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Wiley Wandering

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Etiquette is not Eartha Kitts’ brother.

Recently I was with a colleague who parked to run into a building. At that moment, I was focused on inputting something into my schedule, and didn’t realize that my colleague had pulled into a handicapped parking spot. Now, while this may not have been a crisis for many people, it was for me. First off, not only have I seen the Seinfeld episode when Jerry and his crew pull into a handicap parking spot, I actually use it to teach and explore ableism, as well as promote activism. In the episode, Kramer encourages George to park in the handicap spot because they won’t be in the Mall long. George succumbs to Kramer’s urging while Jerry is silent, and Elaine protests mildly. I am curious, which member of the Seinfeld crew reflects the action you would take? Why?

Now, as a diversity director and consultant, people act as if I am the diversity police. If they speak out of turn, or laugh at something they feel they shouldn’t have, they look at me as if I am going to frown upon them, or worse, judge them. It isn’t necessarily right, but it’s real! So, when I look up from my inputting, see the car sitting somewhat in front of the handicap parking sign, I freak out. I immediately jump out of the car, walk around to the driver’s side, and proceed to move the car, without permission from my friend. I then realize that I am facing an awkward situation. If I move the car, it can be construed as a statement about my friend’s judgment that may not be taken well. If I don’t move the car, and I am seen in it, I could look like a hypocrite. What should I have done? What would you do?

I moved the car and interestingly enough, as I was moving it, another one of my colleagues, someone whom I respect greatly and would not want to see me as a hypocrite was passing by. This person doesn’t miss a thing and noticed where I was parked as I was getting in to move the vehicle. What should I have said, if anything? What would you have said, if anything?


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Hi JW ~ nice to see your new Blog!

IMO, you did the right thing. I too would have moved the car into another spot. The temptations of those "very close spots" to those who will be "just a minute" is large, and I have seen many do as your colleague did. But, those spots are very important to the handicapped population, and should only be used appropriately. Perhaps I'm very sensitive to the needs of the handicapped by virtue of degree in a special-needs field, but many simply don't understand the difficulties that those who require those "closer-wider" spots face each time they venture out in a vehicle.
As for what should you have said to the colleague who observed you moving the vehicle~~ perhaps nothing, unless he/she said something specifically about it. I mean, YOU hadn't decided to park in the spot and were only correcting a situation once you became aware of it. Why go into a long explanation without being asked? However, if questioned ~ a simple, "" "X" is inside, and when I realized he/ she had left the ca in a handicapped spot, I decided to moved it, in case someone needing it came along." Again, no need to have a long dialogue, trying to "explain away" what someone else had done. Freeing the space was the important thing ~ and you did that. I have found that usually, teaching through example provides a far greater lesson for "many", than long dialogue ~ which may be interesting, but ultimately reaches only those present.


*** CC, welcome to the conversation. Thanks for the advice. I easily could become a long winded brother, simply out of the anxiety of the moment. So it is refreshing to know that my being tongue tied at the moment (a rarity in itself) was a fortunate occurrence. So this is how it feels to be validated!! -- J.W. ***


Hello Mr. Wiley. The Handicapped parking space has to be the most abused place in Plattsburgh, an not only by your colleague. The number of people that know betted an still don't give it a second thought, are mine boggling, an when there approached the excuses they come up with make no sense.
As for you moving the car, I Agree 100%.
Those space's are marked blue with a wheelchair for a reason. I don't think it's right to go to the collage an not find a space an pull in a space that say's reserved for "Mr. Wiley". I have to vote with Elaine..t/c bonemaster.

*** Mr. G, I guess we finally see eye to eye on something. I don't know about you, but I find that a bit alarming (relax, it's a joke) (or is it!). Please elaborate on what "t/c bonemaster" represents, unless it is profane. If it is obscene, then you need to know that this is a blog that is rated somewhere between PG-13 & R. At least that is what the people who govern the blog have implied to me. -- J.W. ***

The punishment should fit the crime. Unless there was no other handicapped space open, I would have taken the keys, locked up the car and disappeared for several minutes and let him wait for me to appear.

When I re-appared I would either say that I just meant to be "gone for a minute," if he/she were were sanguine enough to get the message. If he/she were a dolt, I'd probably look at him/her slack-jawed and say something like how dumb we were to hog the space.

If I moved the car and were seen by another colleague, I wouldn't say anything. After all, I could have been dropping off someone who was handicapped.

*** Your funny KB, or intense! You can never tell for sure in Internet interactions. First, you assumed it was a "him" when it was a "her!" Then you caught yourself and rolled with the dueling gendered pronouns "him/her." Your engagement of my friend, the driver's gaffe is most intriguing. If she were a so-called "dolt" then a subtle, nuanced, ironic suggestion would probably be missed anyway, which would then make me the dolt for even attempting to be sarcastic with a so-called dolt (remember, your language, not mine) who by definition shouldn't get it! However, your third suggestion regarding seeing the other colleague and not saying anything makes a lot of sense, as an arm chair quarterback, which is what we both are now. But in crunch time, I was not thinking that clearly, and succumbed to an overriding sense of guilt for a possible perceived infraction and paranoia that I would be prejudged guilty. Your suggestion of silence makes sense. When in doubt, punt!!! -- J.W. ***

Not sure I would have moved the car, JW, but, I'm pretty sure I would have said something to your colleague before-hand like "if a guy comes along to tow you, don't expect me to stop him." Or ""you know I'm just going to walk next door...yadda...yadda...yadda so I won't be in the car if someone comes along to give you a ticket" I'm a 'live-and-let-live' liberal. I might not protest ones behavior, but, I'm not going to save one from the consequences either.

Another point, though. I agree that handicapped parking spaces are commonly abused, but, the abuse I see witnessed most often is by people WITH the appropriate stickers or tags on their cars/plates. I'm talking about people who would not otherwise qualify to use such spots driving a tagged vehicle to the mall, or wherever. I've seen plenty of able-bodied people jump into cars parked in handicapped spots with handicapped tags and just drive away. Likewise, I've seen people drive into such spots with no one else in the car, hop out, and walk perfectly into their destination. Now I suppose that in some of these circumstances, the driver may have been providing a ride, but, if they were going to drop off their passenger right at the front door anyway - and likewise pick them up there - why do they need to take up a spot? Should it not be left open for a handicapped person who had to drive THEMSELVES to the mall?

*** Card Buddy, appearances can be deceiving. I try not to get to caught up in what others are doing, primarily because if you are doing dirt it will catch up to you. I kind of believe it's like that 'Seinfeld episode where everything Jerry does results in an even-Steven scenario. So, if you do dirt and get away with it, at some point, you will get very dirty. However, there may be much more involved in what you are witnessing than an able bodied person abusing a placard. Now, on another note, live and let live liberal? What exactly is that, and more importantly, can you say that 5 times real fast? And you know I am going to ask you to do that when I see you, so you need to practice beforehand. -- J.W. ***

I have a friend that has a handicapped parking pass that belonged to another friend. The second friend no longer needed the pass (it was temporary for a broken leg), but my first friend decided to hold on to it for her personal use. When I am in her car I make sure to let her know I disapprove of her having the pass and her use of it. I also refuse to park in a handicapped parking space when I am with her. When I ask her why she has the pass, she replies, “if I need to run in quickly and there are no close spots.” Regardless of my disproval she has continued to use the pass and will continue to do so in the future. I think the problem with my friend and others like her is the lack of connection. My mom had a pass for several years, and I know the pain and discomfort she experienced. For the people that misuse the pass/spaces it is an empty action. They do not know the person that they are taking the spot away from, it is not their friend, and it is not their family member. They have not or simply refuse to step outside themselves and understand how their actions impact other human beings. I will continue to voice my concerns and lead by example, but unfortunately most people (my friend included) will not change their ways until misfortune steps into their life. Only when they or a loved one needs the space, will they open their eyes and see the error of their ways.

*** LM, it is a sad state of affairs, but unfortunately, this is how we roll! So many of us float through life never considering our privilege until it is gone. It's like those times when we have a lingering body ache or one of those colds that feel like it will never end. Once the ache is gone, or the cold ceases, we barely pause to enjoy how much better we feel, though we swore we would really appreciate feeling better whenever it occurred. I hope your friend never has to incur a significant loss of her privilege and then have a front row seat to people disrespecting her because of that loss. And then there's karma. If you believe we get what we give... that is some scary stuff. -- J.W. ***

JW ... You certainly were more restrained than I would've been. I've seen the same thing happen at the mall, Consumer Square, etc. Usually, I let loose with a humorous tirade, and the perp gets the message and moves the car.

The same goes for pets who're left in an unventilated vehicle in a public place. I get a bit more vitriolic in those situations. My best friend has even taken down the plate number and approached a store manager to ensure our four-legged friends are kept out of harm's way.

Keep up the good work. And remember, no $5 words, OK?

*** Firemanjim, so you have sympathy for animals left in cars with windows up, but not black cats that are continually reminded not to purr in multisyllabic ways. What does it take to get you vitriolic on my behalf? -- J.W. ***

On two separate occasions, I have had the opportunity to expand my awareness as an abled person by sustaining injuries that required that my ability to walk be seriously curtailed for extended periods of time. Having to move about on crutches or in a wheelchair helped me in many ways to understand in a very immediate way just how inaccessible places I wanted to go could be. Even from the handicap spot, the grocery store seemed a mile away, City Hall is like Mt. Marcy, even my own workplace required the assistance of more than one person to make it accessible for me in a wheelchair. Parking as an abled person (even for a few moments) in a space marked as a handicap spot is inexcusable. Moving the car was the right thing to do as it had the interests of those who really need the space in mind and that comes first. Doing the right thing is enough and rarely requires an explanation.

*** Lisa, sometimes, walking in another person's shoes can be quite the antidote. Unfortunately most of us don't directly have that experience. However, we do have it in other contexts, but often aren't sophisticated enough to remember the feeling of being oppressed. So, we start a new day, oppressing someone else without a thought about how much of a bad taste it left in our mouths. -- J.W. ***

Hey JW!

I, too, would have moved the car. Non-handicapped parkers are one of my biggest pet peeves. Well, I have many peeves but that is in my top 2%. Trying to teach my boys respect for others and sometimes you can't always tell a handicap from looking.

You can bet I wouldn't have protested "mildly" about a colleague parking there either.

Blog on!

*** Val, I'm blogging my sister, I'm blogging! Regarding the other 98% of your many peeves, hopefully we can explore some of those in the near future. As well, how does a peeve transcend general peeve status into full blown pet peeve status? -- J.W. ***

I believe that I would have spoken up as the driver considered the spot. If they were indignant about it, then I would have stayed in the car offering the convenience of to the door drop off and pick up; making it unnecessary to park. Which is where I find the situation you presented a little odd, because if you were in the car with the keys and could move it after the driver got out as you say you did then you were not parked there. Parking is when the car is left unattended with no way of entry for mobilization.

I would like to end with a twist on this consideration: while I whole heartedly believe in and respect handicapped parking I refuse to acknowledge the designated "small child parking" at our local Price Chopper. what do you think?

*** Maureen, I always try to pick and choose my battles, especially since life is short and I am all over the place already. My energy is precious to me. Having said all of that, my first inclination would be to not sweat a parking sign because I would be apt to defer to the proprietor, imagining that she, he, or the corporation they may represent have their rationale for such a distinction of "small child parking." Also, I would just rationalize the walk as more calories burnt. However, if there is something about the scenario that I am missing, do tell? Just because my inclination isn't to lend energy cavalierly, it doesn't mean my attention can't be got!!! -- J.W. ***

Hi again!

I have been, on occasion, accused of having an evil sense of humour. Yes, I would have been laughing my head off as the miscreant approached her locked car.

Your analysis of doltishness is spot on.

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