We had my blue badge with us when we visited our local Tesco at the weekend. We had it, but we didn’t use it.
Tired and in pain, I had opted to stay in car with Five Live for company and seeing that there were only one or two spaces available we thought it best that we leave them available to someone who was actually intending to get out of their vehicle. My wife said that she and our two children could easily walk the extra five or ten metres this would entail.
She returned from the store fuming: Of the ten or so spaces available just three of the cars in them were actually displaying blue badges. Based on that, the chances were that we’d probably ended up leaving the vacant space I was entitled to use legally, but not morally because I was staying in the car, for the able bodied but idle.
As she returned Five’s breathless newsreader had just got to the tragic events of the weekend when a heated row between two men in the disabled spaces at an Asda had tragically resulted in the death of one of them.
Look, we don’t yet know the whys and wherefores of what police described yesterday as “an argument about nothing”.
But we do know that, as a general point, when a resource is scarce conflict follows. Disabled spaces at supermarkets are becoming scarce because they are increasingly being snaffled up by people who can’t be bothered to walk, depriving people who either can’t walk or who find it extremely difficult.
And the supermarkets don’t care. They’re afraid that fining the lowlives who pinch disabled spots will result in them taking their custom elsewhere or, in extremis, that if they did take action it would create a fuss, leaving them open to charges that they’re joining bungling town hall bureaucrats in their assault on the poor, picked upon, motorist.
This is where the gleeful populism of local government secretary Eric Pickles and his colleagues leads; the creation of a general perception that all parking restrictions can and should be ignored and if that means some disabled person has to walk a bit, tough, right coz they’re probably scroungers anyway.
I’ve written before that younger badge holders often take flak from older ones, and some non-badge holders, who think that we are trying it on. The Paralympian Kylie Grimes tweeted her distress about one such incident not long after the games, commenting wearily upon how quickly goodwill had drained away.
I’m not as disabled as the frankly incredible quadraplegic wheelchair rugby player, but I know that feeling. My family has had it when we park in a disabled space before I alight and they can see my sticks and the chunky caliper I wear most of the time.
Blue badges aren’t easy to come by. Only a tiny percentage of people who have them are cheats. The fishy looks are best focused on those who shamelessly use disabled spaces without any need to.
I’m not the sort of person who particularly enjoys public confrontation (except in print or on the radio). But I have started to take exception to these people. It’s risky, and it can lead to unpleasant situations, but I’ve had enough. It’s necessary.
Look, I don’t want the damn badge. I’d be delighted to be in a position where walking was easy. But it isn’t, and a parking space close to a shop is therefore something that I need. The same for other badge holders.
Laziness is not a disability but because of it those spaces are becoming scarce resources. When resources become scarce conflict ensues. With potentially tragic results.