I recently had an altercation on the avenue with an elderly woman’s personal attendant.
Standing on the corner checking my phone, when I looked up two women were coming directly toward me.
The older one was in a wheel chair clearly distressed while the young girl pushing her was on her phone blatantly ignoring the woman’s needs.
Okay, before I tell you what you already know, I do try very hard to mind my own business. I’ve learned to quell that Joan of Arc streak in me since more often than not it gets me into hot water, like the time I opened the back of a van taking dogs to the City Pound. I was very young when that happened but my passion to save all things had to be, how should I say, seriously curbed.
However, there are exceptions to my rule of not getting enmeshed in something that has nothing to do with me, like today.
It bothered me that she was treating this lady with so little regard. Granted, she was old and might have been the biggest bitch on wheels, no pun intended, but it doesn’t make it okay, at least not in my book.
I did pause, attempting to respond as opposed to reacting, but the girl on the phone really ticked me off.
“Excuse me,” I said in the nicest tone I could feign, “I think she may need your help.” The woman had grabbed my hand making me realize perhaps she suffered from dementia. She had that frightened, vacant look in her eyes that I’ve seen so often before that can only be described as terror mixed with confusion.
The girl put her hand over her phone and said, “She’s fine. It’s just what she does.”
I’m sorry, Joan was awakened on that note climbing quickly onto her steed.
“Young lady (she was in her mid 20s) I’d like you to please get off your phone. She looked at me like I was out of my mind but I held my ground.
She hung up screaming saying it was none of my business.
“I just made it my business,” I said, in that quiet Anthony Perkins/Psycho voice I’ve so sweetly mastered.
I’ve learned one thing, if someone goes off the rails you need to stay on. They quickly dig their own hole while you watch them, little by little, fall in it head first. Might I add you’re slightly pleased when they do.
The interesting part was that the old women stopped yelling. She became totally calm as though she knew somehow she was no longer completely alone. Trust me when I say it would have broken your heart in two and then some.
This is where I know I’ve matured behaviorally because I took that high road that, let’s face it, is very time consuming.
I wanted to grab this dense, clueless girl by her Gap lapels and slam her up against a wall, but I didn’t.
Instead I said, “You know, I realize our friend here is probably a handful but that’s why she needs help. She started to interrupt me. “Let me finish please. One day we may be in the same boat depending on someone’s patience to get us through. I’m asking you to please find it in your heart to be kinder to her.”
She was so young and obviously ill equipped for this type of work. My self-righteousness, alright I’ll admit it, deflated her sass like a hot-air balloon.
“I’m sure you’re a very nice girl (big lie number 1) so please try a little harder, okay?”
I knelt down and asked the woman, now docile as a lamb, her name.
She looked at me sweetly but didn’t answer.
“Her name’s Margaret,” said Cruella (couldn’t resist).
“Is there something I could do for you Margaret?” She kept looking through me as if I were a full-length hall mirror. I noticed her sweater had what looked like a soup stain along with pearls that needed a good shine.
“What’s your name?” she suddenly said in a weak Waspy voice.
“Susannah, my name is Susannah, you know, like the song.”
“Oh Susanna?” she said smiling.
“Yes that’s right.”
I then looked at the young girl and said that I was sorry (big lie number 2) if I had upset her and hoped that she’d have a better afternoon (grand slam of lies).
Of course as I walked up the street I predictably began to cry because the woman called out..
“Bye Susannah, and don’t you cry for me.” (tell me that’s not poignantly odd)
You know folks, this is my truth:
When it comes to someone or something that can’t defend itself I rarely walk away.
I don’t readily discuss this but, when I was little and my mother drank too much she’d beat me senseless. She was sick and didn’t mean it however, no one ever came to my rescue; not my dad or grandparents, nor a caring neighbor. The following morning, despite evidence to the contrary, it was as though it never happened
…but it did.
If a situation involves abusing a kid, an animal or the elderly, all bets are off.
To be quite honest, it’s a quality that I rather like in myself.
I took a personal, painful event recycling it into steady, quiet compassion.
No one’s more surprised by that than me.
Wish I could do that with every hurt and slight that comes my way but …
a forever work in progress this thingirl be.