Wednesday, November 11, 2009

About an old lady

Last Saturday was my first day volunteering in a charity shop on Camden Street. As I bustled about trying to be useful and not get in the way I was warned to be vigilant against pickpockets and shoplifters, as they've had plenty of them there recently. "What kind of scumbag nicks stuff from charity shops?" I thought to myself, secure in the knowledge that my teenage shoplifting prowess had all been a carefully orchestrated plot against The Man, and that no-one ever suffered from it.
 An hour later I was working away on the till when a greying man approached me, speaking in a conspiratorially low whisper. "You see that old woman down there, the one in the black coat?" She was the only old woman in a pretty small shop, so of course I saw her. He went on to provide further needless descriptions before saying "I saw her steal something, I think it was a tea-strainer she put in her pocket." His concern was simultaneously admirable and irritating. I am loath to be frisking old ladies, even villainous tea-strainer thieves, so I passed this on to a more experienced member of staff, who consulted with the manager. They thought she'd been at that kind of thing in the shop before, so decided to wait by the door to intercept her.
 Business was good at the tills so I missed the dramatic moment, but the next thing I saw of the old lady she was trembling out profuse apologies, all five foot nothing of her. I was struck by how much older she looked than my 84 year-old grandfather, despite the fact that she's probably a full decade younger. Her eyes were brimming as she kept saying, over and over, "I just wasn't thinking, I was walking around and my mind slipped and I put it in my pocket. I didn't mean to, I didn't mean to." She was brought to the till so she could hand me over the €2.90 for the tea-strainer she says she was always intending to buy. A wretched sight by this stage, her unkempt grey curls quivering along with her and a tear rolling down a line in her face as she handed over her shivering coins.The manager kept trying to console her, agreeing that it's very easy for such a thing to slip your mind. But she was in bits by now, so they took her down to the back of the store to sit down and have a cup of tea and a chat.
 She shuffled out about 15 minutes later looking little better, mumbling anguished promises about going straight to the church to say her prayers.

9 comment(s):

Radge said...

I was going to write a glib comment now about lifting a PM Dawn single from the Virgin Megastore when I was 11, but I don't want to now.

You evocative bastard.

Andrew said...

At least you showed that Branson chap what's what.

'Evocative' sounds better than 'manipulative', which is what I was worried this post would come across as.

whereimbloggingfrom said...

There are few things sadder than crying old people. Crying children I can take. Crying puppies, even. But not old people. :(

Still, kinda lovely that ye took her in the back for tae!

NaRocRoc said...

No place for a "Rufus Sewell hurt my testicles" tag on this one!

Jennikybooky said...

I used to work in the Irish Cancer Society shop there and people would come up to me and try to haggle with me over a 2 euro tie. Hello like? It's a charity shop! "Fixed prices" I'd say. And then they'd ask for the manager. I mean really like? Honestly?

Anonymous said...

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Jo said...

Aw. Pathos. But life is like that, don't worry about manipulative.

Andrew said...

Eimear - Do the New Yorkers not know about the healing properties of the oul' cup o' tae?

Narocroc - No, not this time. But he did hurt them, the prick, and i'm not gonna forget about it.

Jennie - That's where I'm working! Most of the customers I've met so far have been really nice, but I did have a guy hand me 85 cent for a €1 item and say "Sure that'll do you, won't it?"

Anonymous - Given that you failed to put a link for any dodgy product into your comment I reckon it ranks as some of the worst spam I've ever seen. Try harder. Or, y'know, fuck off.

Jo - Thanks. Do you know how much like a teacher you sound there? Takes one to know one.

mary said...

Lovely post and ..... congrats!