On my way home last night I was behind someone who had this window cling.

“I don’t look disabled?
You don’t look ignorant,
but there you go…”

Sure enough from the review mirror inside the car you could see the disabled parking permit hanging.

Jeff Deminski photo
Jeff Deminski photo

This is clearly someone who has a legitimate, qualifying disability that allows them to legally use parking for people with disabilities. But because theirs doesn’t involve something obvious, like a wheelchair or walking canes, strangers have given them a hard time.

I’ve heard of this happening all too often. The best example I can give is the story of a young woman who worked for me as an after-school babysitter. I was a single father with a 4 and 6-year-old at the time. She watched them until I could get home from work and was one of the nicest people you could meet.

But she had a tragic backstory.

A few years prior she was pregnant with her first child. Through no fault of her own another vehicle crashed into hers on a highway in a horrific accident. Her car was totaled and wound up off the road wrapped around a tree, left unrecognizable. She had to be extricated.

Over the next few hours and days, she clinically died several times and was brought back to life. She was left with multiple scars and so many surgeries they were hard to count. And of course, the poor baby didn’t survive. On many days she wished she hadn’t either.

When she was able to drive again she didn’t look disabled. From a distance, there were no braces, no canes, no devices, no wheelchair. If you weren’t close up enough to see her scars you would think this young woman in her 20s was just fine.

But she had the handicap placard because there were days her body, with all the trauma and surgeries and so much hardware fusing her skeleton together, would nearly give out on her if she walked any great distance. Other days she felt stronger. On the days she felt stronger she never used the handicap parking spaces. Only on the days she needed to.

It was on many of those days she would be challenged. Nasty comments from complete strangers.

“You shouldn’t use your relative's credentials!”

“Young healthy girl taking a spot from a disabled person, real xxxxing nice!”

“You should be ashamed of yourself!”

Most days she ignored it. Some days she tried briefly explaining. One day she totally lost it. Some old, arrogant guy mouthed off at her just like the others and she quietly and politely told him her credentials were hers and very real.

“Well, you clearly don’t need them.”

She skewered him in a visceral monologue, about the accident, the jaws of life, the dead baby she still grieved, how he should try clinically dying six times in two days and fight for his life and try countless surgeries and scars and bones fused together and a year of painful physical rehabilitation … and then come find her and tell her whether she needs it.

The obnoxious coward of a man practically ran away having been gloriously schooled by someone a third his age.

So when you see someone you think doesn’t have a disability but has the proper credentials, remember this. And mind your damn business.

Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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