Tuesday, November 8, 2005

Peter Duffy - he WILL give me a heart attack!

This is the first letter to the editor I've ever written that's not been about dogs. I've had great success with letters to the editor of papers and magazines - actually every letter I've ever written has gotten published - I've had a 100% success rate with letters I've written which I think is kind of amazing. And I think it's because I've always only kept it to dogs.

But today Peter Duffy wrote a column that SO incensed me that I had to write in. I don't care if it gets published, it just pissed me off so bad I had to write in. Peter Duffy is a columnist at the Chronicle Herald and I actually have a page on my Charlie Loves Halifax page dedicated to him because he hates dogs. I think he hates everything actually. I'm quite sure he'd be mean to me if he ever met me, and he'd succeed because I'm very inarticulate in person, so he'd walk away feeling very satisfied with himself.

But anyway - today he wrote a column about handicapped parking spaces. I don't park in them myself, and don't have any personal opinions on them - but I know that my parents might feel like they shouldn't be using their stickers anymore because they aren't handicapped "enough" because of his column - which is absolute bullshit. And I was angry to have that thought that other people might think that too - who was he and who was this Dorothy Grant to be picking on people like that - "everybody is equal, but some people are more equal than others". It made me sick. Here's the article, and then my letter follows - you can have your own opinion!


Fear and loathing drives disabled parking

By Peter Duffy

THE MESSAGE someone left her is scary.

Scrawled on a torn-out page from a chequebook, it says, “People like you should really watch what they say to strangers. . . . Keep your mouth shut and your opinions to yourself or you’ll get hurt.”

I hand it back and she shakes her head. “I hope most young people don’t feel like that,” she says.

“I’m sure they don’t,” I say, not really believing what I’m saying.

I’m parked outside a big Halifax drugstore with 70-year-old Dorothy Grant. We’re waiting in the drizzle for one of today’s most despicable characters: the able-bodied driver who abuses handicapped parking zones.

Dorothy sees red over this kind of behaviour, which is not only illegal and worth a $75 ticket, it’s morally repugnant. It’s to the point she’ll confront people who take advantage of those genuinely handicapped.

People like her.

She’s inherited a disease called adrenoleukodystrophy and needs a cane to get around. It’s a rare metabolic disorder, the same one featured in that Nick Nolte movie, Lorenzo’s Oil.

Two decades ago, this insidious illness claimed the life of her 11-year-old son. It also saw her mother end her days in a wheelchair. Now it’s her turn but she’s not going quietly.

“It’s a pain in the ass for me,” she confesses. “There are a lot of things I want to do.”

Dorothy Grant is nothing if not feisty. And yes, she’s that Dorothy Grant, the women known to thousands of CBC viewers for her consumer reporting, particularly on the popular program, Marketplace.

Now, her own failing health is giving her a tremendous insight into the world of the disabled. Hence her one-woman crusade over the issue of handicapped parking spots.

“The selfishness of society!” she exclaims.

In the case of that menacing note she was showing me, its author was an able-bodied woman in her 20s whom Dorothy had confronted earlier.

“I said, ‘Young lady, you’re not disabled!’ and she replied, ‘Shut up! Keep your opinions to yourself or you’ll get hurt!’”

Later, upon returning to her car, she found the threatening note.

Dorothy’s sister has urged her to stop confronting people, afraid she’ll get hurt, but she refuses to stop.

Earlier this year, she approached a man in a Wal-Mart parking lot. “I said, in a nice voice, ‘You’re not disabled.’ He said, ‘Shut your mouth, you (expletive) old bitch!’ He said it twice!”

Dorothy was so traumatized, a passerby felt obliged to come over and comfort her.

As we’re talking, a car pulls into the handicapped spot next to ours. It has a disabled tag hanging from its rear-view mirror but both occupants are walking normally.

I get out and challenge them. “My wife has had an operation on her knee,” the man explains.

Dorothy frowns at the explanation and shows me a long yellow form. It’s an official application to the province for a mobility-disabled permit and plate.

I read down the list of authorized disabilities. Let’s see, there’s paralysis; lower-limb amputation; heart or lung disease; or similar ailments. There are the wheelchair-bound and walker-dependent; those who need a crutch or cane, leg brace or leg prosthesis. There are those suffering a significant cardio-pulmonary condition; severe neuro-muscular or skeletal condition; or those legally blind.

No mention of knee operations.

A permit-bearing SUV pulls up. Three older folk emerge; one woman has a limp.

“My wife has a plastic knee,” the man tells me.

Dorothy isn’t impressed. “Where’s her cane?” she snorts.

“Maybe the police should have a one-day blitz,” muses my spunky companion.

She wonders seriously whether disabled permits have become entirely too easy to obtain. Are doctors authorizing them when they shouldn’t? As of last year, there were more than 11,300 temporary and permanent disabled permits dangling from rear-view mirrors, along with more than 1,600 disabled plates.

After half-an-hour, we try a different location, across the road from a large grocery store.

I get out and count the blue spaces. There are seven, each occupied by an authorized vehicle.

As I’m returning to Dorothy’s car, a middle-aged woman strolls out of the store and gets into one of the tagged cars. No cane, no crutch, not even a limp.

I walk over and identify myself through her half-open window. “I’m doing a story about people who abuse handicapped parking spots,” I announce.

The woman scowls, rolls up her window and accelerates away, narrowly missing my feet.

Back at our car, Dorothy is shaking her head.

Me? I’m just shaking, period.

Here's my letter:

As I read Mr Duffy's column on November 8 my jaw dropped lower and lower as I continued to take in what he was saying. "If you don't look horribly disfigured in some way you don't deserve to park in handicapped parking"? Is that really what he was saying? Mr Duffy and Dorothy Grant were actually stalking handicapped parking spaces in the HRM and waiting for people to park there and seeing whether people
were limping or carrying canes when they got out of their car if they had handicapped stickers on their car.

I for one am absolutely appalled at this!! I am the daughter of 2 parents who are senior citizens who each still drive, each have their own car and each have handicapped stickers hanging from their rear view mirror when they park their car. Neither of them have gone to the "school of silly walks" that Monty Python used to give seminars on in the 1970's - so neither of them would pass muster with Mr Duffy - although my father SHOULD use his cane and when he gets out of the car
I'll often bark at him like Dorothy Grant likes to do when she sees people getting out of their cars without them - "where is your cane!!". Our purposes though are not the same. But I feel VERY confident in saying that my parents most certainly DESERVE to have those stickers in their car. Unfortunately they do have health
conditions - although not physically disfiguring, they are health conditions that make walking long distances difficult - so those blue parking spaces are very handy and they are entitled to them as much as Ms. Grant is.

Once again I have to say - "Shame on you Mr Duffy!!"

Joan Sinden

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:20 AM

    Being a legally handicapped person whose disability isn't usually apparent, I'm offended by the article and thankful that I don't have to watch that creature on her TV show (I'm not Canadian so I don't get it). I presume, and expect others to do so, that if the state or province issued a handicapped tag or plate, the reason for it was proved to be valid. For example, my ex-wife went to the grocery store once with her daughter. She got a lot of nasty looks and some nasty comments from people who thought that asnyone in a Jeep couldn't be handicappped. Bonny was not able to walk unassisted for more than 30 or 40 feet. She didn't look disabled. She WAS (and still is I presume0 disabled. Your columnist and his pet TV personality would have thought her terrible for abusing handicapped parking. She (my ex-wife) probably couldn't have even got to the front door of the store without being able to park near it. I know that people sometimes abuse the handicapped status. I was certainly tempted when alone, but I never did because I knew how important it was for Bonny to be close to the front door. My convenience was/is much less important than Bonny's (or anyone else) need. People seem to love to judge others and condemn them. Almost always these are people (like your columnist and TV creature) whose own lives are so messed up that they can't face themselves, so they try to run everyone else's lives instead. I pity these people for the lack of compassion and lack of intelligence. But I don't want to be around them!