945am – Breakfast:
5 Quorn veggie cocktail sausages - large portion
2 Shana Punjabi samosas (frozen) – medium portion
2 homemade choc-chip shortbread biscuits – medium portion
Cup of coffee with honey and double cream
Satiety Level: Full
6.45pm – Dinner:
Vegetarian Singapore-style Vermicelli noodles – medium portion
Aubergine in Garlic Sauce – medium portion
Egg Fried rice – small to medium portion
Tofu in Yellow Bean Sauce – medium portion
Vegetable Tempura – medium portion
Satiety Level: Pleasantly Satisfied
Food intake was a mixture of an austere breakfast and a Chinese takeaway dinner. The takeaway was, quite possibly, the finest it has ever been from there! And I’m pleased that I kept things in moderation and stopped eating before I was totally full too.
But I wanted to reflect on a very sad experience in the pharmacy today. I could see an old, wobbly, distressed-looking man with a walking stick struggling to open the pharmacy’s front door and stay balanced at the same time. I went over to try and help him open the door, but the door opened outwards (ie towards him) and he was standing too close to it. If I had been over-zealous in my attempts, he would have toppled over! As it was, in the course of his struggle his walking stick did clatter to the ground.
Eventually, with a good deal of effort, I managed to hold the (heavy) door open long enough for him to shuffle through. It was immediately apparent to me that the poor old chap was more than a little confused and really rather distressed. He asked me if I worked there. I pointed him towards the pharmacist (who happened to be an Asian guy too.) I then watched an uncomfortable exchange between the two. The pharmacy staff had provided the old man with a chair to sit in. He seemed to be asking whether the doctor had been over to tell them about his situation (a highly unlikely scenario these days!) He seemed to be saying that he had an awful pain in his knee and was at his wits end about it. All he wanted was for someone to deal with it for him. He said he had been to several doctors and nurses that morning (again, highly unlikely) who hadn’t been able to help him.
Obviously, the pharmacist was trying to establish what was going on and offered to call any friends or family for the man. But the man bemoaned the fact that he lived on his own and was being pushed from pillar to post in his quest for some relief. He was getting clearly agitated with the pharmacist and clearly agitated with his own, physical condition.
I felt huge sympathy for the man at the same time as being wary of his temper. I wanted to help him somehow, but felt that, what with his fragility and the slowness of his movement and his confused state, I could well end up on a bit of a wild goose chase escorting him around the shops/surgeries/pharmacies in the vicinity! And I had a lot to do and family commitments to fulfil.
Even so, I am a little ashamed of myself for not getting involved because I knew that doing so would cause a little inconvenience for myself.
A few years ago, I gave a lift to a very old man with a hugely curved spine who was struggling to walk down a pavement and was holding onto a hedge for support. He was on his way to his surgery for an appointment with the doctor, but he would almost certainly have missed the appointment if I hadn’t intervened. At that time, I was in no big rush. The man was very grateful and the surgery was just a couple of hundred yards away. I helped him out of my car and walked him to the surgery’s reception and left him in the unsmiling hands of the receptionist there who was eyeing me with suspicion.
A couple of years after that, I was driving late at night near home when I saw a figure walking in a kind of erratic way across the road dressed in what looked like a nightie and an open dressing gown. It was a foggy, freezing night and it felt to me as if something must be wrong. So I doubled back, pulled up at the side of the road, wound down my window and asked the old lady if she was ok. She said she was on her way to see her friend, but couldn’t quite remember where the friend lived. It was obvious to me that she was confused and more than a bit vulnerable – to the elements and traffic if nothing else!
So I offered to give her a lift back home. She seemed to know where home was and said she could give me directions as I drove. I thought to myself that I would see if she really did know the whereabouts of her own home before calling the police. Anyway, as we drove, she began telling me her life story in a slightly halting and confused manner. She mentioned, in passing, that she had a niece who visited her regularly.
Soon enough, we arrived at where she lived. I walked her up to her apartment and asked her if she wanted me to call her niece for her. I can’t now remember if she refused or didn’t know her niece’s number. But she was very adamant that I come into her home and have a chat and look at some pictures of her niece’s kids. That would have been a little odd and inappropriate (not to mention that, in her confused state, there was no guarantee that she would continue to act rationally or even remember that she had invited me – a total stranger - into her home in the first place!) So I politely declined. At which point she was visibly upset with me! She gave me pouty ‘little girl’ looks and started sulking! I knew immediately that I had made the right decision to not enter her home.
I also knew I had better call the police just to report the whole incident. As it happened, she was known to the police. Apparently, this sort of thing had happened several times in the past. Yes, there was a niece whom they would contact. And they’d also send a couple of officers round to make sure she was fine.
So that time, there was a satisfactory – if not exactly happy – ending to the story! In fact, the following day I received a call from the police to thank me on behalf of the lady’s niece who was touched that somebody cared enough to help a clearly confused and vulnerable old lady.
Truth be told, each time I am driving around and I see an old man or lady struggling to walk or carrying big bags of shopping because they have nobody in their lives to help them to do it, I feel awful. I feel like stopping and ferrying them to their destinations. But I know that if I started to do that every time I felt a pang of sympathy for a lonely old person, I wouldn’t have time to do much more in my life!
But I like to think that I’d still help out in the most extreme cases of vulnerability like this. (No matter what the age of the person.)
Which is why I am ashamed of doing nothing to help that poor old man in the pharmacy today. I’ve never seen him before, but it is feasible that I will see him again in that locality. I hope that, next time, I will have the decency to do something to help rather than being overly preoccupied with my own life and (inconsequential) needs.