Jewish World Review Jan. 28, 2005/ 18 Shevat, 5765
I had to go to the shopping mall the other day. Even though Christmas has been over for weeks, the parking structure was packed. It seemed like forever as I drove around through the crowded structure looking for a spot. I was about to give up and drive out when suddenly I spied an empty space all the way at the other end. As I got closer, I could see that the parking spot was right next to an entrance to the mall. It was too good to be true!
Turning my wheel to pull in, I glanced up to a sign posted on the concrete wall above the space. It read: Expectant Mother Parking Only. That was a new one on me, but I complied with the rule and backed out. I noticed another empty spot near by but that was reserved for electric vehicles. There were several other empty spaces all along that row reserved for handicapped drivers. I wondered if a handicapped pregnant person driving an electric car would be entitled to three spaces.
It was 15 years ago that the Americans with Disabilities Act was established. The intent of the bill was to establish a clear and comprehensive prohibition of discrimination on the basis of disability. What this act has meant to most people in everyday terms is, if you qualify for a handicap license plate or rearview mirror hangtags then you get the choicest parking spots.
There are lots of people who use those hangtags who are not truly handicapped. That's wrong. There are people who don't have a hangtag at all who freely park in the handicapped spaces. That's wrong too. But it's also wrong (and asinine) to assign ALL the front row spots to the handicapped. One or two is okay, but I've seen as many as six to ten spots designated as handicapped, which most of the time sit empty. If there are not enough handicapped vehicles to fill the handicapped spots of a given place of business, and there are not enough regular parking spots for the other customers, is that fair?
I read a story of a woman who pulled her car into a bank parking lot to get some money out of an ATM machine late one night after the bank was closed. Because she was all alone and because it was dark and late she naturally wanted to park as close to the cash machine as she could get, to be safe. It just so happened that the only spaces that were close were designated handicapped spots. There was no one else parked in the lot. She pulled into one of the handicapped spots, got out and quickly used the machine. By the time she turned to go back to the car, a police car pulled up and wrote her a ticket for parking in a handicapped space. Does that make sense?
And speaking of making sense, why is the guy who happens to own an electric car entitled to a great, close parking space? I assume that people who drive around in electric cars are environmentalists. Environmentalists care about global warming and the overall good health of the planet, right? Also, as a rule, those same folks usually tend to be health conscious in their personal lives. Walking is good exercise, right? So why not do them a favor and put their electric car parking space as far away as possible, like all the way over at the other end of the parking structure, so that they can get a good workout before going in to the mall to buy their lattes? Now THAT makes sense to me.
Okay, now let's talk about this expectant mother ideal. What I'd like to know is, do all expectant mothers get an expectant mother hangtag for their car mirrors? If not, how do we know that the woman who parked in that spot is really an expectant mother? What month of pregnancy do they have to be in, in order to use the space? Do they have to be showing or do we just take their word for it? And how come a pregnant lady is allowed a really good parking space, but a mother carrying an infant along with two or three other tots isn't?
And if a woman is so very pregnant that she needs to park as close as possible to the shopping mall, maybe she shouldn't be driving a car or going to the shopping mall at all. Maybe she should be off her feet, staying at home and resting.
If we give expectant mothers special parking places at the mall, then why not give them special seats at the movies and sporting events? They should be entitled to the best tables in restaurants, too. Expectant mothers shouldn't have to wait in lines, either. So I think we should pass a federal law that all expectant mothers get to go to the front of every line everywhere post offices, supermarkets, Disneyland rides everywhere. And I think all public restrooms should be made to accommodate the mother to be. That means holding at least one stall open for expectant mothers only. How's that?
Maybe the government should just supply free chauffeured driven limousines to pick up the pregnant women and take them shopping. Now, that's a good idea. At least then it will free up those spots at the mall so that regular people like me can actually get a parking space.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.