I was at the mall the other day, first time in a long time. It reminded me of a people watching experience I had there in 2009. It was published back then, but bears repeating.
You see this all the time, in a grocery store parking lot, along the street in a shopping area, and especially at a mall with a huge parking lot. The driver’s side door opens. An arm comes out and reaches for the roof. It lingers there for a moment or two and then tenses. A stooped, human-like form begins to emerge. Up, up it comes; soon, the entire world can see the thing that has exited the car. It’s an old coot (could be me) that’s struggled out of a decades old crate, unceremoniously held together with gray strips of duct tape. It’s like watching a chick emerge from an egg.
But, that’s just the beginning; the show is far from over. The old coot locks the door. Twice! Then checks it to make sure it’s really locked. He peers toward the mall entrance and heads off on a long and dangerous trek, having parked at the remotest corner of the lot.
He makes it to the door, only to turn around and stride back toward his car in a panic. He dodges people in cars who dangerously back out of parking slots while chatting on cell phones. He skirts around families that insist on walking five abreast. He makes it to his car, opens the door, bends down, reaches under the seat and retrieves his wallet. It’s several inches thick, loaded with discount cards, IDs, memory aids, and a plethora of items that he almost never uses. He can prove he passed his Junior Red Cross lifesaving test 65 years ago; the crumpled, faded card is there, mixed in with a stack of discount coupons, most of which have expired.
He can’t drive with the wallet in his back pocket; it makes him tilt too far to the left (not a good position for a conservative old coot), so he sticks it under the seat. Now he jams it in his front pocket, locks the door twice, checks it, and heads back to the mall.
Twenty minutes later he comes storming out the door, clutching a Cinnabon box. His face is flush from a combination of embarrassment and anger. He just told the manager of the men’s department in Penney’s what he could do with a pair of khaki pants, and then threw them at him to make his point. He’d found them on a rack with a big sign that said, “50% off.” The manager came over to the register to see what the ruckus was all about. It erupted when the (snotty) clerk told the old coot that the 50% off applied to a second pair of pants. “The first pair are full price; the second pair are the ones that are half off.”
He stomped all the way to his car, put the Cinnabon box on the roof while he unlocked the door and began a protracted entering process. It took a full minute to bend, stretch and wiggle his way behind the wheel. The cinnamon bun, that he was so looking forward to, fell off the roof and rolled under a truck when he tore out of the lot. That’s an old coot for you!
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