Originally published in Spinal Network Extra, Summer 1991
By Carlos Amantea
In the official lingo of the shrink trade, many of us drag around something called Entitlement. “You don’t know — you just don’t know — you don’t have a clue,” is what we say to ourselves, to others. They — family, friends, strangers — may try to imagine what’s going on inside us, but they’ll never know. Even my shrink, even after all this time — I knew she didn’t know what was going on inside of me, not really. No one knows what it’s like to move the way we move, to feel the way we feel, to have people laying trips on us. We figure we have something special, something they don’t and can’t and will never have.
This specialness gives us certain freedoms. Society awards some of them (special parking, special entrances, special support). We arrogate more for ourselves. I can … be pissed-off, angry, cruel, because everybody else in the world “would do the same thing if they were me.”
I now suspect that entitlement underlies much antisocial behavior — alcoholism, familial violence, abuse (physical or mental), martyrdom … It certainly is the operating mode for certain types of rage: knife-slashing sarcasm, emotional violence perpetuated by us on others (and by others on us). We give it to our families, to our friends, and to strangers. And sometimes they give it back to us — in spades …
For the longest time one of my favorite tricks was the Big Block. It works like this: I go over to the post office, and there’s this guy in his late-model gray Mercedes parked in the Accessible Parking Space. He doesn’t have a sticker or anything, he’s just in a hurry. So what I do is pull in right behind him, blocking his way out. I wait for him to come out of the post office, then slowly — oh so slowly — I get out of my car … (my operating efficiency drops to about 10 percent because I want that son-of-a-bitch to suffer.)
I get over to him, while he’s waiting there, stewing, and I say: “You know, this is always a problem for me. (Pause.) When you park in that space, I have to park way over there …” (I motion over to the far part of the parking lot.) And then, not even waiting for his answer, I slowly work my way back to my car [on braces and crutches]. Your friendly representative of the Crip Police.
The last time I did it was at the Safeway, a year ago. The guy had a sporty black Corvette. I waited for him to come out of the store. As he was getting into his car, I started into my spiel, but he told me that I had better move my ass out of his way “at once, bro.” There was something in his eye, the way he looked at me: I went back to my car, got out of there faster than usual.
As I was backing up, some longhaired drifters decided to take up the cudgels for me — which is not unlike having the Ku Klux Klan come out in favor of one of your favorite social programs. As the Corvette was backing up, they ran over and called the driver several unsavory names, started kicking at the door of his car. The driver sped out of there, and in three minutes was back with a big .45. The longhairs got out of there much faster than I thought they would. And me? When the policeman finally came, I was inside, pretending to examine the Marie Callender pies. My voice was still shaking as I told him my side of the story. I didn’t tell him everything, though. Like the fact that I had blocked the Corvette’s exit. Or that I would never do it again.
Parking is a bigger problem than ever, and not just for disabled people. Downtown spaces are so coveted that nondisabled people beg, borrow, steal and counterfeit those more-precious-than-gold parking placards. And doctors have become the worst offenders by handing them out to temporarily and not-so-disabled people like parking candy. While not the most grievous of our societal ills, parking is certainly one of the most persistent.
Carlos Amantea (Lorenzo Milam) is a polio survivor, prolific writer, and pioneering force in listener-supported public radio. His iconic voice (most notably known for CripZen and The Cripple Liberation Front Marching Band Blues) has graced the pages of NM for decades. Now 80, he still lives in Mexico and writes and edits Ralph magazine.