05 October 2006

Parking Reserved For ...

I find it irksome how retailers have taken the idea of handicapped parking spaces and transformed it into a customer relationship management tool. I’m talking about the two signs that have emerged in parking lots within recent years: “This Space Reserved for Expecting or New Mothers” and “This Space Reserved for Senior Citizens.”

The first time I saw these signs I started laughing because I thought they were a joke. But they’re not. It’s bad enough that just about anyone can acquire a handicapped parking permit nowadays. Obese people can get them just because they’re fat. If you twist your ankle, you can get a temporary handicapped parking pass. On a rare occasion, an acquaintance who finagled a handicap parking pass did admit that if just about anyone can have one, then why shouldn’t he. Unfortunately, he has a good point.

States need to stop handing out handicapped parking passes like they’re Kleenex. If I’m going to get a $250 fine for parking in that space, then I want to see some real handicapped people. I want to see people who have to struggle with a wheelchair or crutches. I want to see some serious deformity, amputated limbs or a body cast. I do not want to see fat people or old people or someone with a little limp emerging from a car parked in a handicapped space.

Moreover, I certainly don’t think that some chick’s decision to breed makes her privy to elite parking spaces. Since when is pregnancy that much of a burden? Especially now — when Angelina Jolie, Britney Spears and other celebs have made “the baby bump” a fashion icon — it’s hard to respect those new mom spaces right next to the handicapped spaces. You (voluntarily) got knocked up; you did not (through a terrorist bombing) lose a limb. I find “This Space Reserved for Expecting or New Mothers” to be completely ridiculous, so I park in those spaces and just stick out my gut while I’m walking into the store so it looks like I might be pregnant.

I’m pretty sure that once you’re old enough that you shouldn’t be driving anyway, you can get a handicapped sticker for your car. It serves as a warning to other drivers that this person shouldn't even be allowed behind the wheel of a vehicle, so get out of the area quickly. Because handicapped parking passes are dealt out to old people like bridge cards, I don’t understand the “This Space Reserved for Senior Citizens” signs. Apparently doctors and states consider old age reason enough to issue a handicapped parking pass, so why are retail stores creating additional senior citizen spaces right next to the handicapped spaces? Again, the ridiculousness of it allows me to park in these spaces with no guilt. I am a little more judicious with the senior spaces than the mom spaces, though; I’ll only park in a senior space if there’s a handicapped space empty.