The gym is a fascinating place in so many ways. It is where the entire focus is on bodies and making them better. I start out on the recumbent bike first working on extension and then on flexion. The bikes are in a giant room filled with cardio equipment and weight training machines. Every age group and ethnic group is represented. Certainly every body type is represented - young, old, fat, thin, toned, lumpy. Some people are intense - focused on their workout and pumping out a gallon of sweat. Others come with a book to prop up in front of them while they walk or bike at a more leisurely pace. All, though, are there to improve their bodies - make them stronger, healthier, more flexible.
After half an hour on the bike I head to the pool where I swim 15 to 20 laps (I'm working my way back up to my previous 40) and then I sit in the hot tub. I love sitting in a hot tub outdoors in the middle of winter. I don't like the hot tub at the gym - it's indoors and, therefore, too hot to stay in very long without getting a little nauseated and light-headed. But I stay in for the jets.
The jets in this hot tub are powerful. I sit and allow them to pummel the i t band on my left leg. I had a total knee replacement in November of 2017 (thus the bike work on extension and flexion.) While my recovery has been spectacularly easy and incredibly successful I still have a little muscle stiffness and soreness that I am working through. The jets are miraculous! Pummeling may be painful but the results are definitely worth it.
The pool area at my gym has giant windows that are directly next to the entrance and front desk. It also has a giant bank of windows that look out on the parking lot. Directly in front of those windows is a row of handicap parking spaces. From my vantage point in the hot tub I can observe everyone who comes in and goes out and everyone that uses these spaces. It is...confusing. These spaces are always filled - ALWAYS. I have yet to see one open for more than a few minutes at a time. And so far, in my observation, not a single person parking in those slots has been in any way 'handicapped.'
Most of the people I've seen park in these spots are younger than I. All of them are completely mobile and show no evidence of physical incapacity. There was the 20-something woman who hopped out of an enormous SUV. She stopped at the curb, leaned over and tied her shoe, and then jogged over to the entrance. Literally - jogged. There was a very large man, very buff, who was clearly into body-building. He sauntered out of the gym with a massive duffel bag slung over his shoulder and climbed into a pickup truck sitting in one of the spots. Just this morning as I was leaving I watched an elderly couple - in their 70s at least - slowly making their way across the parking lot to their car while at the same time a young man hurried down the sidewalk to climb into a car in a handicap spot.
I don't get it. Isn't the point of going to the gym to get exercise? Why park next to the building in a spot reserved for those with real mobility issues as opposed to parking another 20 feet away in the lot? Wouldn't it enhance your workout if you could include the steps you'd make to and from your car by parking a little farther away?
Now I realize that it's possible to have a physical disability that isn't readily seen. But the implication for these spots truly is about mobility. It's why there's a picture of a wheelchair on the sign. Mobility issues are observable. After my knee surgery I had a temporary handicap parking permit. Actually, I still have it - it doesn't expire until the end of June. You are given one after a knee surgery because they don't want you falling on the ice. Also, some people aren't as lucky as I was and their recovery takes a little longer and the walking can be quite painful.
I used my parking permit exactly 3 times - all within the first 2 weeks post-surgery and all because of icy parking lots which did necessitate a bit of hobbling. Otherwise I chose to avoid those spots and leave them open for someone who truly needed them. Not that I wasn't tempted - those times when you're in a hurry and there are 2 or 3 open slots it's easy to think "what's the harm" and pull right in. But having had a mobility issue, having had to walk great distances in pain and with a crutch, I see my newly regained mobility as incredible good fortune. I've been hobbling and limping for years - now that I can walk again without pain I want to do as much of it as I can - even in parking lots.