Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Importance of NOT Being Earnest

Several of you have forwarded me this post from the Huffington Post about the woman responding to a nasty note on her windshield chiding her for parking in the disabled spot. Turns out the woman was legally and more than justified parking there. She has two disabled children, one of whom has invisible disabilities.  Mom writes an eloquent and impassioned response to this anonymous note leaver.

Good for her.

I guess.

Frankly, I wouldn't have bothered. As my friend Elizabeth pointed out, it's too exhausting to be that earnest. If I ever had that level of earnestness and need to have people understand our life, I left it behind years ago. People don't understand and it's not my job to make them understand. I couldn't if I tried. And that's OK -- or not OK -- but that's just the way it is.

Don't get me wrong, I would have made fun of the person to no end. I would have tossed invectives like confetti, but I wouldn't have bothered explaining myself or my life to anyone. Especially not to someone who is so nervy and so cowardly at the same time. Nervy: S/he was willing to raise the issue. Cowardly: only willing to do so in an anonymous and chiding manner. This is not to say that my way is better; I doubt it is, I just know that's what I would do.

 I would not have taken even a moment to bother trying to figure out this person's life, which the mom sees as "Black and White." That assumption is just as offensive as the note, and I suspect its entirely wrong. Who knows what drove this person to leave this note. Maybe it is a disabled individual, maybe it is the parent, child or sibling of a disabled person. I doubt that person's life is black and white at all. At least they recognized the issue, even if they went about dealing with it in a ham handed fashion.

Still, Mom was right to be offended by the note. It was offensive to target her specifically, especially when the note leaver was so clearly mistaken. I raise the issue of the problems with handicapped parking all the time, but I do it generally. I don't target anyone specifically. Even in my general comments, I have been wrong plenty of times and you have educated me. There are both general and specific problems with this issue, but it's a lot safer and smarter to keep comment general and not target people specifically.

My general instructions for today are the same as many other days.

  •  Don't take handicapped spots illegally. 
  • Don't use handicapped placards illegally. 
  • Be careful about judging those who have the placards. 
  • Many people have invisible disabilities. 
  • Many are stealing their grandmother's placard. 
  • But you just don't know which is which. 
  • If you are seriously moved enough to questions someone (as I was last week), tell a cop, if you can find one. It's their job to check, though it seems like a very low priority. 
  • Finally, don't explain yourself to anyone other than a cop. It's just none of their business.

When you have the letter and spirit of the law in your favor, you don't have to explain yourself. Many years ago I was verbally accosted by a woman who decided I was using the placard illegally. She couldn't see Maggie because the windows in the van are tinted. I ignored her.  I wasn't dong anything wrong and I knew she was going to feel stupid when she shut up long enough to take in the reality of the situation. She jawed at me for several minutes not noticing I was loading Maggie into a small wheelchair. (Before the ramp days). She kept it up, infuriated that I wouldn't respond to her. Finally she stopped for air and realized what was going on.  And then she started stammering incoherently.

 I'm not going to lie. That was a delicious moment for me.


  1. Great post, and I'm honored to be included as a person of non-earnestness.

  2. Thank you. I've become a person of non-earnestness with regard to just about everything. I do not believe we ever need to explain


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