Derek Gentile: Handicapped spaces not for able-bodied motorists


PITTSFIELD — Following an e-mail from a reader several months ago, I agreed not to scold people about parking in handicapped spots unless it was something really annoying.

I get it. A lot of people believe this is not a huge deal. I have, in fact, violated this bylaw myself, before my right leg was unceremoniously chopped off. There's a kind of epiphany when that happens, I can assure you.

Anyway, I was trying to find a parking space in downtown Great Barrington a few weeks ago and I started to swing up Railroad Street from the south.

But, bango! A silver Volvo with out-of-state plates accelerated from the north and slid, very smoothly I might add, into the handicapped spot just at the corner of Main and Railroad. No handicapped plate, no placard.

Annoying, but no problem. I was sure I could find a spot. It was a Tuesday.

But it was a busy Tuesday, I guess, and the parking was tight. I cruised up Railroad Street, down Elm Street and back onto Main and as I was heading farther down Main Street, I saw a guy and his daughter, I assume, getting back into the Volvo. Both had ice cream cones.

This is not a knock on SoCo, the ice cream store with great ice cream cones. I love them. But, to the Volvo guy: Come on!

I know what you're thinking. Chill, dude. The guy was in there for about six minutes, tops.

I agree. And I'm guessing that a lot of people from out-of-state (and in-state) plates pull into a spot, grab an ice cream or a soda or a sandwich at Gorham and Norton's and get right back into their cars.

But that's sort of my point. Yeah, it's an incredibly convenient spot. And the plan is to get in and out. But if you don't have a bad leg, or bad back, or no leg, I can assure you, you have no idea how tough it can be.

My co-workers are used to the grunts I make when I sometimes get out of my chair. Especially after a day in which I've walked a lot.

They're used to me sitting in a stall in the restroom for five or six minutes adjusting the rubber sleeve on my right leg that connects the real leg to the fake leg. I appreciate that greatly.

The thing is, most of the people I know with some kind of disability issue tend not to complain. Mostly because it wouldn't do a lot of good and also because you realize that people don't really want to hear it.

I get that, too. But I write these columns from time to time to speak for these people, and to remind all you fully functioning people: Just find a regular parking space. And I'll lay off.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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