Being Crippled for Fun and Profit

“How DO you shave anyhow?”

I was riding in a car with someone from Goodwill Industries in Akron and his curiosity pushed my Sarcasm Button with the enthusiasm of a 12-year old jamming the controls of a video game he didn’t have to pay for. As straight-faced as possible I commented, “I tape my razor to the floor and drag my face across it.”

“Really?!!!,” he wondered, slowly trying to wrap his head around the imagery. “Really,” I said as seriously as possible. And that’s where I left it. Discussions like that make my Spider senses tingle, bringing me almost as much joy as hearing someone complain, “I’ve only got two hands.” I LIVE for those moments, the complainant’s inevitable squirm bringing a smile to my face even now.

Years ago when people would make comment about my prosthesis or the way I accomplished something mundane, I’d tell them my next trick was going to be juggling knives while drinking water. Unable to leave well enough alone, I just had to up the anty by telling them I was, in fact, thinking about writing a book called, “How to Be Crippled for Fun and Profit.”

In it, I explained, I’d print all the handicapped jokes I’d ever heard. Things like, “How do you hang a man with a wooden leg? You don’t. You hang him with a rope.” RIMSHOT! Got that one from a one-legged plasterer as he was standing on a chair, patching the ceiling in our living room. Considering the civilized notion that such responses to people’s comments may have been goin’ below the jugular for the sake of a laugh, it was just an early method for deflecting discomfort. But I couldn’t help myself, it was just too much fun.

On occasion, an obnoxious little boy would walk boldly up to me, grab my “hook” and, while jerking it around ask, “What happened to you?” Dropping down to their eye level I explained, “I don’t know. I went to bed one night and everything was fine but I woke up the next morning, my arm was gone, and there was a quarter under my pillow. I think the Arm Fairy got it.” After which, I’d walk away leaving the parent to deal with it. Seemed just, somehow.

Being handicapped isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, there’s a reason they don’t let folks like me sit next to the Emergency Exit on an airplane. And then you have to put up with the fakes, those folks who institutionalize their acute laziness by calling it a disability and giving it a Parking Sticker. “But I have a breathing problem.” Of course you do. You don’t walk enough you lazy fake you! It’s just a matter of principle, I guess. I mean, nobody’s dyin’ so why get so “bent out of shape?” Who made me the Parking Police for people with gimpish ways? Especially since I’d only had one experience with such a parking space myself.

While Pastoring in Ohio, a call came that one of the dear ladies of our church was finally near death after a long, agonizing bout with cancer. Arriving at the hospital, I drove around the Lot several times looking for a parking spot, finding none available. Weighing the importance of the quickly passing moments against feeling stupid, I parked the car in a Handicapped spot near the Emergency Room entrance, something I’ve not done before or since. No sooner did I get out of the car when a Security Guard approached and snapped like Barney Fife just before he slipped his one, official bullet into his gun, “You can’t park there. You gotta be handicapped.” Identified as permanently and totally disabled by the State of Ohio, I asked, “How handicapped do I have to be?” Even Stevie Wonder could see I should’ve qualified in such a moment. No dice. Couldn’t park there. That man was so well trained he lost his mind but I do feel his passion for the issue.

Perhaps my unjustifiable irritation with folks who get to park where I don’t is just bitterness. Or, maybe my Grumpy Ol’ Man approach to the whole thing is clear evidence of the fact that I remain a recovering Pharisee, keenly aware of “flaws” in others while remaining legally blind to my own. Nah! They’re just lazy, sneaky, tryin’-to-beat-the-System kind of folks. Why does that trouble me? Perhaps I just need to come in off my ledge.

Ahhhhh, what’s the use Hortense? The real dilemma in voicing a pet-peeve, especially a petty pet peeve, comes from the realization that not one of those willful offenders is going to read this rant. Not one. Their Cheese Puff stained fingers aren’t likely to waddle this direction. I suppose I must resign myself to preaching to the choir in an attempt to keep others from this great evil. Don’t be that person! Stand with me America. The next time you see a clearly mobile person parking in a clearly marked spot, grab a blanket from the trunk of your car, throw it around the offender, wrestle them to the ground and wait for a Cop to arrive. Citizen’s Arrest! You can tell the Officer that The Raggedy Man said it was OK. Book ’em Danno!

And now, I feel better.


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