Friday, January 18, 2013

The Joys of Being Ancient and "Come On People Now, Love One Another Right Now"

First, let me say thank you to everyone who has heeded the call in my last post and have told me about yourselves and your blogs. I have soooo enjoyed checking out your responses and am looking forward to checking out your blogs too, if you have them! It's been a lot of fun for me. I also want to thank you for your sweet comments about Ranch Dressing and my writing and such. It means the world to me. More than you'll ever know, actually. If you have yet to tell me about yourself, please do if you're up to it.

Today, I went out to do some errands and first on my list was buying some film at Walgreens. I moseyed up to the photo department counter and asked the barely-out-of-diapers clerk where I might find it. He stammered, "Um...uhh....film?" as if I were asking for a solid gold pig. "Yes, you know....film?" I replied and took his photo with a little "click!" in the air of my imaginary camera's shutter. He stood there for a minute behind the photo department counter and looked at me like I had just asked him to answer the final question on "Jeopardy". He eventually walked me over to a tiny display nestled between the batteries and the compact disks where he stared blankly for a minute and then said, "I think? this is where the film used to be?"

There was nothing on the display except for a few disposable cameras and blank, dusty spots where film could have once hung. I thanked him, grabbed a few chocolate items to soothe the ache that is being old enough to remember film and left the store. Now, I know that film is still sold and when I got home, I flexed my "I'm still hip to the technology of today" muscles and ordered some on the internet just so that I wouldn't have to go from store to store feeling like Methuselah. I think what's bothering me is just that I realized that one can no longer walk into any store and buy film.  And that makes me feel ancient.

I moved on to the post office where I saw that the one grumpy clerk was up against a wailing wall of waiting customers. My postal branch office is heinously understaffed and they don't mind showing it. The line was almost snaking out the door and you could just feel the impatience thick in the air. Even on a good day, it feels like at any moment someone is going to snap and start yelling and won't be able to be stopped.

The customer who had the attention of the clerk at that moment was THE cutest little senior citizen lady who had obviously just returned from the beauty parlor. She had her "got my hair done on Friday because I'm going to church twice on Sunday hair". It was round and it was fabulous, complete with a flip at the ends. She was teeny tiny and very well put together in her smart wool coat with matching handbag.

From what I could gather, she had already been through the line once and was now back again. She told the clerk that she'd meant to put an outgoing letter in the mail slot when she came through the first time...and now she couldn't remember if she had. It was a bill that she needed to pay and she was afraid that she'd lost it, complete with the check inside which she described as "too large to lose". The clerk didn't understand so the little lady went around and around with her and matched the clerk's gruffness with the sweetest little voice until she got her point across. I could feel the crowd around me collectively shuffle from foot to foot as they calculated how long their wait was about to be. In a huff, the clerk walked to the back and we could all hear her slide out the mail bin that sits under the collection slot outside. Then we all couldn't help but hear her let out a huge groan when she saw how much mail she was about to have to sort through to find the envelope that the little lady may or may not have remembered to mail. She continued to huff and groan as the unyielding sounds of her unhappiness and the mail being shifted wafted to the front. I hoped and hoped that the little lady could not hear her.

 The line continued to grow. I looked around me and exchanged glances with a couple of other women in line, both of them older than me. We smiled nicely at each other as if to say, "She's a little old lady. This could be us next week."  Unfortunately, most everyone else around us seemed out of touch with their own mortality and aging processes and sighed and grunted as if they just could not take it anymore. I'll have to be honest with you - it really bothered me. Has our society shifted completely to a place where we can't be bothered to wait politely behind a little old lady who has lived many decades before us and has seen more and done more than we might ever do or see? I have to tell you - she has been reared in and experienced generations where people knew politeness and social graces - and even if they weren't in the mood to use them, they usually did. What must this new era seem like to her? Does she feel an abrupt shift like she has been thrust ahead in a jolting time machine - or has she slowly noticed the changes as they took hold, bit by tiny bit?

There are different schools of thought about those of us who love vintage things and who have a deep and abiding interest in learning about the times before us. Many people think that we're delusional or that we think that everything that happened in eras past were good things. I for one know that not to be true. I am from the South, people. I am well aware that generations before us made some grievous and often irreversible mistakes in decades gone by. I can't explain them away and I don't know why these things happened.What I do know though is that my Grandparents used to tell me about the neighborhoods that they lived in - how nobody locked their doors and how every neighbor would look out for everyone else's homes and bands of roaming children. How when someone got sick or died, their family dinner table would be heaped full of casseroles and cards from neighbors before nightfall.

When I think of my own late Grandmother being that lady in line today, with fellow citizens behind her acting as if their time was more important than hers, I get sad. I get sad when I realize that besides my very next-door neighbors, I don't know a single person on my long street of houses - and they don't know me. Last year, I found a lost dog on my street. It was snowing and the ground was frozen over and as I walked from house to house and porch to porch to try to find the dog's owner, nobody would answer their doors to me. I could hear televisions and see lights on inside the houses. Cars were in the driveways. I knew that my neighbors were home. Out of dozens of houses, the only people who dared to open their doors to me were one young couple and an elderly lady. The elderly lady seemed quite pleased that I was there. We talked about her own dogs for a bit and even though I could have been a danger to her, she opened her door to me and we stood there and chatted on her porch with the wind whipping around us. In the end and with blocks of ice for feet, I eventually learned that the lost dog lived right across the street from my house. I didn't know my neighbors and I didn't know their dog and to me, that is a shame. I can see their house from my front window even.

Sometimes, I think that we've become a society that becomes more and more about the "me" of it all everyday and less about the "we". We take care of our own and often times, never look beyond our own noses or front windows. The error in this is that when the chips are down, most of us will never be able to make it through this world alone. We all age and get sick and die. We're all going to need someone to help us bring our groceries in - or a sympathetic postal clerk to help ease our minds that our bills are paid. Every single one of our lives and experiences and sorrows are important. They really and truly are. None more than another but equally.

Hmm.....so, I started out talking about feeling old because I couldn't find film and before long, just in the short timeframe of writing this to you, I realized that I am still relatively young and have a very good chance to expand my circle a little bit  and if nothing else, realize my own inequities in not realizing when I get caught up in the "me" of it all. This post went from aiming to be a funny story to a full-on appeal for us all to slow down...take a breath....consider what it might be like to walk a mile or two in someone else's shoes. We're all here doing the same things. We're being born and aging and dying and it's the in-between parts that will affect how those around us do the very same things.

Practice kindness and patience when you can. And for God's sake, explain to your children and grandchildren about antiquated but important things like film and cassette recorders and old ladies. And civility and The Golden Rule. I promise that I'll do the same - well, with other peoples' children and grandchildren, of course. I can assure you that my cat children will neither listen nor change the world so I won't be wasting my time there!

In the end, the postal clerk found the little lady's letter and she had indeed mailed the check that she'd been worried about. As the clerk briskly waved the piece of mail at her, the lady said to the clerk sweetly, "Thank you for allowing me to sleep soundly tonight." The postal clerk (who clearly didn't care if the lady slept or stayed awake forever) bid her farewell and barked out "Next!" as the senior lady moved slowly out the double doors, down the hill and onto the sidewalk where I could no longer see her.

I think it's interesting that that one little lady in line at the post office has made me think about all of this. I know that I'll be her one day. She'll never have any idea that her worry over the lost mail or her transaction with the clerk has made me spend half the afternoon, questioning my own mortality and the steps and falls that will get me there. I've decided that when I get the ordered film in the mail, I am going to use it to photograph only things that are fading away and that won't be with us forever - as a tribute to that little lady with her Sunday-Go-To-Meeting hair and the way that she continually treated the postal clerk with the kindness of a different era, even though she herself was treated with less than that.

Until next time,
x's and o's,
Eartha

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is just beautiful. Thank you!

Rae - Say It Aint So said...

very beautifully written. I fell like kids of my generation were super rude and entitled, but then it is nothing compared to kids that I meet nowadays. It makes me sad.
And I am totally guilty of not looking out my front door. We have a neighbor who is so friendly and comes to talk to us and helps travis with his car and at first I thought "why is this guy so friendly? how weird" but then i realized he was just meeting his neighbors. I have no idea who lives across the street from me. I never see them get in their car or sit outside, and they probably say the same about me.

Barbara said...

I love you.

I would have slapped the clerk. People just don't respect age anymore.

I wish you could teach everyone all you know.
xxx
barbara

MySpecialAgent said...

When I lived in San Antonio (in an apartment, I might add) there was an older lady who lived across the hall. I saw her leaving with suitcases one day and, a few days later, FedEx dropped off a package for her and just put it on her door step in plain sight of everyone. I noticed it said "refrigerated contents" on the box so I high-tailed it to the complex office and told the manager that I had seen the neighbor leave a couple days before with suitcases. Long story short: my neighbor was so happy and grateful that I had picked up the package and turned it in. She is a diabetic and that was her insulin. The manager had called her and kept it refrigerated for her. She brought me a card and chocolate. I had lived in those apartments for 4 years and she was the only neighbor I'd had any interaction with. I was just glad I could help save her medication. I was raised by my grandparents and they taught me manners. It seems a lot of people don't have those anymore.

Robert Dulaney said...

I honestly don't think it's a generational issue as much as it is a paradigm shift. I work in a store that caters to the 12-27 crowd, and every day I'm shocked and pleased by quality of manners that some younger people still have. Honestly, they are more willing to "connect" with someone than most of the "adults" I deal with; they are usually staring at their mobile devices and barking orders at their families. So to a degree, I think that the "entitled" population are just a result of hasty parenting. All that we can is show the younger generations that they are better and more friendly ways to conduct business, and hope that they do not follow the bad examples that seem to overshadow the good ones. I try really hard to be as genuine as I can with each customer I come in contact with and for the most part I see good results. That old lady knew how to "kill them with them with kindness" because it isn't just the right thing to do but because she knows that she herself is an example of humanity. We all should be. God, it's late and I'm tired. Did any of that makes sense? I'm losing my train of thought.

Tracie MiddleClassModern said...

I don't live in a subdivision, but I feel like I live in a real neighborhood. I've chatted with all the neighbors right around my house...but the fact they are mostly older and my husband is chatty probably accounts for a lot of that.

Remember the little yellow huts you'd drop your film off of to get it processed? And now you get looked at funny if you want to even BUY film.

Laura said...

Ma'am, you and I must be living on the same plane of existence. Or something. A couple of weeks ago I let a "little old lady" cut in line in front of me at the post office because she looked like she was having great difficulty standing and walking. You wouldn't have believed the stink-eye I got from the people behind me. You're right. Have we all gotten to be in such a hurry that we can't accommodate those who need a little extra courtesy?

Dana@Mid2Mod said...

This is such an important post, and I hope people will take it to heart. I was born in 1948, and my parents and grandparents insisted on good manners and the Golden Rule. I taught school for 30 years, and I saw a shift from expecting children to treat their peers with kindness and respect to giving everyone an award so he felt good about himself...essentially turning the focus to SELF-esteem, SELF-worth, SELF-fulfillment. Maybe that hasn't been such a good idea.

Gina said...

Beautifully stated! I agree we are turning into a bunch of impatient, mean 'me-me-me's". I'll probably end up a mean old lady because of it.

I took a couple of canisters of film to be developed the other day and I first went to the Big W and found out that not only would it take a week or more to develop, but they do not return your negatives (only a CD). It's a sucky place, but they do carry color film (35mm). I ended up taking my film to Rite Aid and they send it out as well, but they return the negs.

Anne-Marie said...

Thank you for this beautiful post.

little rosy runabout said...

this was beautiful. I love you!

Rita@thissortaoldlife said...

Love this post. Love the sound of your new photo project and hope that you'll be sharing it here.

I will say that while my children give me much to be proud of, I'm always most so when they demonstrate good manners out and about in the world. My son opens doors for others and says "please" and "thank you." It doesn't happen so much at home, but it does in stores and restaurants.

In two weeks I get to go visit my grandma to celebrate her 96th birthday. She still goes to the post office and to the store and all kinds of places. (She still drives! But only in the daytime.) I hope that she meets with the type of kindness you felt for the lady in the post office. Just occurring to me that maybe those who don't have the type of appreciation and courtesy you're talking about are those who never had a meaningful connection with someone older. In which case, I feel sorry for them. They've missed out.

Laura Huey said...

Oh, Eartha, what a beautiful post :)
I was a selfish, self-absorbed whiny flake of a teen and youngster until God got a hold of my shriveled little heart. I can say honestly, He put other folks and their needs on my radar when before I had blinders on to anyone else.... The older I get(I know 30 is just outta pull-ups but it's still "older") the more it all slows down for me. And the more I just wanna connect to folks, the more I wanna hear their stories and really the more I just wanna have tangible love for people. I want people to "feel" loved. I love this train of thought and I so look forward to hearing tales of where it takes your precious feet. God is stirrin up that heart of yours for somethin, guranteed :)

Lisa said...

Spoiler alert: NERVE! STRUCK! I was sitting at the Kroger's Pharmacy the other day when I saw the same kind of rude, eye rolling behavior served up hot to an elderly man on a hover round who was trying to pick up a prescription refill literally THE DAY before his insurance would pay for it. Now, I know the 18 year old behind the counter couldn't necessary change insurance law to give the guy his $85 medication for free, but really, the way she treated him you would have thought he was a class just below human. I kept thinking of how much he reminded me of my spiteful, hilarious grandaddy (he spelled his name for her twice, saying the third time "I've had it eighty five years, I reckon I know how it's spelled!"), and how I WISH that man was still around even to act obstinate and obtuse to a very deserving of a hard time cashier or clerk. BEAUTiful post, and well told, too. We could all learn something from stepping back and putting some perspective on just being *kind*, for five seconds, for goodness sake. ((end rant))

rebecca said...

i wrote a really long-winded comment but in the end all i really want to say is: this post is lovely and i'm glad to have read it. thank you. : )

Averyl said...

You know how much I love "old ladies" since I have been one in spirit most of my life and I tend to get along best with them!

This reminds me of a police blotter incident in my local paper last week. Police were called to Rite Aid because a young man was yelling at an elderly person who allegedly cut them in line?!?!

GREAT POST!

Susie said...

So. Beautifully. Written. I went to photography school. I learned on a 4x5 and also shot almost all slide film. There is no comparison. I will shoot digital but the quality is not there. Also people who "learn" (ha they don't learn anything( on digital are not careful, because it is limitless and it doesn't cost like film does. Film makes you thoughtful. Stop, compose, meter your shot, check your light, do I want to waste film on this? Digital it's just snap snap snap of crap crap and then UPLOAD to fb. I love that you ordered some. I need to see if my supply in the freezer is running low.

I never go try to go anywhere (like a store) if I am in a hurry. It makes me a mean and impatient person. That also makes me sad about how she was treated. It will make me try even harder for patience and kindness when interacting with others. We can hope to lead by example out there in the world.

lynxymama said...

every single post that you write a share on my facebook page, seriously. i could not have said this better, usually i just get super pissed off and my blog posts on this subject matter just end up angry and sweary. i feel this ALL the time and i do think it's generational to an extent. i am assure you i am teaching my kids patience and MANNERS even though they live in a world where they are usually not given the same respect.

Betty Crafter said...

When I was a teacher I took a record player and some records in and those poor kids had no idea what they were looking at. It broke my heart.

SUZY8-TRACK said...

Great story! I work with seniors and it amazes me how impatient people can be with them, or how many folks, including family members, take advantage of them (I could tell you some horror stories), but working with seniors has been great. They are so grateful to be treated with respect in my office, because, sadly, they do not get treated with respect anywhere else.

Anonymous said...


bookmarked!!, I really like your website!

chutti said...

Thanks for saying all of this. It's SO IMPORTANT.

Yes, I have passed from being a young fogey to just a fogey on my way to old fogeyhood, but it's necessary we think about treating folks right...anytime. How much we have to learn from our older friends...I only hope I am soaking it in.

Your story about the dog is sad. We're VERY fortunate that in our new (2 yrs) neighborhood, we all get along and know our neighbors. Dinners, block parties, holiday singing, pet care, tool sharing, etc. But we all choose to work on it. I think it may be because we live in a relatively crime-y urban area, but it works. It is WONDERFUL to know your neighbors, and so enriching. I know my mom, who at 84 lives in the house I grew up in, hoped her neighbors would be like that, but all these years later they aren't.

Keep up the good stories and good thoughts....

Jessica said...

I loved this post - so beautifully written and with such a timeless message. We have so much to learn from those older than us - they were young and wild once too!

Anonymous said...

I love this post! Thank you so much.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I gotta be honest, when I first saw it I was like, "I don't have time to read all this"! I'm glad I took the time, which is just what you are talking about, isn't it? Taking the time for whatever it may be...to be polite, to get to know a neighbor, to simply slow down and live and enjoy life - not just rush through it. Glad to see there are folks out there who are younger than I am and have "insight". BTW, I still say to my husband...when are we going to "develop" our pictures. He has to remind me, we don't develop anymore dear, we print them!!!

lilynymph said...

Thanks for writing this :) I work in a bank across from a seniors home and made friends with many of the people who would come in to do their business. Old people have so many stories and viewpoints to share. It's one part I really miss while being on maternity leave. And I have to say that I haven't seen anyone be snooty to them either, the staff or other customers.
Something happened today that was really awful but also socially shocking: I got locked out of my husbands running car in the driveway. We only have one set of keys. It started overheating due to some other stupid problem, and he ended up having to smash the window on it. This was at 11:30 am, we live on a pretty well used street and people were walking by. A)Not one person stopped to help, and B)not one person stopped to see who might be trying to rob my car. So I think it was point B that made me most upset (that and the cost of a new window). No one looks past whats directly in front of them anymore. Its mind boggling.

letthemwin said...

I could go on all day about how many ways this blog has touched me but instead I will say how blessed I am that Mr. G and I found a lovely little neighborhood that is seemingly stuck in time. On the day we moved in a lovely neighbor about my age gave us a jar of homemade jelly, I cried and hugged her. Now we are friends and all of us watch out for each other.
Diane
Honey Stop The Car Vintage