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How to Get a Grip When You Literally Can't

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I had a full on 15-minute dirty fight with a parking meter last week.

Normally, I wouldn’t have engaged the metal asshole by even parking there. We have had “run-ins” before and I should have known better. But I was more than 20 minutes late (not my norm) for a doctor’s appointment and feeling anxious about it. It was raining that day and the parking garage, which would have been the safer/smarter choice, was two blocks away.

I was relieved to find a parallel parking space directly in front of the medical building, and reasoned I didn’t have that third cup of morning coffee so my hands weren’t extra shaky. The ugly parking meter appeared innocuous. The task at hand was seemingly simple.

1. Dig through purse and car to find an hour’s worth of change.

2. Use pincher grip to pick up said change.

3. Carry change from car to ugly metal parking meter.

4. Use fingers (and luck) to insert coins into meter.

It was like a scene from “America’s Funniest Home Videos” when people repeatedly try blowing out those never-ending birthday candles while others laugh. I stood on the sidewalk attempting to feed coin after coin into that meter. Each one I attempted to put in immediately fell to the ground. After about five minutes and more than 15 coins, I managed to get just one quarter in (putting 10 minutes on the meter) and the rest of the coins were scattered all over the cement.

Eventually, I said “f-ck it” and went to my appointment risking a $10 parking ticket. It wasn’t worth any more aggravation, and the change I had left all over the sidewalk would make a homeless person’s day.

For those without hand problems, the act of inserting coins in a meter is not worth even talking about. It’s an ordinary task done without thought. But when your hands do not function properly, you become acutely aware of everything that requires the ability to grab, pinch and pull small objects.

The drive-thru ATM machine has to be approached at just the right angle and two hands are needed to feed a credit card into the chip reader at the grocery store. These machines are designed to save time, not increase it.

Having body parts not work the way they should can be frustrating and humbling. I often feel like a small inpatient child trying to accomplish a milestone. Since my disability is not visible, I cannot expect people to be mind-readers and offer assistance without me telling them I need it. But I don’t have to give away my power to parking meters and drive-thru ATMs as they do not save me time.

I can slow down and be more mindful of things that provoke a sense of helplessness, and take the few extra steps necessary to avoid them when possible.

When you have a disability, you have to plan. I now keep a grabber in my car. Maybe I’ll take a whack at that evil parking meter later.

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Getty image by Motion Photography. 

Originally published: January 31, 2018
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