Last Friday I got a parking ticket. At the grocery store.
I went to a school program to cheer on my son. I made an effort to look like I’m not “sick”. Fixed my hair, makeup, wore nice clothes. I sat on hard, metal folding chairs for the duration of the program so I was extremely uncomfortable by the end. I waddled out to my Jeep which was parked in a handicapped spot near the front doors. I looked at my parking tag hanging on my mirror and thought “I’ll just leave it since the store is not that far.”
I needed to run by the grocery store for what was probably the fourth time that week. It was early in the day so I parked in a handicapped spot and ran in for the four items I needed. I was probably there for 15 minutes at the most.
As I returned to my parking space there was a man putting something on my windshield. It didn’t register right at first what he was doing. I honestly thought he was putting some kind of flyer under the wiper. Then it hit me.
“Why are you giving me a parking ticket? My hang tag is right…” I stopped talking because there was no tag hanging from the mirror.
I found the tag in the door pocket where I keep it while driving. The tag swings around and is most annoying if left to hang while driving. Plus, it says “Remove Before Driving” right on the tag. The weird part is I don’t even remember taking it down.
The officer was cordial enough but said I sure didn’t look like I needed to park there. But if the tag is mine I could go over to the station and there would be a 50/50 chance they would let it go. I guess that’s what I get for making an effort to not look sick.
Fortunately and thankfully I took my paperwork and tag to the station and they let it go. But I was reminded that if the tag isn’t there, next time they won’t let me off. So now my tag is stuck in the windshield. I hate leaving it there all the time, but it’s not the first time I’ve forgotten to hang it up, so it’s there permanently now.
Funny, the day I got my first tag at the court house the lady that processed it said I sure didn’t look like I needed one. In fact she only gave me one tag instead of two. (You can have two tags here if you have multiple vehicles and don’t have a handicapped plate) This meant that whenever we needed to use my husband’s vehicle, I had to remember my tag or hoof it.
One of the first things my doctor told me when we were working on a diagnosis was to save steps wherever I could. Anything that kept me from tiring faster, or getting too stiff to move was fair to use.
The last big trip to the grocery store my husband went with me. 15 minutes into shopping I was waddling. By the time we finished our shopping, I was shuffling along slowly enough that people were giving me exasperated looks because I was holding up traffic in the grocery aisle.
I’ll admit vanity gets the better of me most of the time. If I’m going out anywhere, I try my best to look like I’m healthy. But sometimes I wonder why. If you don’t “look sick” people just assume you are faking or lazy.
I am not faking. I am not lazy. Yes, I am “too young to have arthritis” but it does not change the fact that I do indeed have this nasty autoimmune disease. It does not change the fact that sometimes the steps I save by parking in a handicapped space means being able to walk through the grocery store without shuffling.
Just because I don’t look sick does not mean I am not sick. Because, I most certainly am. I truly hate using any handicapped advantage. But if it means being a little less miserable, a little more pleasant to be around for my husband and son, then I will be using it to my advantage.