Well, Monday is the winter solstice, and Thursday is Christmas Day. No problem in dreaming up something to write about this week. It seems a given that I say something about these two annual events like everybody else. But that’s just what everybody expects me to do. I’m far too clever to fall for that ploy.
Instead, I’ve decided to spout off on designated handicap parking spaces. Parking always becomes a bit of an issue this time of year. Until I qualified for a handicap parking placard, I never paid much attention to the situation. In my pre-placard days I avoided parking in handicap spaces because I didn’t want a ticket and because I tend to follow rules as part of my basically dull nature. When I got my handicap placard, though, I started paying attention. Self interest has a tendency to do that.
For a long time I had to walk with the help of a cane, and even had to use a walker for a short period. I still have a problem with too many stairs, upgrades, and walking very far (especially on a hard surface). Since my most recent surgical procedure I have retired the cane and walker, but I still need the placard. The situation has made me acutely aware of handicap parking situations.
Some stores and other public buildings do not have enough handicap parking spaces. This usually is not the problem, though. The problem is non-disabled people parking in those spaces. I wonder if they would continue if they knew the pain and obstacles they cause others. If they don’t care, they deserve tickets. If they simply don’t think about it, a ticket may increase their awareness.
It is difficult not to see vehicles without the placards or specially marked license plates parked in handicap spaces. Just take a look on the next trip to the store, university, or anywhere else with the spaces. Mention the unauthorized vehicles to an employee or manager and see how quickly something can be ignored. Call a cop and see if anybody shows up.
One of the common excuses is “I’ll only be here for a minute.” In that minute a handicapped person may need to park there.
Another excuse is that it is a commercial vehicle and will just be in and out, or expects to be regarded above the law — the parking rules being for us mere mortals.
I recently noticed a soft drink truck taking up at least two handicap spaces in front of the Campus Union Building at Eastern New Mexico University, and this was nothing unusual.
During the Peanut Festival, every single handicap space was usurped by the vendors unloading their wares. Don’t any of those people have dollies they can push across the parking lot? What makes them better than everybody else?
Maybe we should think about having our local and state governments (which belong to us as citizens) deputize legitimate handicap drivers/passengers to issue tickets to violators in handicap places (authorization limited to this one offense). It would bring in money to public coffers without raising taxes and hopefully make insensitive and unaware people pay more attention to the rights of fellow citizens. And we don’t even have to distract the police from matters they consider more important.
It’s something to think about, maybe even something for discussion at lunch or dinner. Perhaps the concept of human decency (“Peace on earth, good will toward men?”) will interest someone. It’s worth a try, right?
Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: