Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Journal of a Living Lady #342

Nancy White Kelly

Buddy and I recently took a week-end trip to the Chattanooga area to attend a Coin Show. Sometimes we go as vendors and rent a table on the bourse. Other times we go to buy additional stock for our coin shop.

One restaurant that we frequent is well- known for its down-home food and atmosphere. On this trip Buddy and the waitress struck up an immediate rapport. Though her first name wasn’t really Sue, Buddy, in his usual comedic style, addressed her by this made-up moniker.

Sue had lightness in her voice like a young girl, but the creases around her eyes and the stars on her apron indicated she had been a worker in this restaurant chain for a good while. In-between stories of years long gone, Buddy forgot that he was supposed to be ordering breakfast. Finally the entertained waitress pretended to write Old Timers Special on the ticket and disappeared with a grin.
When Sue returned with a huge order quite to the liking of Buddy, she mentioned that she was a registered nurse prior to becoming a waitress. Her explanation was that she changed jobs because of “short-term memory problems.” I found the occupational transition a bit odd, but Buddy nodded enthusiastically, acknowledging that that fully related to her difficulty in remembering. Sue’s problem, however, was far more serious than advancing old-age.

Sue’s unwinding story, told between trips to our table with condiments and coffee refills, was moving. She related that a couple of years ago, while driving to the home of her sister, she noticed that her left foot felt “asleep.” Sue shook the foot vigorously and continued driving thinking that she must have positioned it at an odd angle on the floorboard. Moments later, Sue felt a tingling sensation creep up her leg. Minutes later her hip felt numb.

Sue steered the car into the parking area of a combination service station and convenience store. Being a nurse, she knew something was badly wrong. By the time she reached the counter, her speech was slurring.

The store workers were rude and told her to move along. “We don’t want drunks on our premises,” the cashier said.

Sue tried to explain, but the cashier motioned her away. In disbelief, Sue struggled back to her car and drove to the sister’s house.

Sue managed to open the car door one more time, but this time fell to the ground. She was having a stroke.

After several days in the hospital’s intensive care unit and a lengthy rehabilitation period, Sue regained use of her body. Her mind, she says, “is pretty slow now.”

Sue’s sister didn’t forget the terrible treatment of her sibling at the convenience store. She confronted the cashier and manager and asked if they remembered the stammering lady who asked for help. They smirked and the manager referred to Sue as the “drunk lady.” Sue’s sister explained that this so-called drunk lady wasn’t intoxicated, but was having a stroke. She calmly informed the store manager that everybody would know about their lack of compassion and assistance.

The newspaper was told the story. Afterwards, television and radio stations relayed the incident. Local customers were enraged and called for a boycott of the establishment. Eventually gas and store traffic became a trickle. The owners were forced out of business.

Maybe this wasn’t a happy ending, but a deserved one. The media is powerful and, in this case, championed the telling of Sue’s story.
Buddy finished his breakfast and slipped a sizeable tip into her smock pocket.

The Ye Old Coin Shop probably took a loss on this trip, but I am proud of my compassionate husband. He may have a short-term memory, but he has a long-term heart.

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