I want a handicapped parking spot sticker. I don't want one out of selfishness, laziness or because I think I am special. I want one because of the pain. Incredible, breathtaking pain. I mean it. When it hurts so bad it is hard to breathe. When I walk my dogs because, well, they need it, after about 100 meters I stop and sit down for a minute or two, and I am breathing a little hard. It is not so much being out of shape but because my knees hurt so bad I feel I cannot get a breath in and the tears in my eyes are from not screaming because of the pain. I sometimes wonder if people can hear me swear on the occasions when the pain warrants it when I am at home. Anyone listening outside my house might think that there is a violent person inside. If not for the pain then I am yelling at my dogs for making a mess. That may seem a minor thing to most people but for me bending over to clean up whatever puts pressure on the knees and then I get lightning strikes of pain running through them.
When I reach my destination I sit down because the knees are shaking in pain. My students have witnessed the twitches on my face when my knees have jolts of pain run through them when I stand to teach, or sometimes spasms of pain even when I am sitting down. But a stranger would judge me differently. They would see me shake out my legs when I get out of the car and then walk seamlessly to the door, not knowing if in a few more meters the knees are going to fail me, throw off my balance and just hand me the most excruciating pain I have had in years. If I could park near the door I would have less distance to walk and manage to move before the knees reach higher echelons of pain. But since I still walk mostly normal and keep my screams to myself, everyone will think I do not have that privilege legitimately. But I know better, so when someone gets out of a car with the sticker, I know that they may start out fine but not return to the car in good shape so I don't give them a hard time. And that is also why I get angry at people who park in handicapped spaces without need and the handicapped sticker, because it is not just inconvenience but you could be causing someone a great deal of pain. And that is cruel.