Sunday, December 05, 2004

The Old Man in the Giant

That title sounds like a Grimm's Fairy Tale. Grim it may be - fairy tale it isn't.

It was Sunday morning and I found myself in the Giant grocery store at 8 AM - I was hungry for pancakes - not that I was going to make them from scratch or even from a mix; I was going to get Aunt Jemmima's frozen pancakes, which are really pretty good. I would have gone out fro Sunday morning breakfast but had no one to join me since my usual breakfast date, my daughter, now lives 3000 miles to the northwest.

So my stomach got me up, showered, and dressed early Sunday morning. I had decided not to waste a potentially empty store at that hour. I had come armed with coupons - including the ones in that morning's paper. I was prepared! I methodically went down each aisle, breezily picking up what I needed, matching items to coupons, checking pounds and prices. The only slow spots were in those isles where Giant employees were stocking shelves for the usual mad after-church grocery store marathon.

I was feeling as if I had the entire store to myself until I came to the paper products - you know: the paper towels and bathroom tissue aisle. In "my" Giant this isle also includes some smaller items: light bulbs, nails, plugs - little household stuff that you don't realize you need until you see them displayed right before the Brawny.

I thought this aisle would be a cinch since I already had T.P. as mom used to call it on her shopping lists. I just needed a 3-roll pack of Brawny to match my buck off coupon. As I turned the corner to get down the aisle (you see, the quicker I got done, the quicker the Aunt Jemmima hotcakes would be on my breakfasat plate) - anyway, as I turned to go down the aisle, I hit a road block. A Giant employee, a cute middle-aged lady, was stocking the small items from a cart. Next to her, with his cart facing in the opposite direction (and you know those aisles are only wide enough for two carts) was an old man - no, correction - a grizzled old man with an empty cart trying his darndest to start a conversation with the woman who was trying her darndest to do her job. From the brief bits I heard, they knew each other - vaguely - or they each knew the same people. She graciously answered his remarks but kept right on working.

I was a little less gracious with my "excuse me" and did manage to get by them and scored a Brawny 3-pack as was my mission.

I went on my way for one more aisle and forgot about the old man until I reached the frozen food. He was slowly pushing his cart down that aisle. I really noticed him this time. He was unkempt - no old man odor - just not neat and it looked like he hadn't shaved for at least a week and hadn't seen a barber in more than a month or even two. And his cart was still empty. Maybe he just couldn't make up his mind, I thought. Or maybe it was something else.

As I continued my modern foraging, I forgot about the old man. I had almost forgotten about maple syrup. I could NOT have pancakes dry! So, before going to check out, I retraced my steps to the maple syrup aisle. Quarry captured (reduced calorie to make up for the fact that I didn't get low fat pancakes), I headed to the cashier. And there, coming the wrong way through the cashier area was the old man with the empty cart. He must have been in the store for at least 30 minutes and his cart was still empty.

And then I realized that it wasn't only his cart that was empty.

How lucky am I to be in a hurry because I'm meeting a friend later for a movie?
How lucky am I to have to get to my sister's to drop off a nephew's birthday card?
How lucky am I to have to wrap and mail a box of Christmas presents to Seattle?
How lucky am I to have some place to go almost everyday and people to talk to - people who at least listen to me at times?
How lucky am I?

Damn lucky.


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