Monday, November 23, 2009

Theology of the Handicapped Space

We all know why it is there. We all know who is supposed to use it. We all know who isn't. You'd think the handicapped parking space would be a simple matter. If you are handicapped enough to get a license plate or a card that hangs from your mirror (who qualifies is a whole 'nother discussion), you can park in the space. No plate, no card, no parking. Easy, right?

I sit here 3 or 4 mornings a week and I can't help but notice the handicapped spot - and who parks there. It's a small parking lot and it is often full, but not always. There are 5 different ways this spot is normally used:

1. The lot wasn't full, a middle aged woman in a Mercedes SUV pulled in from the parkway and swung directly into the spot. There were other spots open. She left her car running (in fact, the turn signal was still blinking), ran in to get her coffee and ran out again. "I can park here if it's fast."?

2. The lot was full, an elderly woman with a noticeable limp and the appropriate handicapped card in her windshield pulled into the spot, walked in to get her coffee and left.

3. The lot was completely full, any one of a number of cars (I've seen Rovers, Passats, Minis and Priuses pull this one) creeps through the lot and finally pulls into the handicapped spot. The driver then either sheepishly slinks or confidently marches (there is no in between) inside to get their coffee. a) "I guess I can park here if there isn't any other option"? b) "I can park here because they need my business and they should have a bigger lot"?

4. The lot was busy, a well-used and well-stickered early 90's model Corolla pulls up to the front door. A woman gets out and walks in while the man driving the car backs halfway into the handicapped spot and half into the "no parking" area, narrowly missing the A-frame sign placed specifically to prevent him from parking directly in front of the store. "I can park here because you won't let me park where I want"?

5. The lot is pretty full, a beautiful car (subjectively or objectively) pulls into not just the handicapped spot, but also half of the spot next to it and proudly makes their way inside, turning halfway to arm the car alarm and admire their ride. "I couldn't park anywhere else because parking lots are dangerous places for cars like mine"?

There are plenty of places in life that should be a simple matter. Right and wrong, black and white, yes and no, do or don't. Yet, we can still find ways to muddy the waters, to create shades of gray. We do this by looking only at ourselves and considering only our needs instead of thinking first about the needs of others. "I can do it if it is right for me right now"?

Update 12/10 - When it's snowing the spot is nothing short of a free-for-all. "Extreme circumstances remove all guilt"?

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