Sunday, March 02, 2014

Dear supermarket shoppers …

Dear supermarket shoppers,

The reason my wife moves slowly is that she's sick. We're really sorry for the frustration it causes you, that you may have to either break your stride or change direction for a second.

The reason she suffers brief confusion is that her illness carried with it a little bit of brain damage. So she may, on occasion, take longer to choose a product at a shelf than it would take you. Again, we're sorry.

The reason I'm protective of her, and put my hand between your trolley or basket and her back, is that it takes very little to break her bones.

Your impatience does not give you license to shove her with your trolley, as has happened. Nor to poke her with your basket. Nor, because you're a six-footer with an attitude problem, to use your height and weight against her.

Lumbar 3 and 4 have already been fractured by a shopping trolley; I'm not jumping at shadows here.

What confuses me most of all is how much hostility is offered. Ms T didn't jump your queue or speak rudely to you. All that Ms T does is move slowly, and sometimes, take a moment longer to choose an item from the shelf.

If we get a passive-aggressive “excuse me” as you reach past her face, that's tolerable (albeit rude). But it goes far beyond that: there are many, many people who are enraged by the sight of someone moving slowly near them, and want to push them, prod them, punish them for frailty.

Back in December, I put my hand between an oncoming trolley and Ms T's back. I didn't speak, nor did I actually look at the person pushing the trolley: I simply saw it about to collide, and prevented the collision. For this, I received a torrent of abuse.

Why? What drives a successful and healthy thirty- or forty-something, most usually a man, to regard someone moving slowly somewhere within his field of vision as an affront?

That, I can't answer. But when I see people falling for the idea that the disability pension (which we don't receive) somehow encourages scroungers, and then I see them in the supermarket, I weep for the creeping nastiness that is poisoning Australia's society.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

As a hobbler myself due to osteoarthritis, I can empathise with this. It's just beyond comprehension that anyone would act this way. I have places to be too, but am forced to stop or step aside as people charge at me on the footpath, in shopping centres or even in hospitals.

Many more people are polite, kind and helpful however. I am usually able to cross Sydney Road easily because drivers see me waiting on my crutches and stop for me. I've nicknamed the crutches my sympathy sticks. I'm clumsy and drop things like my purse because I'm juggling crutches, handbag and shopping. Somebody else almost always picks it up for me before I can, and no, they don't run off with it.

I think if I was experiencing what you are each day I'd start tripping people over with my sticks. I've been tempted to in the past, but most days someone's kindness has restored my patience, or I'm just not brave or quick enough.

Maybe you should invest in a walking stick. Not as an aid, as a weapon!