…and I’m a bit upset by it although I expect I shouldn’t be.
We’re still on vacation and in a big-o rental car. Today W and I wandered off by ourselves to go to a movie. Earlier this morning I had gone swimming and did my goal of 1/3 mile (hoping to increase that soon) and after breakfast, we walked around the marina looking at the boats and the fish. Our plan was to head to an early movie and by the time we were ready to go, I was already tired and my muscles in the left leg were protesting a bit.
When we arrived at the movie theater there were four handicap spots available, so we grabbed one. It’s not something I do often as I really don’t like getting looks from people when I use my placard, but W suggested it was a good idea considering how much activity I had already participated in that morning.
Anyway, we saw the movie and enjoyed it. All was well. After exiting the theater we went to get in the car and the gentleman next to us was helping his wife from a wheelchair into their car. He was making noises in our direction, rolling his eyes, and just generally looking irritated. I scooted lower in the car and waited for W to pull out. Instead, he hopped out of the car and walked over to the man to ask if there was a problem. I didn’t hear much of the conversation (I started crying shortly after this started out of frustration, irritation, and just general exhaustion). The gist I got from W was that the guy basically asked if he was handicap and expressed irritation that people were getting and using placards that clearly did not need them. Wayne explained (as calmly as he could) that I was newly diagnosed with MS. He went on to explain that I had been very active that morning and we were concerned about pushing my activity too far. The other guy said his wife had MS as well and was secondary progressive. W says that he tried to get the guy to admit that he shouldn’t be quite so judgmental especially considering that his wife may have had invisible symptoms early on, but he was basically not listening. We got the impression that a) it is possible that for him disability = wheelchair, b) he had been in many situations where there were no handicap spots and c) he may have been frustrated with the general state of life due to his wife’s condition. For the record, she stayed silent the whole time. I did as well until the end when I said (through tears) and I had a spinal lesion and had ongoing trouble with me leg and that he should trust me, that this is the last position I want to be in.
It took me quite some time to calm down after the encounter. W was angry. I was sad, frustrated, and just generally overwhelmed. Before I was diagnosed, I imagine I judged folks who didn’t look like they were having trouble but that used a handicap sticker or were on disability. I can’t imagine doing that now and I don’t understand how someone in his position could continue to do that knowing what it means to have MS and how, sometimes, a walk through a parking lot can be just a bit too much.