Monday, November 5, 2012
Committed to Being Stubborn
I had another opportunity today in Kroger's to practice patience in the checkout line. I stayed alert to the environment, and after a while saw that this could take a very long time, put my stuff back in my cart and went to (gasp) the self-service. Since I had three kinds of produce that had to be weighed, I learned how to do that. Yes, I am modestly proud.
I also got a writing prompt from the situation: a very old lady was holding everything up, and still might be, as she was attempting to count out some $74 in ones. When she thought she had it, the checker told her "There's only $35 here. Your bill is $74." That was when I moved on.
The lady looked very elderly, maybe 90, fragile-looking, tremorous and bent, and dressed in many shades of purple, down to her handbag and wallet and chiffon scarf protecting her hairdo; she knew what her favorite color was. Watching her I thought, You really need to let your daughter come shopping with you. I don't know whether she has a daughter, so what follows here is all my fiction.
The lady in purple does have children, a couple of them right here in town. A son and a daughter, all you need to navigate old age, if they're decent people, and let's suppose they are. They have had to take her credit card away because she was drawing money from ATMs and giving it to scammers, and then they had to take the checkbook away because she was constantly bouncing checks. They have begged her to let them go shopping with her. But she can shop alone, because she's still driving. You'd be surprised what kids will let their parents do, rather than make them mad. It's sad.
Her kids have begged her to let them do the shopping - not a chance. They need to insist, but they have. They say, "She's so stubborn."
There's a lot to think about here (like, how are you going to handle your old age?) but I set out to write about being stubborn. In my story, the old woman can't shop alone. Her endeavor was making her anxious, and the checkout lines were all backed up because she was effectively disabling one of them. She needs to relax and accept the reality of aging.
The moral of the story is this: Stubbornness is not a virtue. In fact, sticking to the way you want things to be, no matter who it hurts, is a spiritual flaw. Yet, people who would never admit to other character flaws (like having no impulse control or being mean) don't hesitate to say "I'm stubborn." And they have trained their poor children to think it's an okay fact of personality. "Oh, he's always been stubborn."
What follows from this, if you think about it, that a stubborn person is going to stick to being stubborn. In a weird way, it makes perfect sense.