Tuesday, September 26, 2006

#295 - Some Semblance of Justice

Let's all take a quick mid-term election break, shall we? I mean, we can't get much uglier than the powers-that-wanna-be have already gotten, so let's get down to business with something that actually affects regular people.

Many years ago, when disabled parking tags were first introduced to society and disabled parking got (in my immature mind) annoyingly close to building entrances, I realized that there was actual merit to what I still perceived to be overreaching interference from our government at all levels. In fact, within a year or two at most I counted myself one of the ordinance's strictest adherents.

There were reasons, of course. I had elderly grandparents who needed such accomodations. It brought some comfort that they, who were always independently-minded, would be able to park close enough to their destinations that they would have ready access to any services.

Also, I became highly sensitized to the idea of not abusing the disabled parking spaces for any reason. Truly. No matter how desperately I might want that blue-coded space during the Christmas rush, I never took it. I think there was only one instance where I realized belatedly that I had taken such a space, but it was only because the blue paint had all but faded completely away and wasn't clearly visible until I backed out and the sun had shifted. And I was extremely embarrassed about it.

With that for background, you might imagine how incensed I get whenever someone does abuse that parking, for any reason. So imagine now how I felt when I walked out of Rite-Aid this evening (middle ear infection, if you must know) and saw a Sheriff's squad car sitting directly across from where I was parked. (Yeah, okay; I have a guilty conscience. My first reaction was, "what have I done now?") Fortunately, he didn't seem interested in me.

In fact, as I got closer to my car, the deputy got out of his car, walked around the car opposite me, and I finally realized what he was looking at. The SUV ("An SUV! Yeesss!") was parked in a handicapped slot, and did not have the disabled placard properly displayed. I did a cursory look myself as I passed by, and there was nothing hanging from the rear-view mirror.

Of course I exulted. You know how you're driving down the freeway and some nit in a Lexus decides he's rich enough to take the right shoulder while the rest of you peons crawl toward the nearest available exit and the following words race through your brain (and I quote): "Where's the Highway Patrol when you really need 'em?" Well, this was the Highway Patrol chasing the Lexus. This was an officer of the law looking in the window of a much-more-expensive-SUV-than-I-could-ever-afford and not finding an appropriate disabled placard hanging from the mirror.

I have such a placard in my car. Mrs. Woody has some mobility challenges, and her doctor agreed they warranted having a "permanent" placard that we can use. But there are restrictions. It is only to be used when I have Mrs. Woody in the car with me. I can't use it strictly for myself, because I'm not the one who needs it. If I parked in such a spot, hanging the placard as my "Get Out of Jail Free" card, and someone noticed that I didn't look terribly disabled, I could face legal trouble. So I am very scrupulous about not using the placard even though I have one.

Score one for the good guys today, I guess.

But I must tell you: the deputy seemed in no hurry to write a ticket on this vehicle. In fact, after he made that initial walk-around, he stayed parked immediately behind the SUV. As I drove away it occurred to me that he was going to wait for awhile and see if the owner came out. I suspect there would be a conversation to determine the facts. Do you or do you not have a placard? I see. Just forgot to display it? Fine. May I see it? Oh, so you don't have one...? You get the idea.

Perhaps that was it. Maybe it was simply an oversight. I mean, I can't tell you how many times we've parked at church and forgotten to display the placard. Usually one of us remembers after a moment or two and I race back out to display it. Fortunately, everyone there knows us and there's no question that we need the parking.

But I think that, more than the thought that someone may actually have been caught red-handed, it was the thought that this officer cared enough to stop, see the infraction, and then wait to ascertain the actual facts before issuing either a citation or a warning that made me feel good about this scenario. Even if he was called to the scene by someone else, this is something that would be altogether too easy to overlook and take for granted.

I sure try not to, but I know it can happen.