In the movie Pay It Forward (25'37" in), there's this exchange.

A: They ought to fire your ass out of here right now!
B: Well, you know, they probably won't do that, because I fill a very excellent quota. I'm just this side of parking in the blue zone.
A: Oh, so you think you can do whatever you want just 'cause your face is messed up?

I'm getting a sense that it's a reference B's facial disfiguration somehow being classifiable as a handicap. (It's very slight, unnoticeable and hardly a cause for such, though.) However, assuming that it's what B refers to in their reply, I still can't figure out the part of this side of parking in the blue zone.

In some places, the signs for handicapped, elderly etc. are blue but so are many others so I'm not sure if it's even right idea. And being a side of parking in a zone (be that handicapped of any other kind) makes no sense to me.

So, while understanding the context and intended message, I'm not sure how to interpret the conversation in academic terms.

1 Answer 1


In some places. "blue zone" is a reference to handicapped parking, as you thought:

San Diego parking pdf

Blue zones provide accessible parking for the exclusive use of persons with disabilities who have a distinguishing license plate or placard on their vehicles.

The phrase "this side of" is defined here:
TheFreeDictionary "this side of"

  1. Just short or shy of; nearly or verging on.
    While the governor's actions are this side of criminal, voters are demanding he nevertheless resign in the wake of the scandal.

The word "just" intensifies the proximity. So, "just this side of parking in the blue zone" means "very nearly qualifying for handicapped parking".

This fits with the person's claiming "I fill a very excellent quota", since some workplaces may have internally or externally imposed quotas requiring them to hire handicapped persons, or those belonging to a minority group.

The phrase "just this side of" also has a literal, physical sense.

  • It's an excellent answer, with a FUQ, though. If, as you say (which aligns with my interpretation) the definition is that one's close to, near but not quite at a certain property, then what I'm getting from the reply is that he does not fill said quota (for equal opportunity employment, that is). He's just shy of being there, so his ass is, hence, fireable out of there (to reuse the quotation from the movie). Isn't he shooting his own defense by saying that he's (close to but) not handicapped? Dec 19, 2020 at 20:45
  • @KonradViltersten But you can be handicapped without being eligible for the parking spot (which, at least in my state, requires that the handicap impair your ability to walk.)
    – D M
    Dec 19, 2020 at 21:07
  • @DM Another excellent point. I get it now. Thanks to both of you. Dec 19, 2020 at 22:01
  • @KonradViltersten He says he does "fill a very excellent quota", being just short of the threshold for special parking. I guess he thinks that gives him enough protection to feel comfortable in the confrontation. Dec 20, 2020 at 0:11

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