Monday, August 30, 2010

A Simple Question

It was a simple question, and yet it was a tough one. It was one of those philosophical questions that make certain people’s minds just go in circles all night long. And I was one of those people.

The question revolved around a set of parking spaces.

Just a few nights earlier, I had driven to the library to check something out, and noticed the normal paucity of spaces in the little parking area right near the door. But this time, I had gotten lucky. I arrived just as someone else was leaving, so I was able to take the newly-freed spot for my own.

As I waited for the departing car to totally clear the spot I was waiting for, my attention turned to the other two free spots nearby. The three spots I couldn’t touch, and was glad that I couldn’t. These were two of the three designated handicapped parking spaces, and I realized that I had never seen all three handicapped spots in use. In fact, I couldn’t recall a time when I saw more than one of them in use at a time.

And this is when the philosophical question arose in my head.

The question is this:
If you arrive at the library, driving a car with handicap plates, but not being handicapped yourself, and see only one “regular” space available, but all three handicapped spots available, which do you park in? Do you park in the regular space because you’re not handicapped, but risk incurring the wrath of every other non-handicapped person who comes along later on, wondering why a disabled person took a regular spot when there were three perfectly good handicapped spots that they were entitled to? Or do you park in one of the three handicapped spots, even though you’re not handicapped yourself, because the plates entitle you to, you’ve never seen all three spots used at once, and you wanted to leave the remaining regular spot for someone else?
It seemed like a perfectly good question to me. It seemed like a perfectly logical philosophical question. I could see both sides of the issue, but I wanted to know what everyone else thought should be done.

And let me point out right now, that I don’t have access to a car with handicap plates, so there was no personal interest in it for me at all. It was simply a philosophical question, and one that I put out to my friends on the Internet.

I was not prepared for the hammering I got.

Apparently there is a correct answer to the question, there is a right and a wrong thing to do, and actually a legal and an illegal thing to do. And boy, did I get beaten bloody for even asking the question.

But for Pete’s sake, I didn’t know. I really didn’t know, and that’s what made it a philosophical question. Had I known that there were actual rules in place about this, and what they were, I wouldn’t have bothered to ask the question. But in asking the question, people accused me of wanting to take something that I wasn’t entitled to. The accused me of trying to steal from the handicapped, and that’s pretty low.

No one took the time to calmly say,
“Um, Keith, there are actually rules about this, and they say that unless the disabled person is in the car at the time, or is going to be getting into the car, you can’t park there, no matter what it says on your plates.” 
Not a one.

Nope, it was a veritable orgy of jumping down my throat and throwing ugly accusations my way.

Makes a guy want to think twice before asking a simple question.


  1. My neighbor has a handicapped plate from his mom who passed away almost a year ago. He uses it all the time at Barnes and Noble and Wegmans. He is a perfectly healthy man. That pisses me off!

  2. Turn in your neighbor for using an HP tag fraudulently. And, I will answer your question Kieth without bashing you. It is illegal for anyone to use an HP plaque card or license plate unless it is assigned to them and they are actually using the HP space to gain Access to a business, park or any other building or facility. Society truly needs to be much more inviting and inclusive in terms of design, policy and architectural aspects of buildings & facilities. That is why I believe, you didn't know the answer to your quandary. We live in a world where steps and historical value have more of a priority than Inclusive design, and thoughtful planning. The ADA is now 20 years old but many still just don't get it......

  3. Keith:
    I didn't know it was the law, but when we don't have our handicapped daughter in the car, we don't park in that spot. When we have her with us and cannot park in the handicapped spot because people parked without the permit it makes me sad. We were operating on integrity, but I am glad it is the law. John