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The Daily Sam: Old and In the Way

It’s scary getting old.

This came home to me the other day when I was out shopping for some fruits and vegetables with my mother-in-law, Betty Kamen. Betty doesn’t move too fast these days, and as we set off to cross Taraval Street in San Francisco I could see some cars in the distance. I didn’t give this too much thought. California law is very clear about pedestrians—we were in a crosswalk and we had the right of way.

However, the drivers of the cars coming at us seemed to have other priorities besides the law, ethics, and civilization in general. One of them just kept coming—slowly, but still, not stopping as proscribed by the state, even though he could see—had been able to see for 100 yards—that I was escorting a little old lady across the street. Just to make things interesting, there was a second car coming behind the first that was being driven by a competitive driver. You know what I mean: it was of the utmost importance for this guy to pass driver number one, even though there was no race. Many of us get into this mindset—we hurry to beat other drivers, or people standing on lines, or to the top of whatever heap we decide we must conquer in the moment.

This second car was passing the first car when he saw us. Did he stop, or even slow down? Of course not. He just swerved wider and raced on by. I noticed a handicap sticker hanging from his mirror.

Betty and I made it across the road, but it had been an unpleasant moment. It is troubling to see how cavalier and disrespectful our fellow citizens can be to one another at any time; it was truly disturbing to see such callousness directed at someone as fragile as an 85-year-old with a bad hip.

Well, not really directed at her. I doubt they gave it that much thought, which is more troubling then a moment of carelessness. Many of us are in such a hurry to get to the next event, own the newest, best gadget, make the most money, have the most fun, and prove that we are an important person that we risk forgetting what it means to be a human being.

Okay, I’m getting preachy here. I once was a preacher, so I come by it honestly. Frankly, when those cars sped by I didn’t want to tell them to be nicer and take the time to enjoy life: I just wanted to nail their car windows with a golf ball. So it’s probably a good thing for everyone involved that I didn’t happen to have any golf balls in my pocket.

But my spasm of anger aside, we really should be nicer to each other and take the time to enjoy the precious, fragile gift of life. That was the takeaway message for me. Although after we did our shopping I did have a bunch of great fruit and vegetables in a bag that would have been perfect for addressing any more obnoxious behavior on the part of a thoughtless driver. Tomato, anyone? 

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I completely understand

Several years ago I was at a now defunct grocery chain picking up a few things before I went to work. I was walking behind an elderly woman and was waiting for her to move on so I could grab an item off the shelf when I looked down and saw that someone had spilled cooking oil on the floor. I noticed it just as her foot went down, quickly followed by the rest of her frail body. I heard the unmistakable crack of her hip as she hit the tile floor. It sounded like a gunshot. I was able to grab her and keep her head from hitting the floor but her pain was tremendous. This was before the age of cell phones so I asked someone to go call 911. About 1 minute after she fell the manager of the store came up to her with papers in hand and told her that an ambulance would not be called until she signed them. I asked to look at them and noted they were 'Release Of Responsibility' papers. I handed them back to him and told her she was to sign nothing. I guess I looked trustworthy because, even though she didn't know me, she agreed without even looking at them. I then told him if he didn't get an ambulance there immediately I would report him to the police. I gave him my name to give the EMS and they were there within a few minutes and took her to the emergency room. I was on my way there since I was the Head Nurse in the ER and took care of her after her arrival. I was also the First Lieutenant with the county EMS which is why I gave my name. She ended up having a complete hip replacement and spent a few weeks in the hospital where I visited her many times and became quite close to her and her family. I've often wondered how another human being could be so cold hearted to have told an injured, elderly woman that he would not allow an ambulance to come pick her up until she signed a paper stating they were not responsible for her accident. Maybe he was just doing his job but since when has that taken precedence over caring for another human who is in pain? The store did end paying all her bills and I found out later they had been told by other customers about the oil in the floor but had done nothing about it. I enjoy taking care of older people because they genuinely are appreciative of what you do for them. I wish you would have had some golf balls and maybe a baseball or two in your pocket when this happened.