It happened to me. I was minding my own business…. well, maybe that’s why it happened… I wasn’t minding my own business… I was distracted. That’s as good a reason as I can come up with. There are other possible explanations but I don’t like them so we’ll go with distracted.
Ron and I took a trip to our friendly Meijers store for some basic necessities. We shop there because it’s close not because I like the store. It’s big and you have to walk a mile just to get a dozen eggs which they purposefully place at the farthest, back corner of the store so you will have to walk past every product they are selling in hopes you will put some of them in your cart. I don’t like being “handled”. I resent being manipulated and marketed. So I’ll admit I was not in a pleasant frame of mind when I entered the store.
We made a serious tactical error. It was March 1st. Never go grocery shopping on the first of the month. That’s when the pension checks go out and the store is filled with seniors. I like seniors. Ron just turned 60 so he is a senior. It’s just that when you get a few hundred of them armed with shopping carts and motorized wheelchairs loose in the same store it can be challenging. What should have taken 10 minutes turned into an hour. Every aisle was filled with folks moving very slowly and with an inability to share the “road” with others. Blindly oblivious to the presence of others, they read the labels and looked for items on the shelf with their cart firmly parked across the aisle. It’s hard to block an aisle in Meijers. You have to work at it to obstruct their purposefully wide aisles. But it can be done.
We finally made our way to the checkout feeling victorious that we had gotten what we came for and managed not to lose our patience or our nerve. The lanes were quite full of shoppers so we picked what seemed to be the shortest line and parked our cart with its few items and waiting our turn….patiently. We had 14 items. In hindsight I should have thrown two items overboard so we could get in the self-scan lane. Instead we waited. And waited.
The senior lady ahead of us had multiple coupons which she needed to sort out as the clerk scanned the items. She had special bags that she wanted the items placed in; green cloth for produce, blue cloth for frozen foods. I’ve never seen a more particular shopper. She clearly had a well-planned system in place. It was impressive. It was exacting. It was annoying.
Then Ron and I made eye contact and it became clear that we had both noticed something not quite right about our clerk. He was…. slow. At first I thought it was “I don’t care, I’m here till closing so what’s the hurry” kind of slow. But that was not it. I gave a puzzled look to Ron and He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. I mouthed the words “SLOW” and he nodded an emphatic, “YES”. Another senior lady got in line behind us. I turned to her and warned her that the line was moving very slow and she might want to pick another. She didn’t seem bothered by that and stood her ground.
The clerk moved each item over the scanner in a motion that looked like something espn’s slow-motion replay. His face expressionless. His hands steady and smooth unaware of the crowd around him and unconcerned with time. He methodically scanned each item and then in an even slower movement placed the item in the appropriate colored bag. Ron and I spent 20 minutes in the checkout watching the clerk do his thing. We came to the conclusion that his slowness was not due to attitude. It was a “medicated” slow. He was clearly taking something that slowed his responses significantly. Let’s just say you wouldn’t want him working the drive thru of any fastfood joint.
We finally made our way out of the store one hour after we entered with our 14 items bought and bagged. Ron and I talked about the regrettable experience and how we would never again make the mistake of going into a grocery store on the first of the month. We crossed the driveway carefully. The parking lot was particularly busy and the drivers just a tad confused and…. slow. That is when it happened.
We got about half-way down the parking lot and suddenly it dawned on us; we had no idea where we had parked. It was near a cart corral. Yeah, Ron always parks near the cart corral. Do you know how many cart corrals are in a Meijers parking lot? We wandered aimlessly for several minutes looking desperately for our vehicle. We stood in the space where we were both certain the car had been parked and thought perhaps it had been stolen. Ron drives a very old, quite beaten-up Buick with duct tape holding the back fender in place. Nobody is gonna steal that car. We were not the victims of crime. We were simply having what can only be described as a “senior moment”.
Lost in the parking lot. Two seemingly able and intelligent adults in need of a clue. Not enough memory between us to find our way back to where we started. We split up and started walking the aisles in search of a beat-up Buick. 10 minutes later I found the car resting 3 spots down from the cart corral two rows from where we thought it should have been. I hollered for Ron which made both of us look and feel foolish. It’s one thing to be lost and clueless. It’s quite another thing to announce it to the rest of the shoppers. A senior lady walked by with her cart as I waited for Ron to catch up and she smiled, nodded her head in a knowing fashion and said to me, “I just hate it when that happens.” She knew. She’d been there before; lost and clueless in the parking lot.
There you have it. Ron and I have just shared our first “senior moment”. It was humiliating. It was humbling, especially since I am NOT a senior adult. I’m blaming on my medication.
It also occurred to me that it was really a good thing that Ron and I did not get impatient or at least allow our impatience to give us an excuse to be rude. Yes, EVERYONE, from customer to clerk was slow and a bit, (dare I say it?) impaired. But apparently, on that day, Ron and I were among our peers – our equals. We were…. them. Maybe we all are quite capable of being just as annoying as the people we find so annoying. Maybe we are all in need of some kindness and patience as we go through our day. Maybe I’m just looking for an excuse to explain away my senior moment.
We made it home in one piece with needed groceries in hand. It took us a little longer than expected but I felt some sense of victory that I had not allowed frustration to get the best of me. I seemed amazingly mellow considering the hour-long patience testing I had just endured. Maybe it’s the benefit of maturity. Maybe it’s the evidence of grace and human-kindness flowing through me. Maybe it’s my medication.
Whatever the cause; whatever the challenge; let’s all try to get through the day with an awareness of the fact that we all have some tough days with challenges that can push even the sanest person to the edge of madness. Let’s all try and be a little less impatient and a little more gracious to the “impaired” folks all around us. It’s the decent thing to do. It’s the practical response to the annoyances of others. It’s the smart thing to do because tomorrow it could be you wandering aimlessly in need of a clue… and a car.
Be kind. Be patient. Be aware. We all hurt. We all struggle. We all need a little help along the way.
I told Ron to put one of those Disney antenna balls on his car so we could find it the next time. He’s resistant. I’ve been doing that for years on my car. So I’m blaming the senior moment entirely on him. He’s the one who just turned 60. I was just going along for the ride. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.