking pass inside the truck.
At this point, the man was on the elevated portion of the trail across from me. I waved at him, caught his eye and yelled to him. He motioned that he couldn’t hear me. I signaled the wait-a-minute gesture and rushed to catch up to him. When we were face-to-face, I pointed at his vehicle and asked, “Are you handicapped?” He looked puzzled. I continued with, “I just wondered.” He responded, somewhat indignantly. “Well, I’ve had five heart surgeries!”
“Oh,” I said, “I asked because I walk here all the time and I often see people parked in handicapped spots who walk long distances.” He didn’t respond, so I went on. “You see, my granddaughter is handicapped. She wears leg braces that can challenge her to walk long distances. It seems so many times when we are out-and-about, all the handicapped spaces are taken.” He shrugged his shoulders and looked annoyed. “Just asking,” I shrugged back, knowing the conversation was over.
I went on my way, still quite bothered. I just couldn’t let it go, wondering why a man with a heart condition, especially being short in stature, would choose a vehicle he had to climb up into. Did he feel it would save him should he have a heart attack while driving? Why did he retrace his steps to move the truck when it ultimately meant he’d walked the same distance as he would have had he left the truck parked where it was? Was there some advantage in being closer to the truck if he were to have a heart attack on the trail? Perhaps. Still, it didn’t seem right.
There is also a couple with a handicapped pass who uses the spaces. I’ve passed them many times returning from the far side of the one-mile mark. This means that when done, they’ve walked at least two miles. Another more disturbing example is a 30-something male runner. He uses the permit to park his car, which has Florida plates, in a handicapped space and then proceeds to run the trail. Does he own the car and the handicapped pass, or perhaps borrows it from his elderly parents? He can run miles, yet not walk more than a few steps to his car. How does someone who can run two miles justify that?
I invite you to notice in the big retail store parking lots how often all the handicapped spaces are taken. It seems to me that the number of cars parked there doesn’t seem to correspond to the few mobility-challenged shoppers I see in the store. If a person can shop the massive square footage of Target or Home Depot, is getting to the car just too much?
The attached video is a perfect example. The two women in it are on their way back to the trail parking lot. They are crossing over the one-mile mark on the trail, once again, finishing at least a two-mile walk. The women on the right is the driver, who legally parked in a handicapped spot. When she returned to her car, I watched her drive across the street to the big box store, park in a handicapped space there and proceed into the store, I have to assume to shop.
I feel like this kind of behavior is a sign of the times. I am angry with the people who take advantage as a convenience what others really need. Perhaps at one point they themselves really needed it, which is even worse, because they understand the value.
I am angry with the medical professionals who endorse passes when they are not necessary. I am angry because I think it speaks to the physical and emotional health of our nation. Sadly, there seems to be a deficit of compassion, a wealth of entitlement and a lack of integrity. This is not about politics; it prevails in our daily lives, and it’s not new.
I realize this subject is personal to me, so I know that is what makes me more aware. I did investigate the requirements for a handicapped parking pass. There are several qualifying disabilities. Certain classes of heart conditions qualify, specifically when the person is unable to perform simple activities without incidence. I am still not sure how that relates to the man in the truck. Let’s just say he was working on his health. In the case of the others, the qualification they are violating is that they all can walk 200 feet without stopping. Here is the link to Connecticut’s handicap parking pass qualifications if you are interested in more information.
I have considered printing up little cards that I can leave on offenders’ windshields that say: Congratulations, I see you walking quite a distance on the trail. Maybe you could leave this handicapped space open for someone who really needs it?
I did discover I can report misuse of the pass to the police or DMV. I can’t imagine the police waiting for the runner to return to his car, though maybe I am wrong. Should I try that?
What bothers me, too, is that walking on that path is not just exercise for me. It is my way of destressing and reconnecting with my creativity. Now, it seems I am preoccupied with the issue every time I go for a walk. I can choose another place to walk, but I doubt it would be different anywhere else. The issue isn’t going away, and I really am looking for a better perspective!