After taking her severely disabled son to Disney World for the day, a mother found a bright yellow note stuck to her windshield. When she read it, she immediately broke down.
Tricia Proefrock enjoys taking her 13-year-old son, Mason, to Disney World not only for the entertainment but also because the company accommodates guests with an array of disabilities. Since her son lives with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, which hinders his ability to walk, speak, and see, the park’s handicap accessibility gives the pair ease and a sense of normalcy.
While Proefrock typically parks her wheelchair-accessible van in one of the park’s disability lots, all the spots were taken. As such, she was told by employees to take up two regular parking spots so she’d have enough room for her son’s ramp, she told WOFL.
“When the side of the lot with ramp accesses are full, the only remaining spots have no ramp access,” she explained. “Every single time out of dozens of trips, the cast members instruct me to take two spots, by parking directly on the white line. This gives me room to wheel my son out of the vehicle.”
Although doing so leaves Proefrock feeling like she will be “judged,” she pulled up onto the line and entered the park for the day. When she came back to her car, however, she noticed a bright yellow note that some “kind soul” left on her windshield.
The note was a fake parking violation. However, instead of simply pointing out that the recipient had done a poor job of positioning their vehicle, the ticket proceeded to relentlessly degrade Proefrock, accusing her of being “inconsiderate” and “egotistical.”
“This is not a ticket, but if it were within my power, you would receive two” the violation read. “Because of your Bull Headed, inconsiderate, feeble attempt at parking, you have taken enough room for a 20 mule team, 2 elephants, 1 goat and a safari of pygmies from the African interior. The reason for giving you this is so that in the future you may think of someone else, other than yourself. Besides I don’t like domineering, egotistical or simple minded drivers and you probably fit into one of these categories.”
As Proefrock read through the list of insults, her heart sank. The judgment she feared had led to an act of humiliation from a complete stranger.
The note concludes by saying, “I sign off wishing you an early transmission failure (on the expressway at about 4:30 p.m.). Also may the Fleas of a thousand camels infest your armpits. WITH MY COMPLIMENTS.”
Proefrock tries to stay strong for her son, but she admits that it gets difficult when others display a lack of empathy. She explained that she felt “humiliation” and “shame” while reading the note.
“I was angry because I felt like the situation of taking two spots naturally sets us up to be judged,” she told Insider. She added that she always checked “for open ramp spots and end spots, before taking two spots.”
Proefrock notified park employees about the incident but knows there’s nothing they can do. She says they apologized but maintain that taking up two parking spots is the only other option for guests with special needs when the disability area fills up.
Proefrock hopes that bringing attention to the incident will help others to think before reacting to something they believe to be malicious. Sometimes, the perceived bad parking job is actually intended for a handicapped person to maneuver their equipment in and out of the vehicle.
“So, if you see a car taking two spots, maybe instead of wishing us a broken transmission, you can try to think about WHY a wheelchair accessible van in a medical parking section might need 2 spots.”
What should’ve been a small escape from the normal struggles of caring for a child with disabilities was marred by a stranger’s wrong presumption. Sadly, it only reinforced the shame that Proefrock felt over something she couldn’t even control.
The world could stand a little more grace and humility. The next time we feel the urge to lash out at a stranger for a perceived mistake, we should extend a little mercy lest we find ourselves on the receiving end of someone’s wrath for our own error.