Blue Space Blues

I get quite a few invitations to Disneyland every year. And I’m always really popular during Christmas shopping season. I know that I’m super fun to hang out with — and maybe I’m being skeptical here — but I have a feeling that my blue disabled person parking placard might have something to do with it.

Not that I blame anyone for inviting me; I know those lines at Disneyland can get really long!

Yes, there are some perks of having that blue placard. If you have one, you know. But if you’re like me and your disease is invisible most of the time, then you probably also know the major disadvantage: dealing with strange looks, and occasional rude comments, from people in the parking lot who see you get out of the car and walk toward your destination like anyone else.

My disabled person parking placard.

Yes, it is possible to be disabled and not “look” handicapped!

What they can’t see is how I feel inside, whether it’s my heavy legs, aching body or throbbing head. Sometimes it’s my immediate need to pee, something that could happen if my bladder implant isn’t working very well on that particular day. (When I don’t have bad symptoms and I’m feeling pretty good, I won’t use my placard.)

But what do you say to those annoying people who give you dirty looks? How do you respond to their glares?

For me, it helps to think back to a particular instance when I was out with Poppy, my now-deceased stepdad who was always looking out for me.

At the time (circa 1997) I wasn’t walking very well at all. In fact, I was using my cane. We pulled into a handicapped space, Poppy was driving and I was in the passenger seat.  As Poppy walked around  to help me get out, a man driving an old muscle car rolled down his window and yelled to him, “You don’t look handicapped!”

As I watched through the window, I assumed the man was just asking for directions. But I knew something else was going on when suddenly Poppy opened my door, grabbed the placard from the rear view mirror and told me “I’ll be right back.”  He handed the guy my handicapped placard and told him he could have it — as long as he takes my MS too.

The man backed off and said, “Oh. I didn’t see her.”

Needless to say, Poppy wasn’t happy after that little incident. He used a few choice words about people who are nosy and quick to judge.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve thought about limping if someone is looking at me, questioning the validity in my using a handicapped placard. Using my placard makes me self-conscious, and I wish it didn’t. I’d like to say, “Can I help you?” or “What are you looking at?” But most days I try to hold my head high and remind myself that parking in a blue space is my right as a person living with MS.

I think most of the time, people just don’t know much about invisible illnesses and are simply jealous that I got a parking spot closer than theirs.  That’s why I am always happy to educate anyone on MS.

Even the stranger who doesn’t know anyone with MS can benefit from learning about our disease, don’t you think?

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11 thoughts on “Blue Space Blues

  1. I don’t use my “power of blue” unless I really feel like I need it…and I’ve had a mix of responses from people when they see me get out of my car…some looks, and some vocal. I have to admit, I’ve also thought of limping to avoid the confrontation. We should never have to do that. The only time I ever responded to someone, it actually felt good. It was freeing in a way. An older woman approached me at a mall right as I got out of my car, and started yelling at me for parking in the handicapped spot. She told me I should be ashamed of myself for being lazy, and stealing a handicapped spot to save a few steps. She loudly informed me that there are actually handicapped people that may need to park there. I listened to her, and let her get it all off her chest. When she was done, I let her know that at the moment I was unable to feel my left leg, and that my right felt like it weighed 100 pounds. I told her that I knew about the many people that could use that spot, because I was sitting next to them at the MS Center a few days before. I think I stayed pretty calm the entire time I was talking. I told her that I really didn’t care what the answer was, but that I hoped that in her eyes, my Multiple Sclerosis qualified me for the spot I was taking…and that I would be happy to trade in my parking tag as soon as I was cured.

    Hmmm….I wonder if I move out west if I’ll get invites to Disneyland too!!?? 🙂

  2. Mark Cullivan says:

    You ought to get yourself a blind person’s cane, and when you get out of the car, unsnap it and “use” it to help yourself across the parking lot. I bet you’d really get some interesting stares then! =)

    PS…wanna go to Sea World?…for your personality of course!

  3. Lorraine Wallisa says:

    I loved going to Disney with you – but I would carry you if I had to just to spend time with you. Then we would probably get more stares haha

  4. Brooke Black says:

    I think it is really sad that we are made to feel guilty for using a tool that makes our lives a little easier at times! I came out of a restaurant one time to a note on my car that said “I am going to pray for you if your are truly handicapped but it sure looked like you were enjoying yourself” I guess people with MS aren’t supposed to have fun. I carried that note around with me and would not use my placard for several weeks. A family member finally took the note from me and tore it up. I don’t like to use mine on days when I am feeling pretty good but my Dr. has told me that it isn’t just for the good days and I need to not worry about that others think. Thank you Tricia for starting this blog – you are an inspiration!!

  5. Oh yeah, that red hot button known as the “blue card”. Fortunately (unfortunately?) for us we have permanent plates on our vehicle, so we don’t get the comments that I’ve heard that others get. I’ve heard plenty about it, though.

    My biggest challenge is being in a wheelchair and having to find a spot that is van-accessible. They are marked, but many times people who are disabled I think just don’t realize why they’re marked as such, because they’ll park in them even if there are five other disabled parking spaces around. And judging by the parking, many people see them as a license to “get a little more room.” Sorry, folks, but that extra room you just took up means I can’t get out of my car (or even worse, back into it).

    There really needs to be a lot more education out there. Perhaps a new bloggy project for you? 😉

  6. Tim Salmon says:

    All of us that have MS also have a special gift. This gift is powerful and can help heal others. Dig deep if you have not already found it….Keep on fighting on…..

  7. Patricia Mann says:

    I remember this day very clearly….Poppy was fighting mad when you came home! You certainly had a champion in him. How lucky for both of you. xoxox

  8. Bruce says:

    Hey Tricia…….. Great blog you’ve got going here. Wish Bev was still with us so she could read it. Keep up the good work and we’ll keep “readin'”.
    Have a GREAT day!!
    Bruce & Deana…..The “Bartlett Pair”.

  9. Thanks for this! We have a placard for my Dad, who has severe heart disease, as well as major issues with several other key systems of his body. Literally, with his heart failure and atrial fib, alone, if he were to overexert himself, he could die. So, we use the blue card for him regularly–although we don’t always unload his power scooter when we’re going to a restaurant or a doctor’s office (two of the few places he actually makes the effort to go). But because he’s not on a walker or cane, people look at us like we’re misusing it — like he has no right to it. Judge not … you don’t know the whole story. That’s why I so appreciate your article! Thanks again for creating it.

  10. Christie says:

    Thanks for writing this. Good post and reminds me of my decision to get the placard this past fall, for days when I need it. P.S. be sure to check out page 127 in the current issue of Woman’s Day magazine. I wrote an essay about my MS life and the blue placard! Best, Christie

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