Ongoing Stories of My Soul

Look over my shoulder as I ponder life.

“Clean Up in Aisle One….”

Went to the grocery store today. Pretty ordinary sentence I just typed there. And I’ll just bet when you read the title you figured I had made (another) mess in public. Well, I can see that. I have had my adventures in crashing into displays, knocking over a line of bicycles, and sending about a dozen baby food jars to their demise. No…today’s account is pretty dark and terribly sad.

As I was steering my grocery cart to the check-out, screaming erupted. Now…my neighborhood keeps the police scanner active. But it is MY neighborhood and I am going to own it. So while I am  not surprised by crime, it is unsettling to see its effects up close.

The store associate had left work and as she stood on the walk, a car stopped and thieves jumped out and grabbed her purse. At that exact moment, a store employee turned to the window and screamed a play by play. People ran. The store manager dialed 911. And I did what my cop son tells me not to do: I got involved.

I ran out of the store to find this woman lying on the ground, writhing in pain. Now…before you think I was trying to emulate Mother Theresa, allow me to interject that if there is anything I am good at, it is comforting hurt people. Why? Because I learned that great art, possibly from you. Others have scurried to my side when I needed comforting, so I feel obligated to do the same. I had a son who spent many years in and out of a children’s hospital, and I realized that the same calm voice, physical touch, and soothing instructions can work just as well on adults. After all, aren’t we just big kids with wrinkles and bifocals?

A crowd gathers pretty fast in a crisis. But I prefer not to gawk. Simply not my style. So I bent over her, soothed her head, talked:

You’re going to be all right, yes, help is on the way, no it was not your fault, yes, your medications inside your purse can be replaced, oh, I know your shoulder and arm are hurting so badly, but you are doing fine sweetie, oooh I know you are afraid–it is fine to be afraid but you are being very brave, just keep breathing, and no I won’t touch your arm dear, you did everything right, and no–it wasn’t your fault it is just what mean people do, and yes, the ambulance is almost here, just stay with me and breathe, and the medics will help you with your pain.”
Definitely life unscripted. But some of these very words were carved out of my own life experience when tending to my very own loved ones. Fear, agony, bewilderment, confusion all looked the same to me; a stranger yes, but oh, so familiar. I could almost see my mother’s face in hers. Her pain was palpable from beneath my fingers, and I was mentally begging the paramedics to hurry faster. Yeah, bad grammar, but please hurry faster.

I can’t tell you her name. I can tell you that the upper plate of her dentures have numbers inscribed on them, that her eyes were blue green and that her skin went from hot to clammy as I reassured her that she was doing just fine. I kinda think she may have been going into shock, but I am not a real doctor, and no, I don’t play one on TV. Were her injuries life threatening? Yes and no.

Her shoulder was no doubt ripped from the socket or her arm broken (her diagnosis). But when that !#*! that stole her purse, he took oh, so much more, than her wallet, her I.D. and her meds.

He took her sense of safety. Her freedom to stand on a sidewalk and not rehearse the searing pain of being knocked down with an injured shoulder, damaged in a way in which she can no longer feel her fingers. This creep has taken away her sense of independence and personal security. She nows adds ‘victim’ to her life story, and possibly ‘unemployed’ as she will be on the mend for a while. Will she heal? Oh probably. But the scar of being mugged and injured will not disappear.

But I admire her guts. She was calling out a description of attacker, car, and partial license plate to anyone who would listen. I would later report every pained syllable to the officer taking the report. She blamed herself and in the next breath called them names I won’t print here. This lady had spunk. And when she gets to feeling better, those punks had better watch out, because I am betting that she has her own rules of justice.

And if they EVER come in her store again, I am betting that she will put them through a ‘check-out’ like none other. I just hope I am there to cheer her on. I don’t believe she is a vengeful person, but she surely has a lesson to teach. After all, why should she ‘shoulder’ all the pain just because some thief saw her as an easy target? And I will just bet some of those other employees from the bakery, dairy and meat aisle will come to her aid as they did this day.

 “Clean up in aisle one” indeed!