The couple were in a compact car just in front of my van, waiting at a four-way stop, trying to make a left turn onto the main drag that leads to Costco. They were probably both in their early eighties; well dressed, both wearing hats; his, a fedora, hers, a knitted tam.
That hat-on-head silhouette, viewed from the back, is generally a give-away that the driver is elderly. Younger people either just wear ball caps or go hatless. Out of respect you usually try and cut the older drivers some slack, right? The driver was having a hard time of it. Four-way stops are efficient and civilized when drivers follow the rules: first to arrive goes first and from there everyone takes turns, one at a time, going counter-clockwise.
Not here in St. John’s, though. Most drivers just push their way through, regardless of order, heedless of the rules and just taking a turn whenever they want. Generally if a driver goes through, the one directly across the intersection and heading in the opposite direction just decides to go for it too, at the same time. Either they figure—incorrectly—that’s the right thing to do or they just don’t care, justifying it as, “I can go now since there’s no way it can cause trouble. It’s just little old me, doing my thing! LOL.”
That’s just dead ignorant and stupid. First, they totally mess up any semblance of order since the remaining two cars at the four-way have no idea who is supposed to go next. More importantly it totally fools it up for the poor person who’s trying to go left since the car coming from the opposite direction just barges out and cuts them off.
That’s exactly the position the elderly couple were put in. Car after car bullied its way through, oblivious of any sense of order. I waited behind the couple, knowing that eventually there would be a break and they would finally get to do their left turn, despite the many rude drivers. Besides, I was just going to Costco; no biggie.
The driver behind me did not feel that way, though, and soon leaned on the horn. I looked in the rear-view. There he was, eyes flashing with impatience and mouth going, “@%$!&.” Clearly he needed to resolve some emergency at the retail giant…or something. This had the desired effect, though, and the car ahead started to nose out, despite the horns and protests of the oncoming vehicles who were just not in any mood to follow the rules. Eventually he got through. I let three more cars through and then, when my turn should have come around I just pushed out in the intersection and made the oncoming car stop. She leaned on her horn too. “Frig it,” I murmured to myself. It was my turn now, “so go hit my 5-year old van if you want.” Buddy behind me came through with me, maintaining around ½ inch distance from my bumper.
I wound up parking just a few cars away from the couple. The driver had backed his Toyota into a parking space, the only driver I could see in the area that’d bothered to park correctly. Buddy with the big old truck roared past us and front-firsted his truck into a spot. Badly; way too far over on the passenger side but plenty of room for him, of course. He opened his door wide, jumped out and, snorting all the while, barreled for the store. He rushed past the elderly couple, but they paid no heed to him whatsoever. I went just behind them. They were in no great hurry. The old gentleman moved stiffly, probably some arthritis. The lady, who could have gone much more quickly, remained at his side. They chatted quietly all the while.
Once inside they got a shopping cart and joined the throng of shoppers. I went off and did my thing too. After about an hour I was finished so I headed for the checkout and took my place in one of the lineups. Once again I saw the elderly couple. Their cart was now fairly full; gift items mostly. They were still talking quietly to one another.
He was pushing the shopping cart and clearly heading for one of the shorter lines. A lady with a full cart breezed past them at the last second and inserted herself in the line just ahead of them. She then stood, looking around with that smug, self-entitled look some people seem to wear whenever in public. Once again the couple didn’t react to the obvious slight, other than to stop the cart fairly abruptly owing to how she’d cut them off.
I was midway through putting my items in the van when they came along. They were surprisingly efficient in putting their purchases away, double-teaming the process. Instead of putting them in the trunk they laid the items across the back seat, he from one door and she from the other. I was putting my last item away when they drove off. I watched until they were gone from of sight. There they were, still conversing softly. Clearly the conversation had been ongoing for a very long time.
Just an old couple out doing their business; no fuss. Just another ordinary day, one of many, many, many.
It occurred to me that, somewhere, some people were probably lucky enough to know that couple as “Nan” and “Pop.” I believe I smiled to myself the whole way home.