Earlier last week, Ken drove me to a doctor’s appointment. My lungs felt tight that day because of poor air quality, and I am still not fully recovered from my recent flare-up of pneumonia infections in my lungs caused by Pseudomonas Aeriginosa and MRSA, so we used my valid Disabled Parking Permit.
However, a stranger walking behind us decided to say something to us.
“It’s tough being handicapped, isn’t it?” the older man asked sarcastically. I didn’t hear what he said at first, I thought he was commenting on my Red Sox shirt because he was wearing a Red Sox hat. My husband, ken, heard it, though. He simply told the guy that I have Cystic Fibrosis – that I have bad lungs, though Mr. Know-it-all deserved no such explanation.
This wasn’t the first time people have commented on my use of a Disabled Parking Permit.
When we lived in Massachusetts, where the Registry of Motor Vehicles print the name and driver’s license photo of the tag carrier on the permit itself, one woman who had parked next to me got out, closed her door, and walked up to me as I left my car, and asked to take a closer look at the tag. I wanted to say something snarky about glass being clear (she could just look at it hanging from my rear view mirror), but I just walked away.
In Connecticut, neither your name nor your photo appears on the tag, so it leaves even more room for people to make assumptions. I remember one day, as I unlocked my car door, I saw what looked to be a mother and small child walking towards me. As they passed me, she yelled out to me:
“You know you’re taking spaces away from people who really need them!”
Another time, a woman who seemed to be in her 40s or 50s came up behind me as I walked into a store and scolded me:
“You should be ashamed of yourself.”
Again, I said nothing. I always blank when it comes to this sort of thing.
If there are other closer spaces, I opt for those non-reserved spaces, and on days when I am feeling well enough, I prefer the opportunity to exercise my lungs, but there are times when I just need that help. The bottom line is that the state issued a Disabled Parking Permit to me for my personal use, according to recommendation from my physician(s). I follow the laws. I don’t share the tag or abuse it.
So what gives people the right or gumption to say anything? Because I might look young and healthy? Because they see no wheelchair or crutches? I get it – you can’t see my CF, and some people think that they’re doing a good deed. Even though it’s none of their business, I’d rather someone ask me politely than make assumptions and accusations.
On the Brighter Side…
I guess that I could use such events as opportunities to teach and spread awareness about CF. I recently had business cards printed that explain the basics of Cystic Fibrosis, and plan to give them to anyone who expresses an interest in CF. I also plan to give one to anyone who feels the need to comment negatively on my cough (which happens often). Now I have an additional audience!
I feel it’s part of my role in life to educate and correct misconceptions about CF.
When I cough, people think they’re going to get sick – I get that, too. But even after I tell them I am not contagious, they still don’t understand. I might even be so bold to give one to people who stare at me if I’m wearing a medical mask, which I do when entering any medical facility, or any crowded place during flu epidemics – for my own protection.
If I was sick and carrying something that I could give to healthy people, rest assured that I wouldn’t be out in public anyway (or isolated in my hospital room).
What’s that phrase? “Everyone has something that they’re struggling with.”