The Golden Ticket – A Blue Badge
I resisted it for a long time but in the end, I had to admit the need for a blue badge. My name is Andy and I’m disabled. That was a hard one to accept but the blue badge (the UK’s disabled parking permit) was that state of affairs rubber-stamped. Rather than the fact that I’m a blue badge holder, I prefer to think of the episode of the comedy The IT Crowd where Roy, an able-bodied man, uses the disabled toilet before pulling the emergency cord, thinking it’s the flush, then has to pretend he’s had his wheelchair stolen. ‘I’m disabled!’ he squeaks to the concerned staff, who wonder how he’s had his wheelchair stolen while he’s in a locked toilet. (Click here to see the scene.)
‘I’m disabled!’ said in the same silly high-pitched voice as Roy is exactly what came out of my mouth when I got that piece of plastic through the post. I guess I was deflecting some of the pain I felt at having it confirmed in such an incontrovertible fashion by summoning up what in my opinion is one of the funniest sitcom episodes ever.
Also softening the blow was the picture on my shiny new blue badge. I found an old passport photo in the back of a drawer from my wannabe rock star days. I stared at this youthful face framed by long hair (a stranger once told me I looked like Kurt Cobain – surely one of my proudest days) and couldn’t help viewing my carefree pre-MS expression with something akin to dismay. I realise there was no way of knowing what was on its way, but why did I have to waste so much of my youthful, healthy years on hangovers and bad fashion choices. If only I’d known, I’d have tried to be awake for longer, made the most of every minute and not belly-ached about so much small, inconsequential crap.
And yes, I know you’re supposed to use a recent image, but it wasn’t that long ago and still looked like me and how often do you like a passport photo of yourself? And I have to confess to a tiny thrill at the thought of a ticket inspector examining the badge and thinking, ‘Hey, this disabled guy looks cool.’ Me? Shallow? How very dare you.
Anyway, that was my first disabled badge. I’m onto my second now and for this one, I did use a recent photo that displayed every line from my fifty-two years. It amuses me to imagine it’s the same person who administered my application this time around. She would, of course, remember me from the first ‘Kurt Cobain didn’t really kill himself he’s alive and well and living in Yorkshire England, my he’s still hot’ application and she would think, ‘Jeez, the last three years haven’t been kind.’ Perhaps you shouldn’t have put me through the stress of a physical examination to check I was still deserving of a blue badge like my MS is going to get better.
They of course agreed I was disabled – the evidence was pretty clear – and I still get to park in prime spots in the town centre in most places across the country and without even paying for the privilege [legal edit: if it’s council-run and the council has a reciprocal policy for people out of the area, which most do]. Well there have to be some benefits, right? When I went away to York recently, a city where parking is generally an expensive nightmare, I was able to leave the car on the street immediately outside the hotel all weekend and it didn’t cost me a penny. I also get to park right outside the ground when I go to watch my team play and even if it’s another loss, well at least it’s not cost me the £6 that all the healthy people have had to pay for this prime parking spot.
That’s the type of thing that makes me happy to utter those two words that I resisted saying for so long and to utter them in a high, loud and silly voice:
Hi, I’m Andy and I’ve had RRMS for most of this century, though it’s probably Secondary by now. It certainly feels like it. It took a while till my diagnosis in 2006, then in the following three years I had to face up to two other serious health issues, the last of which was life threatening.
But I’m still here. How is all covered in my entertaining and funny memoir, Balls to MS: 20 Years of Discovering Your Body Hates You, which is available in both paperback and as an e-book on Amazon. You can also follow my story on my blog, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I live in Yorkshire, England and love writing, history, comedy, music and football. I’m also fond of saying, ‘Balls to MS.’
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