HARMON: A 30-yard walk

January 8, 2014 

We pulled into the Piggly Wiggly, my soon to be 92-year-old mother and me, parked a few slots down the row and watched a perfectly healthy looking, 40-something man get out of his car in the “handicapped” spot and saunter into the store.

I have no way of knowing this guy’s medical history, but I will say he looked at least as fit as my mother. He appeared to have no trouble negotiating the 30 or so yards and made it to the automatic doors with no trouble. It made me think that we need to rethink this idea of handicapped parking for folks who are not handicapped.

First of all, let’s have several slots dedicated to reflect what some who use these spaces should be called. Let’s put “parking for opportunists only” on the signs and be done with it. That way we are rid of that bad old “handicapped” label and can assign spaces to those who seem to think they are entitled (an overused but nevertheless appropriate word) and cannot walk 30 yards. Walking that distance should be one of the requirements to get a decal.

This would make us all feel better about a good idea that is probably being abused. If the word “opportunist” doesn’t work for you, try “scumbag” or “cheater.” “Parking for the entitled only” might work. Now before you go all “nuclear” on me, let me explain. This is one of those -- “if the shoe fits, wear it” -- opinions. So if the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t put it on. I guess I’m just tired of seeing somewhat healthy, mostly obese, chronically lazy, illiterate (the sign even comes with a picture) but nevertheless wonderful people using a space designed and protected for those who cannot walk 30 yards and/or need oxygen to function normally.

Call me old-fashioned. Here we are, in the midst of a national obesity crisis and some are too lazy (oops, didn’t mean to go there) ... uh, let’s say, energetically challenged, to walk 30 yards to a grocery store to load up on items that could make walking even more challenging. Please. Where’s the love? Where’s the consideration for those who actually need the closer parking space?

Have you ever seen anyone ticketed for using those spaces when they had no right to use them? The fine for that is around $100 and if served, would take a lot of Twinkies and Gummy Bears out of somebody’s pocket. Maybe we need an ethics police force out there to provide a little “leadership” for those who need it. Now that’s legislation for which I could vote for.

This is when you need to remember the “shoe fits” thingy. My soon-to-be-92-year-old mother, who could easily qualify for a handicapped decal, insists on not using one. “There are others who need it more,” she’ll say. And I’m thinking there are a truckload of others who need it less. And there are those who borrow a decal from a relative and strut into the Pig looking like they won the Shepherd’s Pie Sweepstakes.

Dad was 89 and never used a handicapped decal, even though he had had six heart bypasses and a broken back. He did use a motorized cart when he was in the store. Of course he was a WWII veteran and they did things a little differently than we do today. There was something about those guys that bespoke of pride and a can-do attitude they carried all of their lives. Maybe it was the military experience we desperately need for all young people today. Not the wars but perhaps the service. But I digress.

I don’t know what to say about those who would abuse this parking privilege except that one day they may hear St. Peter say, “Sorry folks, all the good spots have been taken by the ones who deserved them. However, we do have a special place reserved for you in our lower lot. The elevator is about 30 yards away, right over there and it looks like you can make it just fine.”

Sonny Harmon is an educator at Georgia Military College. Visit his blog at http://sharmon09.blogspot.com.

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