Sunday, May 17, 2015

Disabled Parking Spaces

Disabled parking spaces close to the entrance are so appealing, especially if one is in a hurry.  …”I’m just going to be a minute.”  When looking for a space, I often say to myself - "it’s amazing what the disabled can drive.”  That's because of the variety of vehicles found in disabled parking spaces.  My favorites are the amazing monster trucks and sports cars – vehicles which a disabled person typically cannot drive or even get into or out of.  Yet, a good many of these suspect vehicles have the required disabled parking placard.  Still others do not.  Occasionally I am curious to see who gets out of such a vehicle.  While it is true that many bonafide disabilities are not visually obvious, it is also true that parking spaces are used by people with no qualifying disability and no passenger with them who does.

I have always wondered why people use the disabled spaces when they don’t need them.  Over the years, I have heard a lot of unsolicited reasons from offenders after they realize I saw them.  Most commonly I hear “I was just going to be a minute,” “I never do this usually,” “I was in a hurry,” and “my family member is disabled but is not with me.”  Some don’t seem to notice or care.  I am not the parking police and I don’t ask for an explanation so if someone feels guilty, I can only assume they have something to feel guilty about.  I don’t bail them out – I just smile politely.

Disabled parking spaces, by law, must be close to the entrance.  This is important for wheelchair users because there is some danger when going between long rows of parked vehicles (being so short) that someone backing out their car won’t see us.  Trucks and higher vehicles definitely have a problem seeing a wheelchair or small child behind them.  I have to remain extremely vigilant.  I am very focused as I watch for backup lights and listen for vehicles starting their engines.   

Disabled spaces are also typically wider than an ordinary parking place.  For vans with a side lift, this wideness is necessary (not optional) in order to lower the lift.  Wider spots make it possible to maneuver a wheelchair in between cars to load groceries or retrieve something from the side of the vehicle.  Regular-size spots do not have enough room.  Many times, the door won't even open without touching the adjacent car.  In addition, there is always the risk of scratching the adjacent vehicle with a grocery cart or wheelchair.  

Disabled parking placards are intended for disabled drivers or drivers in any vehicle when transporting a disabled person.  Qualifying disabilities generally include diseases which substantially impair or interfere with mobility (e.g. respiratory, cardiac, orthopedic, neurologic, etc.), and those resulting in inability to move without the aid of an assistive device (wheelchair, braces, artificial limbs, walkers, canes, crutches, etc.). 

A qualifying disability must be determined and certified by a medical provider (may be waived for amputees).  This signed certification must be presented to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Placards are given a unique number which identifies the disabled person.  They must be used by the disabled person only, either as the driver or as the passenger.  They must be renewed periodically (varies by state) and surrendered upon the individual’s death.  Unfortunately, however, it is not uncommon for these placards to be used by others long after the disabled person has died.

It is not difficult or expensive to get a placard.  Anyone who thinks they need one should see their physician and request one because it is illegal in many, if not all, states to use someone else’s placard or to lend it to another.  Temporary placards are available in the event that you are lucky enough to have just a temporary disability.  Violators can be fined, have their placard revoked, or not qualify for renewal. 

Unfortunately, we all know that disabled parking rules are hardly ever enforced which makes them extremely dependent on the honor system.  A good rule of thumb when tempted to park in a disabled space is to ask yourself if you would trade the minor benefit of parking close to an entrance for a qualifying disability (your choice).

Disabled parking spaces are not simply a convenience for those who need them.  So… if you don’t honestly need a space, don’t use one.  At least half of the time when I go out, the disabled spots are full.  It would be comforting to know that every space is legitimately occupied.

Note:  Placard and parking rules may vary slightly from state to state.  Check with your state for specific details.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Frosting Cupcakes with One Hand

Frosting cupcakes sounds simple enough, no great debate on how to do it, how much frosting to use, what color, what flavor, how much, etc.  What could possibly be hard about frosting a cupcake? 

Well, let me tell you what is hard – doing it with one hand.  I mean just how do you hold the cupcake and frost it at the same time?  If you made frosting properly, or purchased a popular pre-made variety, you know it is thick and creamy.  You can’t just dump it on the cupcake.  And… that cupcake will NOT sit still while you frost it.   Why then would a one-handed person become somewhat famous for cupcakes decorated for every occasion?  Not just a few cupcakes, but massive amounts for parties and other events.  Good question, and one not so far answered by this one-handed person.

I have frosted hundreds, if not thousands, of cupcakes during my adult life (one cake mix generally yields 24).  I am still searching for a way to hold it.  A vice does not work as it smashes the cupcake.  The cupcake swirls around if left in the pan to frost and then presents a problem of getting it out without smudging your masterpiece.  A bowl is not heavy enough to lean the cupcake against while applying the frosting and, again, the side of the bowl gets more frosting on it than the cupcake.  I try to not fill the paper cupcake holder very full in the hopes that it will provide an edge to enclose the frosting.  Then I end up with cupcakes all different heights – only a few of which actually accomplish my goal.  I have tried a small piece of two-sided tape, sticking the cupcake to the table but it seems that tape never gets un-sticky. 

Nonetheless, for some reason not yet apparent, I choose to make decorated cupcakes for virtually every occasion.  They look great and the battle to frost them is clearly hidden.  I never really thought about this battle until I saw my mom pick up a cupcake and twirl either it or the frosting-laden knife, creating a masterpiece of flawless soft swirls over the top.  She put one down and picked up another and another.  It looked effortless to me and then, for the first time, I realized how much effort I had exerted over the years.  Who knew?

Oh, and by the way, it is also a challenge to remove the holder with one hand.  Trying to do this with your teeth will smear frosting on your nose.  Every.  Time.

The challenge of spreading peanut butter on celery almost outweighs the cupcake challenge.  And… consider the butter packets, the small butter/jelly containers and cream containers with a lid you have to pull off.  Some things are simply not worth the effort. :)

Questions or comments welcome!