The other day Tom and I came out of Marks and Spencer Food to find a post-it note stuck to the window of his car (luckily it was his car and not my brand new shiny one or what followed could have been a whole lot worse). Written upon the post-it note was a phone number and a name which, for these purposes, I shall refer to as ‘Mrs J’.
Just as we thought Tom had picked up a secret admirer from M&S, the Parking Attendant man scurried over and explained that the details on the post-it note were those of a lady who had just crashed into the side of our car.
I asked where she was and he said that she had left.
I asked why she had left given that (a) it was her fault, (b) we had only been away for 10 minutes and (c) it was obvious that we were in M&S and so it would have been at least courteous to come into M&S to find us. He said that she was very old and upset and so he didn’t think she should wait especially given that he was there and was a witness.
I asked if he had seen what had happened. He said that he had not. I therefore explained to him that he was not a witness. He insisted that he was ….
Thereafter followed a further 10 minute cross examination during which I became more cross and Tom, ever the pacifist, became more embarrassed. Ultimately victory was mine however as the Parking Attendant man crumbled under the pressure and admitted that Mrs J had not left at all – she was parked in the space next to us and had been sent into M&S by him to have a coffee to calm her nerves. This raised serious concerns over the driving competence of Mrs J given that in manoeuvring her rollerscate-sized Kia Piccanto into the space next to us she had managed to take off half her bumper.
By this point I’d had enough of the half truths of the Parking Attendant mafia and so insisted that we speak to Mrs J herself – either he go and fetch her or we go in M&S and find her.
And then it came. The following words actually came of of the Parking Attendant’s mouth …
‘In your condition why don’t you just go home and let your husband sort this out’.
As the words came out all the blood rushed to my head and steam began to come out of my ears. I could see Tom’s eyes widen in horror and fear of what was about to happen. Anyone who knows me will know that this was not just red rag to a bull – it was red rag with neon red flashing lights and a background chorus of ‘ne’er ner ne ner ne’er’.
I was outraged on two levels:
Firstly the suggestion that I was somehow incapable because I am a woman.
And secondly the suggestion that I was somehow incapable because I was visibly pregnant.
The misogynist’s double whammy jackpot score – a pregnant woman!
Although in reality the Parking Attendant man should have considered himself lucky that I was obviously pregnant – otherwise I may well have knocked his block off.
In any event he must have realised that I was not the kind of woman who would ‘just go home and let my husband sort this out’ and scurried off to retrieve Mrs J from the M&S cafe (who, incidentally, was neither very old nor upset and clearly another victim of the Parking Attendant’s sexism – although her atrocious parking was inexcusable).
Later someone on twitter asked me whether in referring to ‘my condition’ the Parking Attendant man had been referring to my MS. Clearly in this case he hadn’t – the man made the comment because it was obvious that I was pregnant. Oh and a woman. It isn’t obvious that I have MS. Even when my MS was at it’s worse and my leg was numb no one could really tell that there was something wrong with me simply by looking.
Having something that makes you obviously ‘different’ must be very difficult. Whether it be the use of a stick or the use of a wheelchair it seems that this is often viewed as a sign of ‘vulnerability’ by others and therefore incapability. How patronising! This made me feel quite lucky that my MS is something I am able to keep quite private – it isn’t apparent from my appearance – and it’s not like I’ve written all about it on the Internet or anything … And yet at the same time I feel guilty for feeling lucky in this way.
Having said all that it was only a few weeks before that I had complained about the complete disregard shown to the fact I was pregnant on the packed-rush-hour-free-bus when I was forced to stand up for my journey across town whilst juggling my work bag, handbag and bump. I wonder if the Parking Attendant man would have stood up and given me his seat owing to ‘my condition’?
No, I don’t think he would either.
Guess we can’t have it both ways eh?! And maybe we’re all not so different from the Parking Attendant man after all.