On parking in disabled bays: An open letter to the man who shouted, ‘It’s probably not even her badge.’
An open letter to the man who shouted, ‘It’s probably not even her badge,’ across a road earlier today –
It is, and if you’d had the nerve to shout such snide comments before I’d hauled myself into my car and belted myself in, then I would have shown you the picture of my face on my blue badge, not that it’s any of your business.
Thank you for validating many of the rants, raves, and other expressions of disappointment that I often voice about people and their general ignorance towards individuals with invisible illnesses. While I can’t help but think even now, hours later, that your actions were those of a total pillock, I have to say that in many ways it’s nice that my cynicism has been proved right – again. So, there’s that silver lining to take away from this afternoon, if nothing else.
The full story:
After starting work at home at around 6:45am, I decided that I could afford a lunchtime stroll into town. By this point in the day my forearms were hypersensitive (or burning, to put it bluntly) from having rested against my desk for so long, so I thought some sunshine and a step outside would be the tonic I needed. Walking wasn’t too bad, despite the occasional pain, and even though I was more tired than I had been at the start of this jaunt out, it still felt worth having done it.
When I got back to my car – parked in a disabled bay, with my blue badge on show – I noticed that I’d attracted an audience. Now, I’ll pause here and be frank with you, dear reader, because this sort of thing happens a lot. People observe me, a twenty-something who can walk unaided and assume that I therefore cannot possibly possess a disability of any kind (oh, how I only wish). These same people then have a good old stare while I get into my car and drive off unaided, without a carer in sight (how very dare I?). But sometimes, sometimes these smart-arse know-it-alls go as far to call me out on not looking disabled.
Today however, I landed in between these two points. The man didn’t stare at me nor did he call me out, but what he did do was shout, ‘I bet it’s not even her badge.’ across the road to his friend who, as it turned out, was also watching me.
I said nothing. I took my badge out of the window, put it in my door, and drove off. Part-way home, I called my sister and cried. ‘They have no fucking idea what a hard week it’s been,’ I said. ‘Normally I wouldn’t even care, but it’s been hard.’
I have little to no problem with people making snap judgements and snarky comments because we each of us have something that pushes our buttons. What pushes my buttons in this scenario is the unashamed brutality of the comment that was made despite knowing nothing – and I mean literally nothing – about me or my condition – which, for anyone in the mood for a quick Google, is called CRPS, and it’s a pretty vicious beast when it gets going. And yet, despite the snide comments and the subsequent upset it caused, this happens all the time – and I’m not even being hyperbolic but rather statistically accurate. All the goddamn time people size me up and down for having the nerve to claim that I have a disability while also being upright – as though the two things are somehow mutually exclusive.
Another element to this that crunches my gears is that the Charley of yester year – the young girl who was confined to a wheelchair for months at a time – was also stared at. Now at this age with this new knowledge, it feels a lot like young Charley was too disabled while current Charley is presumably not disabled enough? Is that about the size of it?
Now, this isn’t intended to be an attack on this one man in particular; despite my feistiness while relaying this story to friends, I absolutely couldn’t take the man and I know it. What this is, in fact, is a plea from someone on the flipside of the ignorant comments because it’s about time we all had a sit-down conversation about how bloody hard it is to have a disability that doesn’t announce itself as soon as we walk in a room. Although, it should be noted that these invisible conditions also have their perks for that same reason, and sometimes it is the nicest thing in the world that people don’t know that you’re not okay. But sometimes – like today, for example – I want to shout at people just how not okay I am, just so they know, and they can be reassured that even though I’m walking, it’s hurting like hell to do so…
…and how sad is it that we live in a world like this? Where people who are suffering ‘invisibly’ need to make their condition open enough just to bate the ignorance of others?
There’s no clear end to this. I don’t have a sign-off message for you, dear reader, because my cynicism isn’t quite severe enough for me to believe that you’re of the same level of ignorance as the pillock that I described earlier – no, I choose to believe that you reading this are better than that. I suppose what I would really like is more conversations, about chronic illness, chronic pain, the way people live their lives around these things – and the ways in which other people make it even harder without realising (because while it might irk you that I’ve got a disabled badge, I can promise you that the powers that be made good and sure I was disabled ten times over before giving me that badge; hoops were jumped through, metaphorically of course, because I am disabled after all).
For you, dear reader:
Thanks for reading another rant. You’re patient and kind and I hope that something in here resonates with you, in one way or another.
For you, the man who shouted his slurs without pause for thought or consideration:
I’m sorry that I didn’t look disabled today.