99 ProblemsThe daily struggles of urban living as a quadriplegic explained one by one. It's so much more than not being able to find a parking space.
99 Problems — #6 I Hate Parking Garage Ticket Dispensers
“But you can move your arms.”
“But I can’t move my fingers, see. I also don’t have any triceps or function, which means I can’t do things like raise my hands over my head.”
“Oh, I thought quadriplegia meant you couldn’t move any of your upper body.”
“No, it technically means my injury level, or the place where my spinal cord is damaged, is in the C part of my vertebrae, which is above the waist. For laymen’s sake it means function of my upper body has been effected. So yes, I can move my biceps. But no fingers. No flexion. No triceps.”
Now imagine not having this conversation. Imagine entering a parking garage and having to stop behind a black Toyota Sienna. It appears the person in the driver’s seat is grabbing his/her ticket. So you wait a minute. You wait three minutes. You wonder, What is the hold hold up? You honk your horn. You stick your head out the driver window in attempt to get a glimpse of the moron in front of you who is wasting your precious time. You wait one more minute, but are running out of things to do on your iPhone. What the fuck, you ask yourself. What’s happening? You beat the steering wheel because you’re antsy and frustrated. Then finally, you decide, the situation is no longer working for you and you mentally create three options of action:
1. You could continue to honk your horn until the van moves.
2. You could reverse, back up, and drive up to a different ticket box.
3. You could get out of your car and walk up to see what the problem is.
What do you do?
Perhaps you prefer combining the options and do all three. You honk, you reverse and then you drive to the next ticket box all the while inspecting the situation. In passing you might even flip the middle finger, because man, does it feel good to do so. Regardless of the action, or what you choose to do, you should consider yourself lucky. In seconds you will grab your parking ticket, zoom into the garage, find your parking spot, and carry on with your life without too much emotional damage. If you live in Los Angeles, parking is a little more difficult. So the double set-back–first the waiting at the ticket booth and then driving up endless garage floors with no success–will probably make your head explode and cause a mini melt down. But even still, you shouldn’t let it get to you. Already, you are way better off than me. I am the person in the black van, and chances are I’m still sitting in front of the ticket dispenser hopeless, frustrated, exhausted and embarrassed because ticket dispensers were not made for people who have no finger dexterity, which is understandable. Logic suggest that those who cannot operate a ticket dispenser probably cannot, or at least should not, drive. But thanks to technology, many quadriplegics and people with no finger dexterity can. And do. So how are we suppose to grab these tickets? I know I cant. And that’s why I hate parking garage ticket dispensers. It’s a battle I lose every time. Here’s why:
1. Each time I drive into a parking garage and approach a ticket dispensary I become overwhelmed with anxiety from previous failed ticket attempts. Immediately I prepare myself for the worst, which is not what successful people do. I brace myself for failure. And already I am starting from behind the starting line.
2. Sometimes I do not pull up close enough to the ticket machine, so I have to undo my chest strap and seat belt (things I need to drive) in order to have more room to maneuver. This is a process.
3. When cars pull up behind me I start to panic because I know this process has only started.
4. When able to push the button (success!), the ticket spits out hard and fast. By the time I can collect myself and reach for the ticket it unfortunately is sucked back in.
5. A cycle begins—the cycle of me reaching for the ticket and it getting sucked backed in every four seconds. The game goes on for minutes and sometimes longer because I am determined that I am becoming closer and closer to success. By now people begin honking the horn, which for the record is never encouraging but startling and often a set back.
6. I push the accessibility HELP button because I realize how intense the situation is becoming. After ten failed attempts I also am feeling hopeless. I also know, however, the HELP button is just as hopeless. But desperate times call for desperate measures.
7. “You push the button and just grab the ticket.” This is the help I receive from pushing the HELP button. I must respond even though I want to reach through the machine and choke the person on the other side.
8. “Yeah, I’ve got that part. My hands just don’t work and I cant grab the ticket. Thats the problem.”
9. Silence. I must wait while the person on the other end is trying to figure out why and how I’m driving if my hands don’t work.
10. I look in the rear view mirror and see a line forming. So badly I want to bust through the flimsy little yellow wood gate.
11. “Did you push the button?” the voice from the box finally announces. The silence is broken. And it’s clear the person on the other end thinks I’m mentally disabled not physically disabled.
And then like a ‘Choose Your Adventure Sci-Fi Novel’ one of the following things happen to end this nightmare, but only after steps 1-11 have been executed first.
12. I fucking do it by myself! It may have taken fifty attempts but alas I somehow moved the ticket in just the right way
so that it stays out of the machine. Then I use one hand to smash it against the machine until I cant get my other hand out there for extra support. Carefully I pull it back into my window, praying the ticket doesn’t fall in between the machine and my window. When it lands on my lap I weep tears of joy.
13. The person behind me walks up and offers a hand. Once a really handsome dude in his mid-twenties, a total California surfer boy, surprised me at my window. It took him a whole second to grab the ticket and give it to me, which was totally embarrassing. His charm and overall easy-goingness made me go all googily and offer this bad joke. “Crazy how I can drive this big ole van but not grab a stupid parking ticket, huh?” I’d like to say it ended there but it didn’t. I was more embarrassed when he had to come back a second time to help me put on my chest strap. It was cold outside and I had so many layers of clothing on, including one fat jacket, I couldn’t re-do the chest strap under all the pressure. Again, I fumbled for things to say, like “I hope I never see you again” and “Don’t get crazy, I’m a married lady!” Get it, the chest strap obviously goes across my chest. Yeah, it was bad. I wanted to die.
14. Miraculously, the yellow gate has lifted all by itself. It’s rare when this god send happens but when it does the relief is so intense, I blow through the gate without thought to how I will exit without paying dearly. I also don’t care.
15. The voice from the box appears in person claiming to rescue, but really I think more to see how I’m driving with my so-called no hand function. The slow waddle from the security station takes minutes by itself so in order to speed up the scene and make it even more awkward, I usually call out sadly, “Yeah, I’m so sorry you had to come out but I’m in a wheelchair.” For my acting efforts, I am awarded into the garage with apologies for days.
And then there’s the times I actually make it into the garage only to drop my ticket on the van floor, either before trying to get it validated or just before paying to exit. That also becomes a fun task of finding some kind stranger to help. And since these strangers actually have to enter my van, I then have to explain how it all works, how I drive, and then my life story and the definitions of quadriplegia, and then what my religious beliefs might be and so on. That’s why I only use parking garages when there are no other options, or when I have a helping co-pilot. It’s just too much work, too much explaining, and too much emotional distress to simply find a parking spot, especially when the garage demands payment for this torture. I guess I could also not drive at all. Fuck me.
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Feel good about yourself. Read more of my ridiculous problems. It’s fun.
99 Problems #1 Attack of the Flying Pens
99 Problems #2 My Kitty Has Super Powers
99 Problems #3 Los Angeles Sidewalks Are Cracked Out
99 Problems #4 Strangers Touch Me
99 Problems #5 I Once Offended a Woman With Lupus.