Sunday, December 11, 2005

Took my mother to the movies the other day -- saw Syriana, which was just okay... fascinating topic and good performances, but a film about the politics and business of oil needed a narrative that was a little more... slick. Anyway...

We went to the Sherman Oaks Galleria, like, for sure, ya know. As usual, I drove to the valet parking area where it's a quick elevator ride up to the restaurants and theatres. Valet parking there is free for the disabled. We're talking about my mom here; the extent of my mental instability is still under debate. So I hung my handicapped placard from the rear-view and as I pulled up, the parking guy said, "You can park it yourself if you want, there's plenty of spaces."

Okay. We got there early, so I wasn't surprised. But as I circled through in the garage, I saw the guy was mistaken -- all the handicapped spots were filled. I think other physically-challenged people had the same idea: get there sooner and avoid the rush of afternoon mallrats.

I swung back around again to the valet. The guy wasn't there at the moment, so I started the regular routine: parked, opened the trunk, got out the wheelchair, set it up, wheeled it to the passenger door to help my mom transfer... Tell mom to wait 'til I get her situated before she can light up another cigarette...(I won't let her smoke in my car, so the ol' lady was jonesing.)

The guy came back, annoyed, repeating to me that I could've parked it myself. Guess he didn't want to do his job that day. I told him there weren't any spots. In a huff, he pointed to a row of empty spots. Those are regular, I said. I needed a handicapped one. And not because I'm blind. I could clearly see had I parked there I wouldn't have room to get my mother out of the passenger side... as I was struggling to do with her just then, while she stubbornly searched for a pack of Salems in her purse.

Valet-dude still wanted to argue. He told me there was ample space on the passenger side, since the all the spots were empty.

Yeah, right now, I said. But by the time we got back, there'd be another car there. It'd be filled up. Y'know, with all the Christmas shoppers. Spreading good will and holiday cheer and all that, right, Sir?

He started to repeat his original objection, just as I was placing my mother into the wheelchair ("1, 2, 3... stand up. Pivot. Okay, you can sit back down... yes, and then I'll find your lighter...").

Then I said, "Look, Sir, you see what I'm doing here? I need room for this. That's the purpose of a handicapped space. They're near the entrances and they're wide, with those blue stripey things painted on the ground next to the spot, so people have space to get in and out. When they arrive and when they leave." I started to hand him the keys.

"You have an oh-six sticker?"

At first, I didn't get what he meant as he stood there coldly, looking at my car. Then I realized. So that's what this was about.

"Oh, yeah, my placard's expired. I know," I said. "I'm waiting to get a new one."

It was good 'til late '05, I believe, and I'm in the middle of the whole process: Get an authorization from her doctor, send to the DMV and wait 6-8 weeks for the new ones to come in the mail.

My mom's clearly paralyzed -- only has one good leg, and this guy wanted to be a stickler for the sticker... Fine...

I said to him, "one moment...", went to my trunk, where I keep a couple of planks to use as a makeshift ramp when one isn't available and I need to wheel my mom over a curb or short set of stairs. I took one of the boards out, went over to the guy, showing him the 2X6 piece of wood... by swinging it hard and low like a cricket paddle -- WHAM! Right in the kneecap. As he went down, I said, "oh are you hurt? You need help?" And when he nodded yes, I shrugged. "You expect me to believe you? Where's your valid handicapped sticker, bitch?!"

Okay, that last paragraph didn't really happen... I just forced a smile and told him to please park the damn car, thank you very much, Sir.

See -- my mental stability shouldn't be in question, but sometimes, man, sometimes...


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