Monday, April 20, 2009

Crotchety Old Folks Punching Me in the Neck with Their Opinions

This was a busy weekend for me, kicked-off in the beer section of Pick & Save on Friday night, where I was on the phone with J, trying to narrow down his options so I could get the hell out and blow my nose. For some reason--perhaps it's the detergent they wash the floors with, who knows--all grocery and big box stores make my nose run. It also runs when I exercise.

(Am I the only girl at the gym with Kleenex stuffed in the waistband of her yoga pants? Note that it is not stuffed in my sports bra. It could certainly do double duty there, but I don't want to blow my nose in sweaty tissue.)

I digress. So I'm in front of a wall of coolers on the phone when an older lady bangs up behind me with her cart. She's trying to get around the end cap, but someone has rudely left an empty cart in the corner of the aisle, and it's in her way.

"This your cart?" she snarled, bumping her own cart into the empty one.

I shook my head, trying to juggle two six-packs of beer (New Glarus Black Wheat: Thumbs up. New Glarus Stone Soup: Meh, not so much.) and bid my husband farewell while helping her trundle on by. Still on the phone, I shook my head and pulled the cart out of her way.

"Thank you. " And then she huffed--LOUDLY, "These immigrants just don't know how to shop."

Wow. Looks like somebody's been watching too much Lou Dobbs!

I wish I could say this was the first time an elderly woman accosted me in a store with some strong and/or offensive views. It also happened at Target a few years ago. In the book section, more specifically. When President Clinton's autobiography was on every shelf.

A furious geriatric shopper cornered me and shook her fist at the shelf of books featuring his visage. "I'd NEVER buy that book," she raged. "Can you believe that man? He makes me SICK." Her varicose veins throbbed in fury. I can't be sure, but I have a vague memory of her spitting at the books at that point.


I answered by licking the photo on the cover, dropping five copies into my cart, and saying, "Oh, I can't WAIT to read it. Right after I donate some money to the ACLU and have a late-term abortion."

(At this point I must add that I am completely and totally kidding, in case my Grandma is reading this. I noticed at Easter that she is also reading Clarence Thomas's autobiography.)

Anyway, it's a good thing I wasn't drinking the beer I was holding in Pick & Save, because I may have answered that racist old xenophobe. In Spanish. And that wouldn't have been a good thing. In both instances, I was actually too stunned to think of a response.

So do you give these cranky old folks a wide berth and ignore them because it would be too much trouble to engage? Or do you stand up for your beliefs NO MATTER WHAT?

The following night we saw Sherman Alexie speak at the Fox Cities Book Festival, and even though he was once hydrocephalic and is slightly bowlegged and near-sighted in one eye/far-sighted in the other (so am I, Sherman! So am I!!!), it was easy to see why women send him photos of themselves in their undies. He's that brilliant and hilarious. Check him out on The Colbert Report here. (He said he was so hopped up on adrenalin he vomited in the green room bathroom AFTER the show.)

He would have totally schooled that crotchety old lady.

PS: Thanks to everyone who came to see me at the book festival on Saturday! You made my day.


  1. People say the strangest things to me too! What is it about us? We must simply ooze a look that says, "Offend me. I promise to just stare at you in shock."

  2. Once they reach a certain age they think they're entitled to get away with saying all kinds of crazy things to who ever will listen.

    It doesn't happen too often to me, but I usually look unapproachable and in a hurry with a kid or two along.

  3. Anonymous1:13 PM

    I was in that auditorium with you!!! A double brush with fame that night...

  4. Okay, I was going to wax nostalgic about the Pick and Save (or as we called it, the Mega-Lo Mart), or share a common squee about Sherman Alexie (almost peed my pants the one time I heard him speak), but with your lick-the-cover, late-term-abortion comment, I had to instead say I (heart) Jess.

  5. In NYC there was an old woman who NEVER held the elevator door for me. One day I ran up 3 flights of stairs after her and yelled YOU ARE A BITCH AND HAVE BEEN SINCE I MOVED IN. It was FABULOUS!!

  6. Maybe you just have that "I'm approachable" look to you. I'm the same way. It's a curse.

    btw... your linkage to the Colbert video seems to be broked. :-(