In my “salad days,” as my mother was wont to say quite often (which is a bit redundant, because if you are wont to do something, it naturally follows that you do it often), I opened and ran one of a small chain of ceiling fan stores, whose home base was in Little Rock, Arkansas (the reason I ended up in that progressive cosmopolitan mecca – never did I receive a question so often as “Why in the world would you move to Little Rock?”*). It was actually a ceiling-fan-slash-framed-art-slash-brassware-slash-portable-lighting-slash-mirror-slash-crystal store, seeing as the ceiling fan aspect of the place only occupied the top 2 feet of the room; something was needed to cut down on the echoing, so they added all the other odds and ends. And let me tell you, solid brassware (as opposed to brass plated zinc) is a true pain in the glutes to maintain, as once it’s touched by human (or simian) hands, the oils break down whatever miniscule protection the brass actually came with, and thus it starts to dull. You have to use Brass-O, rubbing the aforementioned brass piece all over (crikey, he’s already heavily-hyphenated and tossed in an “aforementioned” before exiting the first paragraph!), and then buffing same off after it dries to a dull haze (sort of like Turtle Wax and your dad’s Fiat).
The true rump-reamer was a full-sized solid brass rocking horse (full-sized for a rocking horse, that is, not full-sized for a horse – though I suppose it could be full-sized for one of those cute little miniature horses), of which every one of the stores received one to place prominently in the front window. That was one gigantic tush-tanner to keep bright and shiny, let me tell you.
But I digress (when do I not?).
The retail store was located in a small strip shopping center, replete with grocery store, a greeting card shop, some sort of automotive parts outlet, and a Pizza Hut. I usually ran the store solo, so for lunch I would tape up a piece of paper with “Back in 5 minutes” scribbled on it, and would walk up the slightly-inclined parking lot to get a salad bar to go – to this day, I cannot think of a better salad dressing than Pizza Hut’s Creamy Italian. As I have described before, it’s the kind of thing that sets off whatever those receptors are in the hinges of your jaw, both over-salivating your oral cavity and locking your face up almost to the point of pain, in anticipation of taking the first bite of the incredible tart-salty-deliciousness of the dressing – hell, it’s doing that right now, and I haven’t been to the Hut in 2-3 years. Damn, now I’m going to have to go find one tomorrow just to get the buffet – and they damn sure better have chopped hard boiled eggs on the salad bar. They are an essential part of the taste conglomeration I assemble, prior to slathering on the Italian dressing. Also included is lettuce (usually Iceberg – and I do my best to ensure I don’t get any of the big chunky tasteless cores, which all-too-often remain in the lettuce bowl, adding bulk but no flavor – and why do they insist on shaving bits of purple cabbage and julienned carrots in there? Surely it’s just for color. Anyway, as to the Iceberg, I don’t believe they stock any other varieties, though Hearts of Romaine would be right out, as I do not go to the Hut for Caesar salads), sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, alfalfa (or bean) sprouts, Bac-O’s (not real bacon bits, but the artificial crumbles that are actually supplied by the American Dental Association – along with Corn Nuts and Sugar Babies – as a means to keep teeth in the seats), chopped hardboiled eggs (I already said that), and that’s about it. I don’t really feel like polluting my salad with pine nuts (pines got nuts?), cottage cheese (someday I’m really going to have to look into the etymology of that stuff), or, heaven forefend, beets.
I could go off on an entirely new tangent on beets, though suffice it to say that borscht, or any other beet-laden (Christ, it’s almost impossible to finish a sentence without hyphenating something) comestible, would result in projectile vomiting on the part of the writer, along with sweet potatoes/yams (I don’t know for certain that they are exactly the same thing, but I use the slash nonetheless – and as far as they are concerned, they are one of the few specific entries in my baby book that my mother took pains to detail – “Do NOT feed sweet potatoes!” – evidently projectile vomiting resulted even at the Gerber stage, and continues to this day – and no, don’t tell me “Well, you just haven’t tried them the way I make them.” I hate them ANY way ANYone makes them.).
I’m not sure how much further I can tangentalize… but give me a chance, I bet I can one-up myself…
Where were we? Oh yeah, in my ceiling-fan-slash-solid-brass-rocking-horse outlet. And right in front of the store, among all the other parking spots that T’d right up to the curb, was a Handicapped Parking space (not a Disabled Person Parking space – a Handicapped Parking space). And, for the most part, that space would lay empty, save the occasional visit from someone who had either a permanent handicapped license plate, or (I believe they existed at that time) one of the placards that hangs from the rearview mirror.
Now, while business was often brisk – especially on Saturdays in the spring and summer – there were often lulls in shopper traffic. As there were not computers back in the halcyon days of my young adulthood (this was @1984, you will recall), and we had no television in the store, our only means of recreation included polishing that godd*mn solid brass rocking horse, listening to the radio, or diligently watching the Handicapped Parking spot for violators.
On at least one occasion, I noted the space occupied with a non-appropriately-tagged vehicle, while a very elderly gentleman, walking with a cane, was forced to park slightly uphill (closer to the Pizza Hut, which was not his destination), meander gingerly downhill to buy his groceries, and then trek somewhat laboriously back up the hill with his weekly rations. This pissed me off, justifiably so.
I worked the store with an assistant manager, as well as, on lucky occasions, my footnotedly-mentioned-fiancée, a truly beautiful woman, who was (and is) very intelligent, and a good worker. We took it upon ourselves to become guardians of the Handicapped Parking space. It didn’t matter if the rest of the spaces around it were wide open – if someone parked in that space illegally (and rest assured, it is illegal to park in a Handicapped Parking space unless you have the appropriate license plate or placard), we would call a tow truck.
No polite Post-Its. No stepping out to have a word with the douchebag. If your car resided in that spot, and was not correctly identified as being legitimately parked there, for whatever length of time (“I’m just running in to get a pack of cigarettes”), we called the ever-ready towing company that serviced the shopping center.
Granted, the towing company was often too slow to make it in time to haul off the transgressors. Quite often the offending party would leave the motor running and dash in for a pack of cigarettes. The only thing they would get would be a scowl from me, while standing out in front of their vehicle, tapping my foot impatiently.
However, those slugs who parked illegally who were equally sluggish in returning to their vehicles would often find an empty spot where their car once lived. They would usually stop suddenly, look around in shocked horror and disbelief, and then start looking up and down the lot to see if the car hadn’t somehow been naughty and decided to play hide-and-seek (justifiably hyphenated) with its owner. Only after they realized that their automobile was a machine, and not an impish child, did they follow the obvious path, directly into my store, as it was immediately in front of their former parking spot.
“Excuse me, did you see what happened to my car?” “Why yes, yes I did. A towing truck came and took it away.” “Why would they do that?” they blustered (assuming that their vehicle would only have been towed if they were 3-4 months late on the payments). “Well, sir, this shopping center does have a rather strict enforcement policy on illegally parking in a Handicapped Parking space. Perhaps that was the problem? Do you have a Handicapped Parking license plate, or placard?” “Well, no, but I was just going in for a pack of cigarettes.”
I would then proceed to supply them with the telephone number of the towing company, who was always eager to tow anyone, as they profited from the enterprise. As this was pre-cellphone-era, the slugs would then immediately ask to use my phone to call the towing company. “I’m sorry, sir. This phone is only available for company business. We have to leave it open for customers.” Actually, that was not company policy for the telephone. I don’t believe there was a written policy for the telephone, unless it was to drop whatever you were doing – including polishing the damnable solid brass rocking horse – to answer it. So, in denying the slug access to the store telephone, I guess you could say I was being a bit prickish. Hell, you could, and would, say that about me now, whether it had anything to do with Handicapped Parking spots, or something else.
The de-automobiled slug would then have to march about 100 feet down the strip to call using the pay phone located outside the Kroger (at least I think it was a Kroger). Presumably, the slugs would resolve their situation, retrieve their vehicle, at great expense, and then hopefully think twice about parking illegally in a Handicapped Parking spot ever again. That was likely wishful thinking – they probably took the next possible opportunity to violate the law in the next shopping center they visited, never learning from their transgression, or taking their fellow-less-than-able-neighbor into account. Assholes.
So, even unto this day, I eyeball every single car parked in a Handicapped Parking space on any given lot, whether my own place of business, or someplace I am visiting. If there is no sign of a plate or placard, and I see one of those signs posted on the lot indicating the name and number of the towing company the parking lot owners use, you can bet I will drop a dime on the slug, and hopefully have his ass hauled away before he gets back from buying his pack of cigarettes.
* Because they paid me a (relative) lot of money, at least for 1984, seeing as I was relatively single (OK, I was engaged, and left a truly wonderful, luscious woman… stupid, stupid, stupid), and had only ever worked in retail up to that point. I have made dumber decisions in my life…