Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Her cart hit me in the shoulder. I was bending down (my power wheelchair has me sitting very high) to pick up some bananas and suddenly a grocery cart smacked into my shoulder. I looked up to see a woman flushed with impatience glaring at me. I knew she wanted me out of the way, and I would have moved if asked, but I get a 'screw you' attitude when people treat me as if I have no right in the thoroughfare. When she figured that I wasn't going to move she began to back up to go around the other way. Sensing a small but important victory, I sat up and pulled away. She saw a small space created and decided to head for it. She crashed into the side of my chair in her rush to get by, making a small tear in the bottom of my shirt as her cart caught and then tore through the material.

Just past me was an elderly woman with a walker. Some elderly people have faces that age well and they manage to look kindly, she was one of them. The cart woman pulled up beside her and said, in a heavily accented voice, 'Is there anything else you want?' The woman said 'No,' and they headed towards one of the line ups for a till. The elderly woman spotted a friend, also using a walker, and stopped for a moment to chat with her. The cart woman, obviously a hired aide of some kind, blew air out of her nose and a near rage filled her eyes. This was a woman in a hurry.

The elderly woman glanced over and a flicker of fear filled her face and she quickly said goodbye to her friend and got in line. Joe joined me and got in the line the next over. My chair is a wee bit too big for the aisle so I left the store and came round to where the check out tills let into the mall. We were only picking a few things up for baking and we'd intended just to put them in my wheelchair bag.

When the two women, elderly and aide, were coming through the elderly woman attempted to pick up the groceries to pack them into a bag. The aide slapped her hand away, actually slapped her had away and then quickly packed the bag. I wanted to go over and blast the aide, 'You are getting paid to do this, without this woman's need to fill, you'd have no job, no income, no way to feed yourself or your family'. I wanted to say, 'You can be seen, everyone knows that you are being mean, even cruel.' I wanted to say, 'Don't you ever hit her again or I'll bring the full force of the law down on you.'

But I didn't.

I'm a stranger.

And 5 minutes after the interaction she'd be alone with this woman.

They were almost done. I found a pen and a bit of paper (I'm a writer, they are never far from me) and wrote a note. In it I said, 'It's not OK for her to treat you badly. If she hurts you it is a crime. Call 911 directly. Don't go through the agency, call 911, directly. Here is my phone number if you need a witness for the police to talk to ..." I printed my name because no one can read my signature.

I approached them as they were leaving and handed the woman my note. She looked at me a little startled and then took it. 'Do you want me to take it for you,' asked the aide. The elderly woman, a face full of cleverness, said, 'No, dear, I'll just put it in my purse.'

I watched them walk away.

I'm expecting a call.


Carleen said...

Simply unbelievable! I sincerely hope that the elderly woman never has to take you up on the offer to call.

Anonymous said...

I came across this quote right after reading your blog:
"Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and the wrong. Sometime in your life you will have been all of these.”
Dr. Robert H. Goddard quote

I hope she calls you soon!

painting with fire said...

Good for you! The cart woman sounds truly mean-spirited - I hate to think of her "caring" for anyone.

Belinda said...

As kind as so many of Mum's Helping Hands ladies are, I am fully aware that it is my brother's presence in the flat upstairs that gives me a sense of her safety and the preservation of her dignity. He watches what time they arrive and when they leave, some only stay for a few minutes when they are paid for half an hour. Without an outside pair of eyes, the elderly are so very vulnerable and even rush her weekly shower, which is such a treat for her, when 6 days a week she gives herself a sponge bath.I'm grateful for your note, Dave, but I feel so sad that human beings can be so callous and especially when they are being paid to serve.

Tricia said...

I'm hoping the person is a hired aide that can be fired. What I wondered is if it might be a daughter or a daughter-in-law? Much worse scenario. Poor old dear - she should be treated with love and respect. :(

Anonymous said...

oh, well done. exactly the right way to handle it.

FridaWrites said...

Thank you, Dave! I'd probably not have been silent at her running the cart into me, but I also have fragile bones. I strongly resent it when people try to play bumper-carts with my body.

I have seen more hired caregivers at various doctor's offices lately and it makes me mad how patronizing they can be, though I've not seen someone be abusive like this. Don't these people realize they're likely to be in the same place someday?

One Sick Mother said...

you did the right thing. I would have exploded at the aide, not realizing the potential consequences for the other poor lady afterwards. You handled it just right.

I really hope she calls. It is not OK to be treated like that.

Anonymous said...

How rude... to actually bump you on purpose.

I hope that if she were to ring that maybe one day another more satisfying blog can be posted.

Fingers crossed.

lina said...

I witnessed a situation once with a young man with a disbility, who was being terribly verbally abused by a 'father or uncle', I couldn't tell what the relationship was. I was in a waiting room filled with people, and the man's words - though he spoke in a whisper - I was sitting across the room and could hear the hatred. It killed me, but all I could think was that if I said anything, this young man was leaving with this abuser - and not me. So out of fear for his safety I didn't say anything.

I followed him to the back when he was called in for his appointment, pretending I was looking for someone, but uncle/dad was right behind me - so no chance to talk to him alone.

I don't know if in my case I could have done the same thing, but it is something I will do, if I think I can help.

Thanks for writing about this. My thoughts are that in public people tend to refrain so can you just imagine what these people act like in private. I really hope she calls!

Anonymous said...

I hope the dear lady calls you. She was a smart cookie to not give the note to the paid helper.
When my mom was in assisted living because of end-stage Parkinson's, we found she was treated better than most because our family was there constantly. One worker was overheard saying to be careful, as "her family was fussy". My goodness, what they would call fussy is what we would call treating people with respect and caring hearts.

Anonymous said...

Way to go Dave!!!

Curious. In the states there are cameras at the grocery check-outs, and Adult Protective Services anonymous reporting possibilities.
Might you have the same in Canada?

The situation makes me so angry there is nothing more to say.

rickismom said...

I am simply sick at reading this, and the comments, which make me realize that it is common. Simply sick

Anonymous said...

It always makes me remember how naive I am, how I expect that most people are basically good, when I read some of your posts. Especially about people who are "helping". It's just devastating.

Shan said...

I'm with Tricia - I hope the meanie is, indeed, hired, and not in the family.

Brenda said...

Your post brought me to the edge of tears. How horrible for this precious lady, and so many others like her, to have her golden years tainted in such a disgusting manner. Having watched several of my loved ones go through the stages of getting older, and eventually passing on, I am always reminded of my mother's words when I was very young and impatient: "That will be me someday, and that will be you someday." This was when I couldn't imagine her getting any older that 40, and when I assumed that my own old age was so very, very, far away. Bless my mom for personalizing this issue in a way that I 'got it'. And bless all my elders for being patient with ME, before I learned to be patient with THEM. This nasty companion is not only making life miserable for someone else, but she is cheating herself as well. Every well-lined face is an encyclopedia of a fascinating history, if we will only take the time to turn the pages. Shame on her for being so mean-spirited and cruel, and bless you for reaching out. I don't know that I would have had the nerve to step in at all, being afraid of reprisals meant for me being hurled at that dear lady. You manged to strike a perfect balance between offering help, but not making the situation worse. I really hope she calls you. She has no idea (yet) what a wonderful person you are and how much help you could possibly bring her way.

Ettina said...

What a terrible situation, especially when you realize in certain ways she is *lucky*. There are others being treated similarly who have no way to communicate what they are going through. I think about one of the kids I work with being cared for by someone like that - many of them are nonverbal or minimally verbal.

Ssejors said...

I push a stroller in the grocery store and people treat me the same way. What is it? Do people who are in a hurry feel they can be rude to the general public because they are late. I had one man in Tim's COMPLAIN and GRUMBLE to me that I was in his way. Sour, mean old man. Had he said "excuse me" I would most certainly have moved but instead he rudely and abruptly Grunted that I was in his way and then forced himself past the stroller. So I just said "I would have moved if you had asked, so next time ask first" And this is what I mean by saying whats on my mind. When I was younger I don't think i would have even said that. I would have just ignored his rudeness and carried on with my day. Now i think I'm losing my patience.