Why elders march to a slow drummer

Contributing WriterDecember 14, 2013 

The silver-haired woman ahead of me in line at the grocery store was as skilled at dawdling as she was stunning for a woman of 80 or so.

(Late in life, a man reaches a point where there is no such thing as a woman so old she isn’t attractive. I sometimes feel sorry for 25-year-olds who are too callow to recognize female beauty much beyond 40.)

My encounter with the silver-haired woman came during the late afternoon rush to stock up on Idaho potatoes and other groceries on the way home from work. The woman seemed not to notice that people in line behind her were still living frantic lives. She didn’t even empty her cart onto the moving belt until it was her turn to pay. Only then did she slowly take the milk and the coffee and the chicken and the canned green beans and the eggs and a six pack of designer beer out of her cart and place them on that belt.

As she took her own sweet time, the time-driven customers behind her glanced nervously at their watches. Two of them whispered colorful exclamations under their breath.

But the thoroughly ripe shopper, who had all the time in the world and was maybe a little lonely, tried to engage the checker in idle conversation.

“I have three children and seven grandchildren,” she told the clerk. “Do you have any children?”

“No,” the clerk lied, glancing at the line of aggravated customers.

“That comes to $21.42,” said the clerk.

It was only then that the silver-haired lady opened a huge buckskin purse and began searching for the wallet inside. One by one, she pulled out a package of nose tissues, her pickup truck keys, breath mints, a baby picture of one of her little grandrunts, a spare stocking, and a hogshead of hypertension pills. I think she also had a small dog in there.

As she took her time and everybody else’s, a lawyer-looking guy growled softly.

Finally, the woman called out “Eureka!” waving her wallet at us with a triumphant smile. Surely the torture would soon be over.

Not quite. She started fishing for the 42 cents on her bill, meticulously putting down a quarter, a dime and a nickel. Then she started searching for the two pennies.

Several of those in the line offered her coins.

She ignored them, finally finding the two cents in her purse. It wouldn’t take long now.

Wrong again. She dropped one of the pennies on the floor.

The lawyer-looking guy, in his gathering madness, threw a handful of pocket change in her direction. She finally left. The other customers were free at last.

But once again this morning, I found myself in line behind a woman my age at the espresso cafe. She ordered a box of doughnuts and a 16-ounce mocha with peppermint flavored whipped cream.

Next she went through a variation on the slow process of the silver-haired grocery customer. Most people fill in all but the money amount on a check while they wait in line.

Not the mocha woman. She searched her purse for the checkbook and then laboriously filled out a check while those behind her, dying for their morning caffeine, whined a bit.

Are there actually that many thoughtless elders in pay lines?

It’s time you learned the truth. I suspect some senior organization like AARP believes the world is moving too insanely fast. And we seniors believe life is too hard on those overworked young clerks. I think the AARP, with its big heart, runs secret classes for elders on how to bring a checkout line to a crawl.

But don’t blame me. Blame AARP.

Bill Hall may be contacted at wilberth@cableone.net or at 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501

The News Tribune is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service