From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cranky Old People

Mind games


My son Isaac works part-time as a stock person in a grocery store, and he sometimes talks about "cranky old people". Usually, he's frustrated that they've scolded him about things that are totally outside his control.

At my job today, I met one of Isaac's "cranky old people".  I asked a white-haired fellow if I could help him with anything, and he launched into a passionate complaint about my misleading labels. 

My labels? I was taken aback, but when he paused, I spoke as politely as I could. "I'm sorry it's confusing, sir," I said. "I will pass along your complaint, but the store really has no control over that product's labels. The packages and the information that's printed on them come from the manufacturer."

My words only made him angrier. He spat out a few more paragraphs about "my" labels and "my" sizes and "my" products and "my" store, and I stood there meekly and heard him out. Finally he bought the only thing we had that resembled what he really wanted, and strode away, a thin, stiff, angry, elderly man.

This incident reminded me of my mother-in-law, who is now in her mid-90s. For the past few years (since breaking a hip), Mama N. has lived in an assisted-living home. She doesn't go out to shop anymore, which is probably just as well. The last few times I shopped with her, she had conversations with clerks that were quite similar to the one I had this morning.

Portrait of a Elderly Lady
(Mary Cassatt)
Those unfortunate clerks didn't know that Mama suspected they would cheat an old lady like her, every chance they got.  Mama tried to be extra feisty, to show them that she was no easy mark. That's sort of like my angry man today. He was sure that the labels were intended to trick him.

If I make it through another decade or two, I hope that I don't go paranoid in the process. Being suspicious all the time surely must be exhausting. And it makes a person cranky, which certainly is hard on other folks.

7 comments:

Collagemama said...

Throw in the lack of patience and the difficulty hearing, and it's not a pretty picture.

Stitchy McFloss said...

When I lived in FL we were surrounded by older people. Some were as sweet as could be, some were not. I always tried to have patience with them because I figured they might have other issues that made them act that way. A lot of them were just down right rude. One time this older man walked past all of us standing in line at the movies and just cut in front. Most people didn't say anything, but a few did. I kind of felt sorry for the man, not because he was old, but because of his thought process. I just could not image in a million years doing something like he did. It's hard some times to have patience, I know the older I get the less I seem to have. But I just keep thinking of that man at the movies and try really hard not to treat others as he treated all of us. :)

Genevieve said...

Well, lots of old people aren't unreasonably cranky, thank goodness. I mean, if they're cranky, they have a rational reason for feeling as they do and accept a rational solution, explanation, or apology.

I have lots of senior customers every day, and most of them are really nice people. I enjoy them.

Library Lisa said...

Miss Genevieve: I have only recently started exploring blogs and had been drawn to yours through our work website. It is exactly as I pictured!! Wonderful, gentle and flows like a tiny stream of water n my hand. Thank you for sharing your insights and stories.

Genevieve said...

I'm not much of an activist here. I figure people can read about current events on a million different websites.

Sunny said...

Sometimes I wonder if being "cranky" is a result of the person's pain level. Alot of older pp suffer with arthritus and other very painful dilemas. And other times I wonder if it is a fact of them losing "control" of certain areas of thweir lives. Just a thought.....

Genevieve said...

I agree, Sunny. Endless pain and dwindling independence are both states that one must experience to really understand. There's certainly no universal reason that people are irritable.

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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.