I enjoy being nice, and I generally think people are wonderful. Not being a mean, angry person works out well for me, and I have few complaints. However, once in a while there comes a behavior so appallingly insensitive, so overwhelmingly jerky, that I am forced to reconsider my decision.
Earlier this week, I went with a friend to a beloved Nashville pizzeria [I don’t want to embarrass anyone, so let’s just call it Mafioza’s] for their lauded 2-for-1 beer and slice night. For those of you who have never been, it is as magical as it sounds: a fairy wonderland of pizza mountains, irrigated by rivers of beer. I look forward to going any chance I get, and as part of this week of Paschal celebrations, this time was no exceptions
By their front door, they have one of these. I stress one, because it is, in fact, the only space like it in the entire restaurant lot, including the back:
Generally, a wheelchair being painted on a parking spot calls to mind people with disabilities, who are allowed to park in said spots, due to the fact that the spots are wider and have more space to load and unload mobility equipment. The spaces are also designed and placed in such a way as to allow an unobstructed, close access to the ramp or front door.
We had already parked elsewhere and were waiting on our laser-table-buzzer thing to go off when a black SUV pulled into the reserved space. [I happened to be right next to the driver's-side door]. The driver hopped out and sauntered through the front door [after giving a warm greeting to each police officer posted there to check IDs]. I didn’t see a hang tag on the dashboard. There was no wheelchair symbol on the license plate. The police offers said nothing else. I was miffed, to say the least.
I went over to the police officer nearest me and said, “Excuse me, but did you see that? He parked there illegally.”
“Yeah,” said the officer, a bit defeated, “He does it all the time.”
“Oh. Well, can you not ticket him for that?” I asked.
“We can’t do anything about it.,” I could tell he was ashamed, “He’s the owner.”
My jaw hung open as the officer explained to me that since the restaurant was private property, a sign should be posted denoting any penalty for parking there [in addition to the space being painted; he had not posted a sign]. Beyond that, the decision is made to ticket or not ticket the person who parks there illegally; that decision is the prerogative of–wait for it–the owner.
Just so it sinks in for the folks at home: the owner of the restaurant routinely parks in the only space marked for use by people with disabilities on the entire property, knowing he can do so without any consequences, by virtue of his ownership. Not only does his nonchalance irk me in the first place, the real kicker is he has no qualms about doing this RIGHT IN FRONT OF A PERSON WHO USES A WHEELCHAIR.
Days later, I am still baffled by his behavior. Even after taking time to cool off [of which I needed a lot], I still feel slighted, disrespected, ignored, and discounted as a patron of the business. To keep people out by virtue of limiting or obstructing their access is to discriminate, exclude, and ignore them.
The Founding Fathers talked about our unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I am no political science scholar, but I am fairly certain that infringing upon someone’s access to pizza and beer is to seriously tamper with her pursuit of happiness.
To the owner of Mafioza’s: if you want a spot by the door, paint the word “Owner” in a parking space. Don’t steal what could be someone else’s only safe way to enter your restaurant. You’re hurting your reputation, your business, and your chance to get to know your neighbors. Your food is cool. Your beer selection is cool. But you regularly park in a space marked for people with disabilities because you’re the owner and you can; and that’s not cool.
To other Nashville businesses: inclusion is hip, equality is sexy.
Be hip and sexy. Don’t let me down.