DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, I was diagnosed with a severe allergy to cold. I cannot touch, eat, breathe or be exposed to cold temperatures without serious risk to my life in the form of anaphylactic shock. Over the course of the last two years, I have learned how to manage this allergy and avoid most triggers, with the exception of the elements during winter months. I applied for and was issued a handicapped permit by the state that allows me to park as close as possible to buildings so I am exposed for the shortest time possible.
With the exception of this severe allergy, I am a young, healthy, 25-year-old female. I have no physical disability. When I park in a handicapped space and get out of my car, I get accusing looks, glares, comments muttered under people's breaths, and one man even shook his head at me -- like, "How dare you?"
I never know how to respond. It makes me feel embarrassed, angry and guilty. I avoid parking in handicapped spaces unless it is absolutely unavoidable due to extreme wind, cold, snow, ice, etc.
Can you advise me how to handle these situations? And please remind people that just because a person doesn't have an obvious physical deformity it doesn't mean he or she isn't eligible for handicapped parking. -- SCAPEGOATED IN SYRACUSE, N.Y.
DEAR SCAPEGOATED: Many people suffer from hidden disabilities that are not obvious to the casual observer. My advice is to ignore the people who give you dirty looks and go on with your business.
If, however, you are challenged about parking in a handicapped zone, inform the person that you have a permit to do so which is on file with the Department of Motor Vehicles -- and if that person wants to check, he or she should write down your license number and question the authorities. You are under no obligation to discuss your disability with a stranger, and I'd advise against it.