Today I picked up my first disability placard from the BMV. Like starting physical therapy a month ago, doing so required acts of both will and resignation I had not anticipated.
As with so much involving state bureaucracy, acquiring the disability permit was far from direct. Standing in line at the BMV yesterday, my recently-filled prescription and paperwork in hand, I found myself surprised by an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss. My mounting grief was quickly tamped down by refocusing my attention on my surroundings. “There is no crying at the BMV,” I imagined the bearded manager, who seemed to be eyeing me with growing suspicion, barking over the counter.
It is true. There is no crying at the BMV, but I came close once again when I made it to the counter only to discover that my doctor had made a small but crucial error in writing the prescription. So it was back to the doctor’s office, and back again to the BMV the next day. But in the end, it was done. I was officially a “D.”
On campus there are categories of parking permits: “A” for faculty; “B” for staff; “C” for students… and “D.” It is hard not to feel demoted, even as I now have access to spots I once coveted hungrily while dragging my bags of books from the garage to the office. But with the elevator out at my garage for the foreseeable future, it was a necessity I could no longer avoid. And like the physical therapy I long resisted—because I didn’t want to be like “those people who need physical therapy”—I suspect I will learn to embrace my new tag even as it represents at the moment everything I most fear embracing about my new life.
Jared Gardner is a professor and patient at the Ohio State University.