If you’re a driver, you may be all too familiar with this crushing feeling: You come out of a long meeting, head towards your parked car, and suddenly spot a telltale bright-yellow piece of paper tucked deftly under your windshield wiper.
That’s what happened to my husband this week. He got ticketed. It’s a surprisingly common fate for drivers with disabilities in Toronto. That’s because parking cops don’t always remember to check for a wheelchair permit on the dashboard when they find cars parked in irregular places.
In my husband’s case, he’d parked his minivan at a sign that showed “no standing” at designated times – but it was outside the designated times. Technically, he was allowed to park there. There are few enough transportation options for drivers with disabilities as it is.
He got ticketed anyway. To make matters worse, the cop placed the ticket exactly where a guy in a wheelchair could never reach it.
That’s when a kind soul happened by, in the form of a twentysomething young woman. She was happy to dump her papers and bags on the ground and reach to retrieve the parking ticket. My husband, who likes to document these things, asked her to use his phone to take pictures of the parking sign and the adjacent building. She pleasantly obliged. When the pictures came out too dark, they collaborated to settle on the right angle, and tried again. My husband is a details guy.
This sidewalk hero must have spent almost ten minutes patiently helping my hubby. When the task was done, he thanked her profusely. She smiled. And just before she walked away, she casually offered: “My dad is quadriplegic, and he drives a van like this one.”
I love hearing stories about people helping each other. I guess I found this one particularly touching because it was my own lovely husband being helped. But also, I can sort of imagine our own daughter, who is thoughtful and sweet, growing up to be a sidewalk hero, too.
I’ve long believed that one of the perks of being raised by a parent with a disability is you learn to be compassionate towards and accepting of people who are different. I picture our kid taking the time to assist a stranger with a disability, and then offhandedly telling them: “My daddy is quadriplegic, too.” And I have to admit, because I’m a sappy sap, it makes my eyes water… just a little bit.