Be honest: If you watch someone park in a disabled spot, you probably always watch them exit the car to check out if they really should be parking there.
But if you see a luxury vehicle in the space, do you naturally assume it has been taken by some yuppie bigshot? Are the disabled not allowed to drive nice cars?
Gawker reports that a man named Matt Milstead recently parked his BMW in a disabled spot in order to take part in a game of wheelchair rugby at his local YMCA in Grand Rapids, Mich.
When Milstead returned to his car, he was gobsmacked by a letter he found tucked into the door handle.
“I would love to see your wheelchair!” the letter read. “I’m guessing male 25-35 years professional who thinks he’s got the world by the ass. But I could be wrong.”
The 36-year-old Milstead, who works for the U.S. Social Security Administration, pretty much took the snarky missive in stride, though he was admittedly puzzled that a stranger would automatically assume the BMW’s driver had “tried to steal a close and convenient spot.”
But Milstead’s wife, Leslie, was steamed and expressed her anger in the form of an open letter addressed to the anonymous snarkster on her Facebook page.
“You were so close on the age, he’s actually 36 and he is a professional with a fulltime job,” read Leslie’s note.
“He is also a quadriplegic, which for him means that he can no longer move his legs or his fingers in either hand. He has no grip.
Then Leslie got straight to the point: “So, if you are willing to give him your functioning hands and legs for the rest of your life in exchange for his 6-year-old BMW and handicapped parking pass, I’m sure he’d make that trade.”
She added: “Why are you so confident that a handicapped person couldn’t be a hard worker who is successful and owns a nice vehicle?”
The story clearly struck a nerve with the public, as evidenced by comments on the Gawker site.
Wrote one poster named Zombie Zoey: “Why are we blaming this note writer? Did the handicapped guy have no stickers? It seems rather moronic to take on this person who, like she said, was probably trying to do good.”
A later report from the New York Daily News indicates that Milstead keeps a tag hanging from his rearview mirror that displays his disabled-parking licence.
From Shelwood: “Sorry, as someone with my own handicapped placard, handicapped spaces are on a first come first serve basis. Always. There is no hierarchy.”
And this interesting angle from kazillion: “Does anyone else find it kind of ironic that the wife in this situation makes assumptions about the writer, when it could also be easily assumed that the person who wrote the note was also handicapped?”
In any event, the Milsteads say they went public with their story in hopes of showing the problems than can arise from anonymous vigilante justice in parking lots.
“It’s kind of ironic the guy was trying to right a wrong,” said Leslie. “He probably felt like a good person and thought he was doing a good thing, but the problem is he was wrong.”