“F___!” Frustrated, angry, incensed, I voiced my barely controlled rage with an epithet I have never used in my college classes. The word, so easily tossed out by the younger generation, had the intended effect–shocked silence. I quickly apologized for the language and explained my anger. Arriving on campus with a ton of research papers (about 25 pages each for 50 students or so), I had discovered that the handicapped parking area close to the back door had been blocked. More like blockaded. Barricades and traffic cones surrounded the tiny area reserved for those with physical disabilities, preventing parking by us peons. The handicapped spaces at the front door were fenced off as well.
Still wearing a brace on the leg broken in a freak car accident, still requiring a cane to move from place to place, I was in a precarious position. Even without the weight of student papers, I could not walk the 1000s of yards–seeming miles–between the building and the ‘open’ lot. Having been a ‘good’ girl most of my life, and raised to respect authority and obey laws, signs, rules, and regulations, I should have suffered in silence as I had for centuries. Not this day!
It was a grey day, a blanket of mist dripping on me as slowly as the Chinese water torture. So, I moved one of the barricades and parked in my usual spot. I had no idea why those barricades had appeared overnight, but I had my suspicions. Anxious about repercussions from this revolutionary act, but knowing in my gut that I was right to take such an aggressive counter-move, I fought back tears and assumed the mask of the stoic professor (able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!).
A special guest was to speak in the student Commons that day, and the college president expected that we would welcome said guest with polite decorum. I had nothing against the person visiting our campus that day, but I was astounded at the arrogance of government agents who had blocked access to our classroom building. I expressed my concern to administrative officers that this was unfair and in fact illegal, as it prevented disabled students from attending classes for which they had paid large sums of money.
Not only were my concerns dismissed with sarcastic insults but I was given the distinct impression that we ‘peasants’ had best be grateful we were even allowed on campus that day. Yes, I am, I thought, so grateful to be ‘allowed’ to visit the college that employs me. One faculty member suggested that I was over-reacting because the speaker was a very important person and ‘it was raining’ (no, it was merely heavy mist). My reply: It’s raining on the disabled every day!
No longer angry for myself, I wanted justice for the students and faculty who would be unable to attend classes because of these d____d barricades. How dare they?
As I explained the issue to my business communications students, we discussed the legal and ethical ramifications of this bureaucratic decision that deliberately impeded the rights of the disabled. We had a lively discussion on both sides as they began to realize how seriously one ‘minor’ decision made on the spur of the moment could have lasting and devastating effects. One student, a reporter for the student paper, wanted to go to the speech and ask why this had happened. And that’s how my class went to hear a speech of no particular interest to them, to support one brave soul.
A small crowd of well-wishers, reporters, and men in suits with tell-tale bulges in their jackets gave Laura Bush a standing ovation. She is a beautiful woman, intelligent and well-spoken and her mission was to discuss her husband’s expressed goal of making America a ‘kinder, gentler nation.’ It was a good speech, despite my urge to jump up and scream hypocrisy. I kept my cool because the lady deserved respect.
My student and I stood to ask THE question and we were immediately surrounded by members of the Secret Service. I didn’t know if we were to be frisked, shot, or both. One guy asked, “What’s the problem, little lady?” I glared at him with my laser looks but held back because he had addressed my brave if trembling student. She explained again and they spoke to her and me as if we were Scarlett O’Hara (oh, fiddle-de-dee) and that we shouldn’t bother our silly little heads with such ideas.
Watching the Bangor evening news, wondering how this episode would be played out on screen, I watched the story unfold as it had happened, frame by frame, until the fateful question was to be asked. I saw the crowd stand to ask questions as others stood in rapt attention.
And then I disappeared.
© Copyright 2015 Linda L Labin, PhD