I was standing in line at a store when an elderly woman in front of me was trying to locate her receipt in order to return a pair of pyjamas.
“I thought for sure I’d put it in here but I must have forgotten,” she said while searching through her purse…frantically flipping through various papers in her wallet and spilling the contents onto the counter.
“Do you forget often,” the cashier snarkily asked with a smile…possibly thinking she was trying to get to the bottom of the woman’s inability to find her receipt but sounding absolutely rude, condescending and awful.
“I’m not in a hurry at all,” I told the flustered woman…who turned to me and apologized for holding things up. “Seriously, not at all,” I’d responded through a second apology while shooting daggers at the cashier…oblivious to how rude she was being.
I honestly felt I needed to console the woman as she stood in front of the irritated cashier…continuously searching through papers she’d already searched until her a-ha moment…when she opened the front pocket of her handbag, revealing the receipt she’d specifically tucked away for safe-keeping.
The next thing, pyjamas were huffily taken and tossed into the return bin and the cashier quickly, and without making eye-contact, keyed in the transaction before holding out her hand and asking for the woman’s debit card.
Not understanding why she had to use her card rather than receive a cash return…the cashier stated, “this is how it’s done now!”
I stood there…dumbfounded…knowing in my head there was probably something I should say or do…not feeling it was quite my place…horrified by the way this elderly woman was being spoken to and the absolute insolent attitude of the young cashier in front of her.
Though baffled and confused…she put in her card information, was handed back her receipts…and the transaction was over.
On leaving, the elderly woman, for the fourth time, apologized again as I smiled and assured her that there was no issue at all.
As she left, I stepped up to the cash register and was sweetly greeted with a “sorry for your wait”…and I LOST IT.
Completely and utterly lost it…requested a manager…lost it some more…explained the circumstances…pointed my finger…near burst into tears. I was angrier than I have been in a very long time about the way this sweet woman was treated. I was angry for not speaking up sooner and for allowing it to happen in front of my very eyes. I was angry with myself that this woman left the store feeling bullied and belittled when she’d deserved nothing but kindness and patience.
I was furious, that I was a bystander…who did nothing…until it was too late.
About a month later, in Canadian Tire to purchase yet another half-dozen keys for my forgetful children, I was at the cash behind an elderly gentleman trying to use the debit machine.
He hit the wrong buttons. Several times. Then looked back to apologize for holding me up suggesting I move ahead of him.
“No worries,” I’d told him “take all the time you need.” Though admittedly, as always, I was in a bit of a rush.
“I don’t know what this says,” he exclaimed as he turned the machine towards the young man at the cash…his hands now obviously shaking from being a little bit panicked.
“You have one try left,” the young man said as he gently smiled and handed back the machine…being ever so kind…but not really sure what to do.
“Do you mind if I help you,” I asked as the elderly gentlemen who, without hesitating, suddenly thrust his debit card towards me and began telling me his pin number.
“No no,” I laughed…”don’t tell me your number!”
Then together, we started over.
Having taught computers and gadgets for multiple years, I kind of knew how to adjust my voice…show a little patience…explain the options. And within moments, we discovered the mistake he kept making…fixed the error…and the sale was approved.
He thanked me. Telling me he’d know better next time as I laughed back telling him that every machine was different so probably not! We joked and kidded…he was a little more at ease…offered to pay for my purchase or buy me a coffee…I laughed him off and told him to enjoy his day.
When he left, the young man working the cash thanked me. He said he’d learned a little from watching me and spoke for a moment about his great-grandmother. How things must be hard for her.
And he’s right…things ARE hard for her.
Here’s the thing. Everyone needs to slow down and give our older generation the time they need to get their stuff done. We live in a fast-paced society…we’ve grown up with computers and we can press buttons on our gadgets in record time. Our parents…our grandparents…they haven’t. However, they’re forced into our technical world and at times…it’s a little overwhelming. Be patient…offer assistance.
Second…these people have raised us. They know better than us. They’re an absolute important part of our society so why do so many people treat the elderly with such disdain? Like they’re second class citizens? No one has any right to make anyone feel less of a person.
These are two incidents where older folks have needed my patience. One, I managed to do it right…the other, I went about it the wrong way. I should have stepped in and helped out. I should have made sure the lovely woman returning a pair of pyjamas she’d purchased for her grandchild, had been treated with respect. She left feeling awful…and I did nothing to stop it.
It’s up to us to teach our younger generation to be compassionate, kind, respectful and patient…the only way to do this, is to set a clear example.
Great post. It reminded me that I need to do more to step up to the plate and help people who need it — elderly or not — instead of allowing it to be someone else’s problem, which I admittedly do more than I should. You’re absolutely right — we need to offer patience and compassion to those that need it.
Thank you for writing this. 🙂
It’s hard to be kind and patient in this incredibly busy world…but when we are, it feels pretty damn amazing!
What a thoughtful post! Good for you for taking the time to help that older man. I think many of us often get stuck in the awkward position of not knowing exactly how to step in and help. I admire you for being able to do so.:)
I’m not sure I would have helped the man the way I had…had I not helped the elderly woman the month before. It opened my eyes. I hope this post will open a few more!
This was an awesome post – I truly enjoyed reading every word. It reminded me of a number of occasions when I too witnessed this kind of disrespect and not always sure what I could do to make it better. AND then it made me think back to a day at the Superstore on Young Street when an elderly lady carrying two heavy bags asked the cashier if someone could drive her home – the cashier pointed to customer service saying they could call her a cab from there. She replied she had no money left for a cab and the cashier shrugged her shoulders and said so rudely and without any compassion – ‘I don’t know what you expect me to do about that’ and then moved on to the next person in line. I was at the other check out – not sure what to do (thinking to myself would you ever offer a total stranger a drive?) I just smiled at her and went to my car feeling a little guilty. BUT she followed me out and as I opened my trunk and put my groceries in and she stepped behind me and did the same. No conversation – she just did it and moved around the front and got in. I asked her the address – she told me. She didn’t speak the whole drive but as we drew close to her house she offered up that she had not realized how tiring the walk would be and her daughter who normally took her was out of town. That she needed milk for her tea and couldn’t go without her tea as if I could easily understand! How wonderful it was that I had ‘offered’ to drive her home. We arrived at her home and I got out and helped her to her door and as I walked away she thank’d me and said with a big smile – maybe we will meet again. I walked away with a bigger smile. I may not have offered the drive but I am glad that she saw my smile as an invitation when I was unsure of just what to say. We all need to be a little more patient and respectful with our seniors and remind ourselves we are going to be there soon enough and know that there could be a day we might need someone to stand up for us!
Good for you for driving the woman home! I’m not sure I would have done the same! I’m with you…how amazing it feels to help people. The smile…the joy in your heart…really leaves a lasting impression.
Good for you!
More people should take pause and start with kindness before anything else.
It isn’t always easy, but it is always important.
Lovely post and I have promptly shared the bajoopees out of it. 🙂
Bajoopees is my new favourite word!
Thank you for that Colleen. This post brought a tear to my eye…maybe more than one.
You’re welcome Barb…I’ll make you laugh next time!
Loved that post Colleen.
Thank you Aunt Brenda…I have a whole lot of amazing family members who have shown me how to love. xo
Having worked in a number of service industry jobs I am always shocked at how rude people will be to seniors. I try to imagine every senior as my grandparent and give them the same respect and patience I would grant my actually grandparents. It goes along way.
It really does. I think that’s one of the reasons I flipped so badly…I could picture my Nan…not knowing what to say and later feeling so badly about herself.
It really does go a long way.
Thank you for writing this and hopefully many will read and put care for our elderly into action. They are precious and should be loved and cared for with love, compassion and the care they deserve. There are too many today who do not even visit their own parents and leave the total care to those who work in the care facilities. Lets hope your article will see many more put care for the elderly into action.
Let’s hope Janine! I’m forever thankful for my family members who visit my Nan while she lives in a home in Newfoundland. She is delighted with every visit…especially when it’s the very smallest great-grandchildren!
This touched my heart too. It‘s terribly sad how seniors seem to lose their value. They have so much to share…I can listen forever to their stories about the world before it got so fast paced. I remember how very patient my grandparents were with me, and I think we owe it to seniors to show some respect. Great post, as always. 🙂
What a great post! I lost my last grandparent last fall and I always try and treat every senior like I wished my nan to be treated.
Especially in grocery stores I try and be conscious and helpful because I have witnessed how rude and oblivious people can be. I’ve returned carts to the corrals for elderly, people with canes and mothers trying to wrestle kids back into car seats, chatted with people who seemed to want to connect with someone else, reached items on tall shelves and directed people who were looking for things when I knew where they were.
I figure by sending out positive vibes I will hopefully welcome more back into my life. I’m also that annoying person who lets people out in traffic ahead of them…lol.
I realize this post is about respect for the elderly and I apologize for running away on a tangent. However, as a former waitress I was told MANY PINs and fixed many accidental over tips and didn’t mention the accidental under tips (the accidents were obvious when it would have made sense to move the decimal point). I think those handheld debit machines need to change to accommodate a larger portion of the population. Bigger buttons, bigger fonts, maybe verbal instructions? I’m sure they’ll be replaced by bar codes in our necks or sometime soon anyway!
We were having that very discussion tonight Jennifer! Both my son and brother commented on the number of people who end up tipping their pin number! I have trouble with those machines at the best of times!