Wednesday, September 7, 2011

On Becoming a Public Nuisance

Every human being reaches a zenith, a pinnacle in life, a maturity, when you know just about everything you need to live a graceful, successful life. You must feel good about yourself when you reach this high point of human existence. You are confident, wise. You have tested your ambitions and either exceeded them or settled for the cube farm, but at this point it no longer matters. You are too tired to entertain regrets. Your hair is turning a distinguished silver and young people with good manners call you "M'am". You are no longer afraid to defend yourself against nitwits or argue with incompetence. Yes, life is good for the mature adult.

This magnificent peak is a fleeting attainment. The air is too rarified to live there long. I recently slipped a far distance on the other side of this summit the last time I was in the grocery store - Sunday afternoon, to be exact.

For the most part, I am patient and friendly to all people with whom I must do business. They work hard for not much money and deserve to be treated well. In return, I normally get great service. Sometimes I have the good fortune to trade wits with a bright young man. It surprises them an old lady knows what is funny.

As with everything in life, nothing good lasts for long.

I was emptying my cart of groceries onto the conveyor at my favorite grocery store, feeling okay, feeling good. I admit, I may have been taking the good life for granted. A small glass jar of spaghetti sauce slipped out of my hand and exploded on the floor. It made the unmistakable sound of elderly embarrassment that silenced everyone and everything for a moment. I hurriedly asked if the little girl behind me in line was okay, but her mother was already pulling her away from the incompetent old woman into another queue. You would have thought my Depends had leaked.

The sacker, not a boy, but a grumpy old man, older than me, never said a word. He silently went to get the clean up utensils. The checker had already made a face behind my back but continued to be courteous to my face. She had to sack all of my groceries while Mr. Sunshine slowly swept up the glass and sauce. I had to go to the front of the store to get another cart myself in order load the bags and take my own groceries out to the car. I normally do that anyway - rebelling against being considered an old woman - but it would have been nice if someone had been willing to help at that point. But no, I had just created a disturbance. I endangered a child. I made a mess at the front of the store. I took an entire check line out of commission. I made extra work for the oldest grocery sacker in the state of Kansas. And Miss Thing had to sack groceries.

When I left the store, I imagined everyone breathing a sigh of relief and giving one another The Look: "I suppose she is still driving, too!"


Anonymous said...

There are certain rights and privileges inferred for those who carry (or are qualified for) an AARP card. One of which, is being an old lady (or man) and drop things; sauce jars, hints, pronouns (get my drift?).

We get to walk slowly, drive slowly if desired. I myself am looking forward to 62, when we can legally drive with a the turn signal on all the time.

If all else fails, blame the grumpy geezer for setting the atmosphere for the whole line and chalk it up to his karma.

Jackie said...

I have thrown away every AARP piece of mail I have ever received - they started sending their propaganda to me in my 40's and I took great offense. But if that card entitles me to drive with my turn signal on all the time, which I already do, I'm getting one!

Anonymous said...

The money that little card saved me on auto insurance alone more than pays for the minimal dues. All the other discounts are just icing. (Besides, if I get 3 more people to sign up, I win a personalized denture cup)

Li'l Ned said...

Another great advantage of being old is deciding to stop giving exact change at the grocery store, in order not to look like an old lady getting out exact change. After standing next to my MIL in line many a time, waiting (along with the checker, the bagger and every other person in line) while she peered at the total on the computer screen a couple of times, thought about it for a while, then eventually reached down for her all-in-one-purse-wallet, unzipped it, rifled through it with huge, arthritis-clumsy fingers, extracted the bills, then fumbled for 10 minutes in the coin pocket for EXACT CHANGE, checking it again before handing it over, then taking the proffered receipt, filing it carefully in the wallet, zipping it all up, looking around again, finding her groceries............I decided that would not be my fate.

I now carry lots of bills and just hand 'em over. I stash the change in my pocket and when I get home I throw most of it in a quart jar under the entry table. At some point I take out the pennies and put them in my piano student incentives jar, so that the quart jar only has silver. Once a year we harvest the jar and it pays for a trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Where the old ladies have prepaid tickets, and are heard discussing philosophical questions proffered by a 500 year old playwright at nearby restaurant tables, and not counting out exact change.

Meanwhile, my job as Wife of Equally Old Male is to make sure he never tries to wear bermuda shorts, a tucked-in shirt of any kind, 'that' kind of hat (where do they come from?!) or sandals with socks. Getting old is no picnic, and the things you end up having to watch out for are not what you expected as a young pup.