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  • Gary Gruber

Look Before You Leap


I don’t write about what happens on a daily basis as some bloggers do, but something happened today. Rarely does 72 hours transpire without me making a trip to our local supermarket. I know every aisle by heart. While I always carry a handwritten list, I can usually shop without it just by looking down an aisle and knowing I need some Cheerios.


I interact with other folks frequently. Some people I beat the shit out of for carrying on conversations on their phones at a high volume setting in public (joke). Sometimes it’s just a nod and a smile, a “yeah, that’s great” to someone looking at a product we use at home. Every once in a while there will be someone who is in such great pain that I stop shopping and try to help. There was a lady a couple of years ago who was slumped over her shopping cart, pushing it with her whole body up and down the aisles. I truly believed she wasn’t going to make it out of the store.


“Let me help”, I said quietly. I pushed her cart to the checkout and unloaded it onto the conveyor belt. After she paid for the groceries, I pushed it to her car and loaded it for her. We didn’t exchange many words. What distressed me most about this situation was how many people saw her before I did and did not offer any help. I absolutely positively believe with all my heart that I did nothing unusual. This is what we all did as kids growing up. Something as simple as opening a door, carrying a bag, or retrieving a dropped item from the floor for someone was NORMAL. EVERYONE HELPED EVERYONE ELSE.


Maybe it’s the aging thing. Older people make eye contact with one another and at least smile. Some spontaneously engage in conversation over the silliest of things. It’s how I socialize now. I joke with the baggers. I try to make someone smile every day.


So I’m walking down the aisle and I spy a lady in her mid 80’s (around 5’2”) and a gent in his late 70’s (maybe 3 inches taller). They are looking up at the top shelf. She needs something and there is no way to get at it. That makes me the youngest and tallest person in the world at that moment. Without so much of a word I start free climbing the shelves until I’m over 7 feet off the ground and holding on to them with my fingertips. I look over my shoulder to verify which item is the one she’s looking for and swat it to the ground with one hand as I cling to the shelf for sheer life with four fingers of my other hand.


The only way down at this point is to push myself off and jump. Which I do because I can’t hold on any longer. The guy catches and stabilizes me so I don’t fall backwards into the opposite shelf of canned food, which would have created quite a spectacle. I thank him. He leaves, I stay. I can see in her eyes she has no one to talk to. We talk about certain items. I tell her which stores elsewhere in the area carry a better selection of this and that, and after a minute or two we part ways. I probably could have stood there for an hour or so and kept chatting away.


My hands had started to throb from the adventure, and I know from experience I have a limited amount of physical capital to engage with each day before they swell up like melons, leaving the five minute drive home to be tenuous at best.


As I was loading the car, my heart sank, literally. I realized at this precise time yesterday I was sitting in the emergency room at Eisenhower Medical Center for five very long hours trying to see a doctor about my blood pressure – which was just a tad shy of causing a major disruption in the time space continuum. I left without seeing a physician -- because I was spent and in pain from the plethora of stuff I deal with on a daily basis.


I try not to think about it on the way home. I’ve never looked before I leapt, and I probably won’t be starting to any time soon.

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