postcards from the pug bus
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WILMINGTON, De.–We'll call him Ralph. He is one of a growing breed of white-collar hipster criminal: the handicapped-parking-sticker cheat. You can find him from Boston to Baha, parking illegally is a space reserved for someone less fortunate than he is. You can even find him in Delaware.
On a late summer day Ralph parked his black-cherry-red Scion xB, a hipster vehicle of choice, in a handicapped-parking space on Market Street near 5th, on the edge of Wilmington's LOMA district. He draped a handicapped sticker from his rear view mirror, then walked down the street without any sign of disability and ducked into La Fia, a bakery + market + bistro. He had agreed to meet us there.
PUG BUS: Dude, when did you get a handicapped sticker?
RALPH: Eleven years ago, dude, when my mother-in-law was living with us. She had a disability, so it wasn't any hassle to get a parking sticker on her doctor's prescription. It was like a dream come true. I'd always wanted one of those things.
PUG PUS: Did you use it just when your mother-in-law was in the car?
RALPH: Hell no, man. It wouldn't have been right dragging her around to places where she didn't necessarily want to go. Besides, she'd have complained all the time if we had left her in the car. So we began "borrowing" the sticker to go to places where we wanted to go.
PUG BUS: Like where?
RALPH: Like the Trey Anastasio Band concert over in Camden. That was the first time. It was awesome. We drove into the parking lot flying the crip sticker, and the dude waved us through to a lot that was closer to the entrance. Then the dude at that lot waved us through to an even closer lot. We finally ended up in celebrity-preferred-and-handicapped parking, right across from the entrance. Saved us a long walk, and left us with extra time to shoot a few frosties and do an extra doob.
PUG BUS: Did you feel guilty?
RALPH: About what? Using a space that would have sat there empty all night? After the concert—Trey wrawked, man—we noticed a whole shitload of unused handicapped spaces. We didn't figure we had inconvenienced anyone, and we sure would have been inconvenienced having to walk half a mile back to a regular lot, wasted as we were.
PUG BUS: Where else have you used the sticker?
RALPH: Where haven't we used it? Supermarkets, shopping malls, rest stops on the turnpike, downtown Philly. I even use it for visits to the doctor. That's a real hoot. If I have to walk more then ten yards to get where I'm going, I'm having a bad day.
PUG BUS: Is there anyplace you won't use the sticker?
RALPH: Well, I generally don't use it if I'm actually taking up the last handicapped-parking space. Unless it's raining.
PUG BUS: How long is a sticker good for?
RALPH: Five years, but the state sends you an automatic renewal notice that you don't even have to get the doctor to sign again. You send the form back, and the state sends you a new sticker. Sweet. That's how renewed the sticker the first time,
PUG BUS: The first time?
RALPH: Yeah. My mother-in-law died just before we got the second automatic renewal notice. I was all set to send it in, but my wife thought that would have been disrespectful, so I had to get creative,
PUG BUS: How creative?
RALPH: Photoshop creative, but I don't want to say anything more about that.
PUG BUS: So you're using a bogus sticker that was originally issued to someone who has passed away?
RALPH: Like she really needs it any more.
PUG BUS: Have you ever heard of handicappedfraud.org?
RALPH: No. What's that about?
PUG BUS: It's a website where suspicious citizens can post information about drivers whom they suspect are gaming the disabled-parking system.
RALPH: Sounds like the crip version of the NSA. We've got enough illegal spying on innocent people already in this country without these handicapped fuckers getting involved. Like I said, they never use one-tenth of the goddamned handicapped spaces anyway. Besides, they always clutter up "their" spaces in supermarket parking lots with shopping carts that they're too lazy to put in the shopping-cart corral where they belong.
PUG BUS: We'd like to talk more, but if we did, we'd have to go feed the meter.
RALPH: If you had a crip sticker, dude, you wouldn't need to do that.