Anyone who lives with a disability will tell you that as a culture we still have a long way to go to understanding that not all physical disabilities are obvious. I still limp and use walking aids. If it’s a short walk from the car into the store, and I know I can hold on to a shopping cart when I get inside, then I’ll just walk. And I’m pretty good at faking it. Most people don’t notice that my right ankle is paralyzed or that I’m focused on whether my right leg is listening to what I tell it to do.
I’m in the crowded parking lot, and there’s no parking. Like ANYWHERE. I circle around again, and see someone right up front is leaving. YES! It wasn’t a disabled spot, but it was literally the next one over. Still perfect. This is L.A. county. You learn to drive aggressively or get the fuck off the road. The second they pulled out, I swooped in. No, no one else had dibs – I had been waiting first. It takes me a minute to get out of the car. In that time, the disabled spot next to me opened up, someone pulled in, and suddenly there’s a tapping on my window. It was a small, older woman probably in her late 50s/early 60s, bundled in a coat with her purse in hand. I rolled down my window just a little (this is Pomona, I trust no one.) And the conversation went like this:
Me: Oh, you were waiting? Yeah well, I was too. You probably couldn’t see my car from that angle. It happens.
Woman (annoyed) YOU were waiting too??
Me: Yep. *shrugs shoulders*
Woman: Well, you’re lucky you’re not disabled!
Now, there’s two ways I could have responded to this. And if you know me in real life, you know I’ve got a fuckin’ mouth. But I was tired and nauseous (why I was at the pharmacy) but also, I know how she felt. I totally get it. So instead of saying, “Fuck you, you don’t know me!” it went down like this…
Woman (calming down): Oh?...You…you are disabled? A stroke? My husband too. He’s in the car. That’s why I needed the parking spot.
Me, smiling: Oh I understand. Finding the right spot can be so frustrating.
Woman, starting to giggle: Oh yes, it is! I worry about bringing him. And now…well now I understand you.
Me, also giggling: Yeah, me too. I’m glad you said something actually. Happy holidays!
I got out of the car and finished what I set out to do. Instead of being fueled by rage and spite like my usual self, I walked around the store feeling all warm and fuzzy. (Don't get used to it.)