Making A Limp Apology

, , , , , | Working | June 20, 2019

I lost my lower left leg in a car accident years ago and now use a prosthetic. Even though I have a disabled plate and placard, I don’t always need to park in a handicap spot. I only use those spots on my bad days when I experience ghost pains or pain in the area of the amputation and have trouble walking or standing on that leg for a prolonged length of time. However, when you see me, unless I’m wearing shorts or a dress, you can’t tell I have a prosthetic leg and I may look “normal” to people. On those bad days, the only tell-tale sign may be a little limp at most but nothing too obvious.

On one bad day that I needed to use a handicap spot, an employee who was taking a smoking break outside the store took it upon herself to confront me in the parking lot after I got out of my car. She accused me of not being handicapped and said that I didn’t deserve to park in that spot, that I should be ashamed because I was abusing the system, and that I was just being lazy. She even threatened to call the police and said someone on disability couldn’t afford the kind of car I had.

Just because someone is disabled doesn’t automatically mean they’re on disability or can’t work.

By now, people were watching her ranting and some actually agreed with her or just watched. I tried to explain that just because I don’t look handicapped, it doesn’t mean I’m not, but nothing helped. Now, I’m not embarrassed of my injury, but I am a little self-conscious of it when it becomes the center of attention. So, even though I didn’t have to, I raised my pants leg to show the prosthetic.

I have never seen a group of idiots shut up so fast. The employee who started it all just said, “Whatever! Not my fault!” and walked back into the store without even apologising. Most of the small crowd of people who were agreeing with her walked away, too, most without saying a word; others just laughed it off like it was a joke. Only one person had the decency to say sorry for assuming.

Situations like this have happened a handful of times over the years and, normally, I would have just let it go, because the accuser usually apologises and gets a lesson on not judging a book by its cover, etc., but not this time — not after what she said about it not being her fault. Whether she meant she wasn’t at fault for accusing me of not being handicapped or not at fault for my injury, I wasn’t going to just let it go this time.

I went into the store and to the service desk and reported her, and they sent for the manager. I explained again to him what happened and he called the employee up to the service desk. When she saw me, before the manager even said a word, she started defending herself, yelling something like, “It’s not my fault she doesn’t look like a gimp!” Yes, she said, “gimp.” “I didn’t know! Look at her! She doesn’t even need a wheelchair or nothing! She doesn’t even look it! Why should she park there?! Why is everyone mad at me?!”

After she finally finished her tirade, the manager had her go to his office and said they would “talk about her behavior.” He turned to me, apologised profusely, and ended up giving me a $50 gift certificate for the store. I did tell him I wasn’t blaming the store but would appreciate it if he could train the employees about those of us who are disabled, about hidden disabilities, and about not just assuming things. Whether or not the manager did that, I don’t know, but he did seem genuinely concerned that one of his employees would say such things and told me that he would look into it.

I’m not one for being that customer who’s always looking for freebies — I used to work in retail and I understand — but I didn’t mind getting that $50 gift certificate.

I don’t know what happened to that employee, but since that day I’ve never seen her there again and it’s been over a year.

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