Sadness in aisle three
We hear a lot of sad stories in the news business. Much of the time it's too big and tragic to fully comprehend. If I don't have to, sometimes I don't read beyond the headlines, because, well, a toddler drowning in a pool hits far too close to home.
But last week I heard something sad on my trip to Shoppers Drug Mart, and I haven't managed to forget it. Nor would I really want to.
I was at the pharmacy in the middle of a Thursday in search of drugs for a neck I'd injured somewhere between Repetitive Strain Street and Do-It-Yourself Avenue. (Full disclosure: I may have also purchased waterproof mascara. Hey, eventually I'll be recovered enough to attend pool parties.)
An elderly lady approached an apathetic, overly eyeliner-ed young lady and said she couldn't find glycerin soap. The sales clerk said all the soaps were in aisle three and didn't budge from her position restocking the makeup.
Later I spotted both the package of glycerin soaps at the very bottom-right of the display and the elderly woman checking out with just a newspaper. I stopped her before she left and said something like, "Excuse me, Madame. Were you able to find the soap? Because I think this might be it."
She took the package of three translucent soaps, opened the box carefully and said that these were, in fact, what she was looking for. She asked me if they had any single boxes. I looked again, and then confirmed that they did not.
The woman thanked me and gave me the box to put back on the shelf.
"Aren't you going to take it?" I asked.
"I don't know if I will live that long," she replied. "They forget about people like me."
"Oh sure, you will!" I said in a lame effort to make light of her predicted time left on this earth.
She shook her head. She didn't buy the soaps. I didn't think quickly enough to buy the $9 box, concocting a story about how it happens I use the very same kind, allowing me to give her one without injuring her pride.
After the woman left, I went looking for the rude clerk, but she must have been on a break or something. I shared the story with the young pharmacist assistant who helped me with the muscle relaxants. She seemed as saddened as I was, but given that she's just on an internship for a few more weeks, I'm not entirely confident that management at the Bloor West Village Shoppers will have heard the tale of the lady and the glycerin soap, although I wish they'd consider ordering it in singles.
What does this have to do with parenting? Not much, I suppose. But as I walked home I thought about how I'll teach my own children to respect the elderly, particularly since they have no living great-grandparents and little exposure otherwise.
I didn't come up with much more than a resolve to talk to my boys, when the time is right, about walking old ladies across the street (naturally), and about how being old and doddering doesn't make someone boring and unimportant.