“You look normal up top. I would have never known.”

All the handicapped parking spots appeared to be full. But there was hope – hope in the form of a dark blue Expedition with its blinkers on in the furthest spot.

As I have learned to do, I inched up parallel to the driver and rolled my window down, smiling. Reluctantly, the woman in army fatigues in the driver seat did the same, sans the smile. There wasn’t anything friendly about her. In fact, she looked bothered that I was annoying her before I even said anything.

Dessa looking for a handicapped parking space, calm, cool and bemused

“Excuse me. I see that you have your blinkers on. I was wondering if I could park there…?” I trailed off.

In return, she tilted her head down, raised her eyes up at me and I got one hell of a “who do you think you are?” kind of stare.

“I’m waiting on someone,” she announced. Still, no hint of friendliness. Perhaps a hint of disbelief or maybe it was disdain.

“You see,” I continued, “there’s no handicapped spots. I can’t walk that far… and” – apparently I was going to have to get dirty with this woman – “well, do you have a hang tag?” Reflexively she looked at her dash.

I wondered if she thought that perhaps one had magically appeared there – just to save her from having to say no and therefore admit she was taking up a spot she shouldn’t have been in.

Next, she began to lean out of her window to look at my dash, presumably to see if I had one. I thought what a great scam it would be to shame people out of handicapped spots just to take them yourself when you didn’t even have a disability.

“Oh, I have one,” I responded to her body language.  “And in just a minute you’ll see me … no mistake then. I’m about three feet tall.”

Through the first part of my sentence she still gave me a stern and disbelieving look. I wondered if she’d learned that in the military or if it had just been one fierce asset once she joined. At the second part – the part about being three feet tall- she laughed a little.

“You’re kidding, right?”

I smiled. “Just give me a minute – and that spot – and I’ll show you.”

She pulled out of the spot and I pulled in. Going into the building, I had to walk right past her new illegal spot. This time, she was the one who rolled down her window to talk to me.

“Wasn’t kidding, was I?” I said.

Dessa’s dad installed pedal extensions for his three feet tall daughter

“How do you drive!?” I saw a new side of her. She didn’t want to kick my ass any more, she was curious. “You must drive with your hands or something, right? How long did it take you to learn how to do that?”

“Actually, I have pedal extensions, so I drive with my feet. I’ve been doing it since I was 15, so I don’t know anything different.”

“You know, I didn’t think you were really gonna be small. I mean, you don’t look like it up here…” and she made a motion to indicate my upper body. “You know, some of them, they look like children or something – but you look normal up top. I would have never known.”

Like so many before her, this woman’s, ahem, compliment was unintentionally condescending.

I pulled a curtsey and bowed and before I walked into the building, whispered loud enough for her to hear, “Surprise!”






About Dessa

Originally a Southerner, Dessa loves the charm and hospitality of Detroit. Dessa is a proud Little Person, using her disability to challenge, endear, and cut lines at amusement parks. Training community organizers by day and earning her Masters of Social Justice after hours, Dessa loves shifting paradigms, breaking glass ceilings, and honoring the Feminine Divine. Click here to read more about Dessa

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