So, we were in line to purchase our salads for lunch first, and there was a tiny old lady ahead of us. Barely able to walk, cane in one hand, handle of the shopping cart in the other. She was all of four feet tall, at best. She was buying three containers of macaroons, stew meat, and a bag of chips. Nastia and I were quietly commenting to one another how cute she was, when this tiny little woman started lambasting the checkout girl in a very loud, gruff, unladylike voice:
'DON'T YOU GO PUTTING THOSE IN A PAPER BAG! I WANT PLASTIC. PLASTIC! DO YOU HEAR ME?'
'Um, we don't do plastic here,' replied the stunned teenaged checkout girl behind the counter.
Nastia was giggling at this point because the woman was soooo tiny and yet her words were sooo loud. We didn't expect such a booming voice to come out of that tiny frame. To add insult to injury, she started yelling at the checkout girl again, this time waving a bony finger at her:
'HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO CARRY THAT BAG? I CAN'T POSSIBLY CARRY THAT BAG. WHAT ARE YOU DOING?'
'Umm, do you want me to use two separate bags?'
'WHAT DID YOU SAY?' she replied with the fury of a pitbull.
'Do you want two bags instead?'
'I CAN'T HEAR YOU! YOU'RE MUMBLING!WHAT ON EARTH DID YOU SAY?' The tiny old lady was more than agitated with the checkout girl. She looked ready to slap her.
The checkout girl with infinite patience tries again and raises her voice a bit. "Umm, two bags?" She even holds up two bags to illustrate.
'YES, I WANT TWO BAGS. OF COURSE I WANT TWO BAGS! DO YOU EXPECTED ME TO CARRY EVERYTHING IN ONE?'
At this point Nastia is getting mad at the old lady. "Mom, she's being mean. Say something." I explain to her that there is no reason to say something in this situation. The woman is clearly in her nineties, and set in her ways. She is not going to listen to anything I have to say to her. The old lady then hands her card over to the checkout girl.
'Umm, you need to swipe it.'
'WHAT DID YOU SAY?'
'It needs to be swiped...'
And the angelic checkout girl points to the credit card machine and gestures swiping it.. At this point the old lady is at her boiling point. She stares at the machine and tries every which way to swipe it. The machine is in an awkward location that makes it impossible for the checkout girl to help her. Otherwise, I'm certain she would have done it for her. Finally, the old lady succeeds. She places her card in her purse, in a huff, and starts to lift her bags.
'Umm..... you need to sign.' The checkout girl is really venturing out on thin ice here. I worry for her. The old lady is ready to explode and grabs the pen away from the checkout girl with a rude tug. She tries to sign, but finds her coffee cup in the way. She gets furious and abruptly hands her coffee to the checkout girl to hold. The saintly teenager complies and waits while the old lady tries to read, and then sign, the slip. She slams the pen down with an air of finality and starts to put her bags into the cart.
A well-intentioned older man with bad timing suddenly walks by and asks the woman if he can help her bring the bags out to her car. Nastia and I cringe. We know what's coming. Before he even finishes his sentence, the old lady moves her arms across the bags in a dramatically protective manner and screams "NOOOOO!!" at the top of her little lungs.
The would-be Samaritan walks woundedly away.
Nastia and I finally ring our salads through quickly, and by the time we are ready to walk away from the register, the old lady is still there fiddling with her bags. Nastia is afraid to squeeze by her. 'Just say excuse me, honey.' I said quietly from behind. Nastia turns to me. 'No way, mom! Did you see what she did to that old man?'
And so we patiently wait for the lady to maneuver her cart as she heads towards the door. We finally go and sit down at the cafeteria tables.
'Mom, that lady has a whole lot of anger. I thought she was really cute at first, but that much anger doesn't leave any room for cuteness.' says my wise daughter. She looks around and about 15 feet away still stands the old lady with her cart. She is obviously waiting for someone to come pick her up.
We eat and chat, and Nastia keeps turning around to check on the old lady, who still stands by the exit door, purse on her arm and grasping the cart. She looks cold.
Nastia continues to fluctuate between eating, chatting, and checking on the old woman. Finally she puts her fork down.
'Mom, I feel bad for her. Maybe we should ask her if she wants to sit down.' A glance at the grimace on the woman's face leads to a change of opinion. 'No, I better not.' Nastia adds. She begins eating again.
A good fifteen minutes go by and the woman is still there. Nastia looks concerned and resolved.
'Mom, I'm sorry, but no one is too old to change. Not even her. I think we should pray for her.' And so, at my daughter's behest, we close our eyes and say a little prayer for the grumpy old lady. A few minutes later, Nastia checks on her again. She is still standing -- purse on arm, grimace on face -- by the exit door. She is obviously still angry, and cold.
'Mom..' Nastia says, 'I think she might need two prayers...' So we pray again, and this time Nastia scrunches up her eyes and I can tell she is really concentrating on getting this woman some divine assistance. So sweet.
Finally, it's time for us to leave the table and head to the shopping carts. The old woman is blocking the way, and I very carefully and unassumingly squeeze by her. Nastia hesitates, and then follows slowly behind me.
We get past the old lady, and Nastia suddenly grabs my arm. 'Mom! You won't believe this!' Nastia looks over her shoulder, back in the direction of the angry little lady.
'Mom...She SMILED at me! How is that possible? I looked at her.... and.... she..... SMILED.' Nastia, glances one last time over her shoulder, hooks her arm in mine, and we waltz over to the shopping carts. She is obviously truly moved by what happened.
'See Mom?' She smiles as she tries to tug a cart free, "Miracles happen even in grocery stores.'