Monday, January 25, 2010

Old People Go Shopping

I turned 65 on January 6.

I know. It’s taken me this long to face up to it.

I went grocery shopping at our local Shop Rite recently, not on my usual day, and found the store awash with other old people. I started to cheer up since most of them seemed to be older and further gone than I. Maybe it was shopping day at the managed care facility.

I stood there and watched them drift aimlessly about the aisles like those colorful fish on the early screen savers clearly having forgotten what they were looking for or why they were there. It takes a little doing to navigate the store around old people. They park there carts in the middle of the aisle and wander off; they walk out from aisles into the main corridors without so much as a glance; they check every potato.

The PA system fairly crackles with updates on their doings: “Someone has left a pair of glasses in aisle six”; “clean-up in the dairy aisle.”

I pull into a check out lane with just one very elderly couple ahead of me. The clerk on duty is a pro and clearly passed the Old Person Management course. “Dear, are you sure you want seven loaves of pound cake,” she asks the old woman.

Just then an announcement comes over the PA: “Someone has taken the wrong cart. If you have a chocolate cake, and didn’t intend to buy a chocolate cake, you have the wrong cart.” I look down the row of shoppers waiting behind me and all are checking for the incriminating chocolate cake. I don’t look in my cart. I have decided to face it out even if I am the offending cake purloiner: “Yes, I meant to buy the chocolate cake. And yes, I MEANT to buy 5 bottles of stool softener.”

The clerk finishes up the pair ahead of me and in one fluid motion snatches the credit card from the old gent’s hand, spins the input screen around to face her, swipes his card, and hands it back to him. A real pro.

As she starts checking me out, she notices a bag left by the aged duo and hollers toward them as they lumber through the doors. There is no response. I snatch the bag and with a relative burst of speed race toward the glacially moving couple and deposit the bag in their cart. They don’t seem to notice and continue on their way. When I return to the check out the clerk says: “You’re probably the only person in the store right now who could have made that move.” I am feeling younger by the minute. I compliment her on her deft credit card snatch and swipe. “NEVER let them swipe their own cards,” she replies.

I pass the last check out station as I leave. Suddenly, bells start sounding and a light over the station starts blinking frantically. An old chap stands there with his credit card in his hand and with a stunned expression on his face. “Now what do I do?,” he asks. A rookie clerk, I assume.


Mary Lois said...

Evocative imagery. Poignant, funny, yet scary at the same time. B+ and that's because there's a misspelled word which I'll leave it up to you to find. I'll give you extra credit, assuming it's a typo.

Anonymous said...

Mary Lois is a very severe grader. I found the error on the second read-through. But I was reading through to laugh again not to spot the error. I think you deserve an A. Howard

Jerry Andersen said...

I can't find the error. Where is Murray Aboff when you need him!!

sisterhelen said...

Of oourse he can't find the error. What that young man needs is a sharp rap across the knuckles. If I had left him back in third grade the world would be a better place.

Mary Lois said...

All the knuckle-raps of years past were to no avail, Sister. Time to give up.

Steve said...

There Their! So many things I could add... I remember mom swiping her card for the family ahead of us in line with the $200.00's worth of food and we were picking up 5 items. She did not like to wait in lines. Can not say I blamed her. I Think she knew, even then, time was running out.

Mary Lois said...

No fair helping, Steve! I re-read and thought maybe the nun had come in and changed it herself.

Mary Lois said...
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