Quick, Get In!

I stood in what seemed like a hurricane-force rain storm peering into sheets of water that made my limited vision even blurrier. “Yeah, that surely is the white minivan,” I thought as I gripped my umbrella even tighter, struggling to keep it from turning itself inside out and in place over me and my big backpack. “Come on, come on, what are you waiting for?” I mumbled.

The shape wasn’t changing so I knew it wasn’t moving. Was the person in the traffic kiosk giving my daughter a rough time? Or wasn’t it actually the vehicle I was waiting for? It certainly wasn’t the kind of day for a friendly chat so what was taking so long?

After what seemed like hours, the white minivan moved toward me, then quickly turned the corner, and stopped. I opened the side door to toss in the dripping umbrella and heard my daughter’s panicked voice yelling, “Quick, Mom, GET IN!”

“Okay, okay, I’m moving as fast as I can. I wasn’t sure it was you.”

“Oh, it’s me alright,” my daughter huffed.

Almost before I got all of me, my white cane, and my big backpack into the van, we were moving. I grabbed the door handle, slammed it, and quickly clipped the seat belt as I said, “What’s going on? What’s the big hurry?”

“I wanna get this vehicle outta here before the campus cops show up.”

“Okay, but you do know that the license plate has an easily remembered word on it so it can be traced even if we do make a quick getaway. And why, exactly, are we needing to make a quick getaway in the first place?” I continued hesitantly.

“Oh, that imbecile in the traffic kiosk didn’t want to let me through. It must have been a new person and she kept telling me I couldn’t drive in here. I had to turn around.”

“Well, that’s silly, there’s no place to turn around unless you come to this alley,” I said, “because this van can’t flip a U-ee in that narrow street.”

“I know, I kept telling her that. I also told her at least three times that I was going to pick up my legally-blind mother who was standing right there on the corner where I needed to go to turn around.”

“But first,” my daughter continued with rising indignation. “She asked me if you were a student and when I said yes, she kept repeating that no student pickups were allowed before 5 p.m.!”

“Did anyone ever tell you that before?” I asked, surprised.

We were about halfway through the first semester at Penn State and whenever I played the legally-blind card and mentioned that I was registered with the Office for Disability Services (ODS), I had gotten immediate results. I did not want to overplay it, but that day it was windy and pouring down rain, I knew I could not control an umbrella in those conditions if I had to walk two blocks to our usual prearranged pickup corner. I did not know about the no-pickup policy, and there were no signs prohibiting traffic on Pollock RD so I had arranged to have my daughter pick me up as close to the building as possible.

“She must be even more literal-minded than we are and a by-the-book kind of person,” I said.

“I told her to check with the ODS but she just kept repeating the same thing. I don’t know if it was her first day on the job or what but I finally closed my window and drove away. Now I’m guessing you’ll have a traffic fine to hassle you but I didn’t know what else to do.”

“Well, that’s okay, I thought about walking to meet you because I was pretty sure it was you but I figured you had to come my way anyway and I didn’t know how many puddles were on that stretch of sidewalk.”

Paying a traffic fine was the least of my worries. The people at the ODS had been so very, very accommodating, they would straighten out this incident. Over and over again, the folks at ODS had told me to ask for whatever I needed and to come to them anytime someone on campus seemed discriminating. I didn’t know whether the person in the traffic kiosk saw her actions as discriminating, but I intended to take the ODS folks at their word and involve them if this incident resulted in a fine.

Later that day, my daughter and I scrutinized the campus map again to see if there was a way to get closer to the Willard Building without driving on Pollock RD. There was. So, for the next four years, my daughter refused to pass that particular traffic kiosk between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In case you’re wondering, the campus police department never fined the white minivan with the specialty plates that reflected the name of my former business—BRAIDS.


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