I knew it was only a matter of time before I made a very important decision. To do the handicap placard or to not do the handicap placard. That is the question. I have been wrangling with this one for some time, always coming up with reasons as to why my perfectly (dis)abled body does not need to be rescued by a privileged parking space. That’s how I see it. Here’s why.
First, my symptoms are never that bad. At least that’s what I’ve always told myself. I can park in any spot in the parking lot of Bed, Bath and Beyond and capably walk to the front door. This always leads me to my second point, which is that I really do not want to take a handicapped spot away from someone who needs it more than me. How on earth would I be able to live with myself if I drove my car atop the asphalt spot painted with the universal disabled symbol and actually took it from someone else? I am not sure I could live with the guilt of stealing a spot when I feel perfectly fine. This line of thinking always ends with the forever silent, unmentionable realization that I am a disabled person who might need assistance one day too.
Nope. Not this MSer. My third point I always think is a strong one. I need the exercise. Walking. Walking is good exercise. The farther out I park the car, the more exercise I will get. I often reason with myself. I do not need to shrink my already limited exercise routine by decreasing the steps per minute that would come from parking so close to the entrance of the mall. Ha, ha! Good one.
Lastly, the place where I need assistance the most is at work yet I adamantly tell myself that I am not ready to come out with my diagnosis to my office mates. Parking in the handicapped area will clearly force me out of the MS closet. I know what you’re thinking, ‘o readers of mine. How much of a secret could it really be if I write publicly on this blog? Minor detail. I remain inflexible. I cannot get a handicapped placard. Everyone will notice me stepping out of my car parked in the blue zone right in front of the office building entrance. It will be so immediately obvious. There is no way to avoid it. Everyone knows what kind of car I drive and they do not have a clue that I live with MS. I always ask myself questions. How is this going to work? Am I ready for this or should I dream up a story that I am recovering from a very serious bike accident? People will believe me, right? Yes I realize that keeping up with a story like this will be difficult and has the potential of getting completely out of hand as I will be forced to describe every elaborate detail of my crash. Besides, I can’t wear a fake cast forever. On the other hand, parking is so limited at my office that many of us are forced to park on a dauntingly steep hill that is an exercise routine all in itself. 300+ steps from the office front door to the top. I counted one day. I still conclude and tell myself: more points to add to my third reason above if I don’t get the placard, right?
This all changed with my recent relapse. Just last week my MS took me by surprise and rewarded me with new numbness, from my waist down. Not full numbness but enough to give the impression that I should probably stop drinking at noon. This is when I decided it was time. I wrote it down on my task list: fill out DMV form for disability placard. I will let you know how my first parking experience goes when my pretty blue placard arrives in the mail. Stay tuned.
In the meanwhile, I am sure many of you have had similar experiences. I would love to hear from you, to hear your story. How was your experience in getting the disability placard?
P.S. If you live in California, you can fill out the “Application for Disabled Person Placard or Plates” through this link: Application for Placard.