You’re disabled, badly. In Queensland you qualify for a disabled parking sticker, but in New South Wales you’re told, as that useless leg is still attached, you won’t get it. If you were enormously fat, says the doctor, acknowledging how bloody unfair it is, no problem. It’s a pity, he adds, that you’re such a fit cripple, and haven’t let yourself go, or eaten yourself into diabetes.
Women with children get close parking. You don’t. Okay, so you cope. You walk despite being crippled. You pull up outside the chemist, on your way in for your heavy duty painkillers and nerve blockers. Someone parks beside you, so close you can’t get out. Even an able bodied person couldn’t slide out. You wind your window down.
Mate, you say, you’re too close, you’re blocking me in the car. I won’t be a minute, says the man, dashing past you. So naturally, you back out, re-park a few spaces away, and get out. You limp back to the car that was blocking you in. With your good leg, you kick the door in. Then you limp away.
You’re about to use the self-serve checkout at the supermarket. It’s evening, when you shop because there are less crowds, as it’s easier for you to deal with a trolley, something you find very hard with your bad leg. You can also get parking close by, which as you don’t qualify for a disability sticker, makes a huge difference.
A woman and her partner are blocking three self-serve checkouts. One with their two trolleys of soft drink, frozen food, and chips, then the one they’re using, and another with their giant pram.
Excuse me, you say politely, would you mind moving the pram so i can use the checkout? We’ll just be a minute, says the woman. Five minutes later, they’re still feeding different cards into the reader, trying to find one that’s not maxed out. Your pain levels are rising, you don’t do standing well.
Rather than offering to kill them if they don’t get out of the bloody way making a scene, you go to the one manned checkout and queue for a while. You see the couple at the self service checkouts are now getting the staff to remove items from their bill, then going through the rigmarole of feeding through their twenty cards again. You notice there’s no baby food in their two overflowing trolleys. No nappies either. (Diapers.)
As you leave, fifteen minutes later, they’re still there, still looking for a card that works, apparently too stupid to walk twenty metres (about that in yards) to the nearest cash machine, and find out which, if any, of the cards has any money on it at all. You’re poor, you have sympathy for those in the same boat, but there are limits. You hope they choke on their bloody chips.
Up in Queensland, when you did have a disabled permit, you’re pulling into the bank parking area, when someone in a large 4WD cuts you up, and parks across two disabled parking spaces. Oi, you say. I won’t be a minute, says the man, hurrying to get into the bank.
So you stop right there, get out of your car, and even with your leg brace on, something in your eyes warns the man, he doesn’t pass you, and runs back to his car, which he moves into a non-disabled space.
You’re walking with a severely disabled friend. She’s had a stroke, only one side of her body moves. She can move at a shuffle thanks to her braces and cane. People keep barging into her, to the point where you are hyper-alert, watching ahead, behind, and to each side, ready to say oi!
There’s plenty of space around you, no need for people to come so close, but they don’t look, intent on their own lives, and insist on pushing past, in so much of a hurry that a two-step detour is impossible. You’re not in some central city area, this is at a quiet suburban shopping centre. It isn’t some once-off freakery, it happens every time she goes out.
You’re at the shops with your disabled friend. He’s walking with a stick, slowly. It’s Christmas time, heavy crowds. Even so, as the woman nearly knocks him flying, and hits him (on his bad knee, which stands out, it being held together with a large metal leg brace) with her shopping, several people around see, and join in with your “Oi! Look out!”
The woman looks back, and you shout angrily (over the noise of xmas carols) that she nearly knocked him over. She humphs, and says she’s in a hurry, like that’s a good enough reason to knock over a disabled person – or anyone.
The other people giving sympathy and offering help are very much appreciated, and make you both feel better, but you feel like chasing the woman down and cracking her on the knee with a shopping bag full of electrical appliances, just to see how she likes it.
You’re having a bad day. Along with the leg brace, you’re using your walking stick. You see some people walking towards you. They are spread out over the 4 metres of open space (12+ feet) that’s the walkway next to the shops, completely blocking it to anyone else. You stop, next to a shop window, close to it, waiting for the people to both see you, and move to one side.
They keep walking, looking everywhere but dead ahead, until one of them actually barges straight into you. It doesn’t knock you over, you were ready for it. They get stroppy with you and complain that you’ve hurt them when they bounced off your titanium leg brace. (Stroppy is angry.)
You point out they had plenty of space to walk through, they could see you clearly, you weren’t hiding, and point to your leg brace and stick. Some of us, you say, can’t get out of the way easily. I’ve been standing here since you were over there, you say, and point some fifteen metres away (45+ feet) They seem surprised, both at where you appeared from (you being such a sprightly and fast-moving person), and that you didn’t get out their way if you saw them.
You’re waiting for a taxi you phoned for. You’re outside the shops, leaning on your walker. You have many problems, including being unable to walk unaided. The taxi driver pulls up behind you, and starts calling to you.
He gets out of his car and comes up, shouting and yelling. “What are you, deaf?” You hear him, finally. There are people all standing staring. “Yes,” you say, mortified, fighting back tears, “yes, I am. My hearing aid broke this morning.” The taxi driver looks embarrassed, mumbles something that might be an apology, and helps you into the car, folding your walker to go in the boot.
You want to tell him to sod off, but instead you decide getting home is more important. Your small revenge will be not tipping, and complaining to the taxi company. When you get home, with the door shut, then you let yourself cry.
What is it with humans? Can’t you put yourself in the other person’s shoes? Or in their orthotic brace? Have a bloody care – when something happens to you, and you’re not able to move as fast, or as surely, is that the only time you realise, gee, it’s a bit rough trying to get around with the other humans who think their needs take precedence over everyone else’s?
Can you imagine how fucking frustrating it is, when your body doesn’t do things as quickly or as well as you want it to?
I suppose not. However, you might want to remember, not all of us are crippled so badly that we can’t push you back when you shove us. Some of us studied martial arts, and can do things to you with our walking sticks you won’t believe.
So don’t mind me, and don’t be surprised when your car door gets dented if you park so i can’t get out of my car, and then expect me to wait while you go off and do your shopping.
This militant cripple has had enough.
NB – i don’t look crippled. Like most disabled people, i do my damnedest to hide how hard it is for me to look normal.
The above examples are all ones i witnessed or were related to me by the disabled people involved.