Michael Moynihan: Every day needs to be a Make Way Day, no matter what time of year

A footpath obstructed, a gateway blocked, an inconvenience caused...isn't it about time we were honest about it?
Michael Moynihan: Every day needs to be a Make Way Day, no matter what time of year

Make Way Day is a campaign that brings the disability and wider community together to consider the needs of people with disabilities in the public spaces we all share. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Apologies for being late to the party on this particular one, but I think you’ll agree it’s worth revisiting.

Last week I became aware of Make Way Day 2020: A quick glance and its applicability to the urban experience is clear.

This is the mission statement as explained on social media: “We want to show how often people with disabilities, from all over the country, face obstructions caused by everyday objects left on the footpath —sandwich boards, bicycles, cars, bin bags, hedges, etc... This is about making a conscious, caring decision to make way on our streets for those who are less able.”

Very laudable, I’m sure you’ll agree. Not a word above could be dismissed by any right-thinking person. As you sit down and dunk your croissant in that lightly-sugared coffee you are probably tut-tutting at the kind of selfish oaf who’d dismiss such a message because their own particular interests have to be served before the common good is.

And yet, and yet.

Look into your heart and examine your conscience thoroughly, as Connie Lucey taught us all to do long ago

Have you ever hopped out and clocked exactly where the car is — a footpath obstructed, a gateway temporarily, but definitely, blocked, an inconvenience caused — and had a brief pang of conscience, but still hurried on?

Be honest. We just want to know. This is not a judgemental forum. We seek the truth and the truth alone. You’ve done it, haven’t you? You’ve been that parker. Confess your sin and know the peace of honesty fill your heart.

And when you do park like that, and when you do hurry on, do you quell that pang of conscience by deploying any of the following arguments, either aloud to another person, or as a justification reverberating in the inner chambers of your mind?

The appeal to emptiness or 'there’s nobody around'

“The street’s quiet, sure look at the time. There isn’t a soul around. You could park a bus here and it wouldn’t get in anyone’s way. If it were the middle of the day it’d be different; if there were people milling around I’d find somewhere else. But it’s OK to jam the car in there now because there's nobody around, is there?”

The near-school dispensation or 'my kids can’t walk that far'

“They’re only tots! Tots! You couldn’t expect them to walk 40 yards. Uphill. Not in this weather. Anyway, I’m hardly causing an obstruction at all. If you had to then you could squeeze past between the passenger-side door and the wall, just turn sideways. What’s the alternative, park down the hill and have the kids walk all the way up? That’s not a runner. You don’t seem to understand: my kids can’t walk that far.”

The light-hearted admission on the fly, or the 'I’m just going'

“Sorry, sorry — you caught me. I’ll be out of your hair in a jiff, I just had to dash in and get a couple of coffees, and I don’t know what takes the girl that long, it’s only three skinny cappuccinos and a decaf latte with a chocolate dusting. Lovely day, isn’t it? Though it’s due to change tomorrow, I believe. We’ll be in short sleeves for the weekend, please God. Anyway, I’m just going.”

The reverse confrontation, or the 'so what?'

“So what? What’s it to you? Are you some kind of traffic warden? Wouldn’t you want to be wearing some kind of uniform? That gear doesn’t suit you, I can tell you that, did you get dressed in the dark? I’ll park wherever I want, what are you going to do about it? Complain? Why don’t you ring the guards there, you don’t seem to have anything better to do with your time but go around and moan at people. I’ll leave my car where I want. So what?”

The partial colonisation or 'it’s only one wheel on the disabled spot'

“But I’m not actually on the disabled spot. Not if you look. There are bags of room for a disabled car to park here, bags of room. Unless they’re parking a Rolls-Royce there, they’ll get in at their ease. At most — at most I’m just on one corner. It’s only one wheel on the disabled spot. What do you mean, room to open their doors?”

The 'produce an actual person for me who’s inconvenienced' or 'I’ll move if I have to'

“I know, yeah. I know. I see the sign. I’m not blind, you know? But if someone comes along I’ll move it then. I’m not going anywhere, sure, I’m right here, if they need me to move it on sure they only need to ask, no problem. If there’s someone who can’t get past I’ll be able to shift then. No problem. I’ll move if I have to. Is that fair enough?”

T he 'I’m doing a job here' or 'what am I supposed to do?'

“Look love, I’m on a job here and there’s nowhere else to put the van, is there? Can you find me another place to park? If you can just let me know, and I’ll park there no problem, but I’ve work to do. Work, you know? I have to earn a living, I don’t know about you but I’m a working man. What am I supposed to do?”

The gift of invisibility or 'my hazards are on'

“What’s wrong with you? Parking where? There? What’s the problem? Sure my hazards are on, everyone can see that. There’s no issue. Visible to everybody, for God’s sake, there’s no danger involved for anybody. Seriously, some people have nothing better to worry them. My hazards are on, for God’s sake.”

The statement of fact, or 'sure, I’m there now'

“Sure, I’m there now.”

The last example was one which happened in my presence a few years ago in Cork, actually. A man pulled into a handicapped spot and when a woman challenged him — not aggressively, but by pointing out where he was parking — he simply shrugged and said: “Sure, I’m there now.”

In an odd way, I applaud this ignoramus because there’s no attempt to sugar-coat his selfishness. He did what he wanted to do and made no appeal of any kind, and there’s a certain freshness to that unvarnished honesty.

Fortunately, most people are aware that living in a civil society means something different. There are obligations and responsibilities, and we make our way through with people’s co-operation, not by ruling unilaterally that whatever suits us takes precedence.

Credit to Make Way Day 2020. And here’s to making every day a Make Way Day, no matter what time of the year it is.

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