There are things you can tell about someone as they exit their car in a crowded parking lot: What they’re wearing, whether they’re a blonde or a brunette, even — if you are close enough — what color their eyes might be. But there are also things you can’t tell. Whether the person is disabled, for instance, or whether they served in the armed forces. That’s why shaming people for parking where one feels “they don’t belong,” is a losing and incredibly stupid game to play. It’s not just wrong, it’s judgmental and petty. And that “helpful note” on their windshield? It’s more a pat on the back for the person writing it and it can have some painful ramifications for the recipient.
Which leads us to this story. After Rebecca Landis Hayes, a North Carolina woman who served for eight years in the Navy, received a note on her car asking her to “have some respect, lady,” she dropped an important reminder that judging people based on their appearance and gender isn’t doing anyone any favors. And it’s doing an even bigger disservice when the person you’re policing (for literally no reason) actually has done the things you’re assuming she hasn’t.
Here’s the picture of the note Hayes received:
And here’s her impassioned response:
To the person who left this note on my windshield today at the Coddle Creek Harris Teeter in Concord, NC:
I know I parked in one of the Veteran Parking spaces today, it was hot. I had been in and out of my car several times already this afternoon, and I was only going to be a minute. Besides, the parking lot was full, so I just did it. It was the first time, and I won’t do it again. I’m sorry…
I’m sorry that you can’t see my eight years of service in the United Sates Navy. I’m sorry that your narrow misogynistic world view can’t conceive of the fact that there are female Veterans. I’m sorry that I have to explain myself to people like you. Mostly, I’m sorry that we didn’t get a chance to have this conversation face to face, and that you didn’t have the integrity and intestinal fortitude to identify yourself, qualities the military emphasizes.
Which leads to one question, I served, did you?
The note has now been shared thousands of times and has received a great deal of support from Hayes’ community, including other veterans who always feel uncomfortable parking in designated spaces due to the difficult conversations (or notes left) they hope not to have.
“I get nervous about this too. If I park there I’m always like “do I have my retired ID card,” another female vet wrote in response to the note.
It’s an important indicator of just how at least one segment of the population still feels about female soldiers. Here’s hoping that Hayes’ note won’t just reach the person who scolded her, but others who might need to reassess their assumptions.