Dear disabled parking space,
For the past two years you’ve been as essential a part of me as the glasses on my nose. Well, maybe not as existential. I can’t find my way home without my glasses when I’m drunkenly leaving a bar late at night – which I don’t do that often anymore. Especially now, as a mother of two kids. One of them is disabled, the other one isn’t, but, this said, she isn’t uncomplicated either. Just like their mum. Going out, drinking, dancing. All of these things are totally possible when you’re a mum, even a mother of a disabled daughter, even if some people find that hard to believe. Seriously, they really can’t wrap their heads round it. At some point in the hours after midnight they’ll say things like “I wouldn’t have thought that it’s possible to get drunk with you. You know, considering that you’ve got a child with a disability.” Pfft.
At night, when I got home (ideally with glasses on my nose), I used to walk past you, dear Behindertenparkplatz. Two guys painted you on the street, right in front of our door. Two white lines, a little sign with a number plate and there you were. Long awaited, because it wasn’t easy to get you. “How disabled is your daughter?” asked the woman on the phone from the Ordnungsamt, from the Straßenverkehrsbehörde dept. She wanted to know all the details. Oh I see, my daughter’s disability alone wasn’t bad enough to get you. We needed a supplementary doctor’s note. It stated that my daughter sometimes needs an oxygen mask in order to breathe. So, more than she can inhale by herself. Because of this, sometimes it meant we had a matter of seconds to get out of the flat, into the car and to hospital. How good that we had you in these situations. We had to wait half a year until we got you. Our lives got easier with you.
Well — if it hadn’t been for other people, anyway. They wanted you, too. Most of the times we needed you, you were already taken. The woman from Ordnungsamt said that we should call the police and get the cars removed. At first it felt strange to get other cars removed, then we didn’t think about it anymore — just like others didn’t think about us when they parked there. We had all sorts of different ideas as to how we could reach other people’s hearts and make them realise that this parking space belonged to a four year old child and her family. Maybe we could put a big photo there? A poster? „Nützt allet nüscht“, said a policeman to me one day. „From experience I can tell you that people don’t give a fuck, they’ll just park there. Better to get the cars removed, it’s more effective.“
You’ve been gone since yesterday. You’ve been removed, the sign taken away, the white colour painted over with a grey tone. As if you never existed. I didn’t even notice, but my daughter did “mum, our parking space”. She looked at me angrily, with her hands on her hips. “Oh yes, it’s gone” I said, confirming what she had seen and added “we no longer need it because your sister isn’t with us anymore.” There was a brief silence and she frowned a little. “But sometimes I don’t wanna have to walk.” Hands on hips again. “Yes, but you don’t want to. Your sister wasn’t able to.” I tried to explain the bureaucracy behind it. She sighed and accepted the explanation.
Last week you were still here. The woman from Straßenverkehrsbehörde apologised for not having removed you immediately following the death of my daughter. A massive Bearbeitungsrückstand, so I carried on using you. Each time I did, I felt terrible, as you no longer belonged to us and our right to use you had died. Once I got out of the car and a woman said to me, no, forget “said”, she shouted at me: “This is a disabled parking space!” “Yes, I know, that’s why I’m parking here. Thanks for keeping an eye on it,” and I walked home. Five days later you were gone. Maybe forever.*
Thanks for having been there.
*89% of disabilities are acquired over the course of a person’s lifetime.
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