The Parking Lot Attendant

From yesterday I’ve been taking my son to the YMCA for spring swimming. (My daughter wanted to go too, but they didn’t have enough teachers for her to work one on one with someone and she would drown on her own.) We parked in a lot next to the building which is manned by a guy with cerebral palsy. I first encountered him many years ago, when my husband and I parked there to go see a movie or something. Back then, when I didn’t really think too much about these things, I assumed that he was mentally incapable of doing anything else and I thought it was great that he had a job. But yesterday when I pulled into the lot, he started speaking to me in English. I was stunned because so very few able-bodied people around here can speak decent English. He was directing me into the parking space in English, which is more service than you get at most parking lots. It occurred to me that he is vastly underchallenged by his job and that his skills could be put to use somewhere else. But there was another, older guy, sitting in the booth, taking the money. His father, maybe? It all made me think of Lilia’s former teacher who, when she saw my four-year-old daughter stringing beads with concentration suggested that she might be able to do something like that for work when she grows up. Hey, I was thinking more along the lines of lawyer.

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2 thoughts on “The Parking Lot Attendant

  1. I lived in a town in Tottori for awhile that’s been trying to cultivate this ‘fukushi no machi’ kind of image through the establishment of places where the disabled do beadwork, factory work, etc. For some people it’s been a real boon, but for others it seems to have turned into one more place to park-and-forget them. It drove my husband, who has CP, a little nuts to see so many people made invisible (he’s had the same frustration in the States, though; he’s talked about some friends from elementary school who, despite being perfectly intelligent, wound up in similar kinds of rote work). Some of my town government friends there didn’t quite know what to make of my husband, who had been living in Japan for 8 or 9 years when I brought him there and has a successful IT career (he’ll be traveling for work to Bulgaria and Albania this summer – not sure how the scooter’s going to work, though).

    There’s a lot of well-meaning people in Japan, but it seems to me that, as long as there are only exceptional/inspirational people whose stories get told, people will always have low expectations of the disabled. More so than in the States (although there are certainly issues here that need to be addressed), our experience of trying to get out and do things in Japan was generally one of having to assert the right to do them. People (I’m thinking of train station guys, for the most part – accessibility at train/subways stations was an especially tricky thing) were usually good about helping, but he/we had to be pretty proactive about getting the help.

    Sorry for the long comment – your post hit a nerve with me!

  2. You can make your comments as long as you want!

    I’m thinking that with Japan’s aging population, things will change. Not only will accomodations have to be made for all the elderly who can’t climb stairs, etc., but also there will be a shortage of workers. Maybe opportunities will open up a bit.

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