I was working at my second job on Wednesday night, the night before Thanksgiving, at a gas station that's adjoined to a big supermarket. I was towards the back of the store doing some of the cleaning duties when I heard something kind of weird going on up at the registers where two of the guys I was working with were ringing up customers. I quit paying attention for a few moments and I heard the Manager on duty ask for me to come up and help.
When I got up there, I hopped onto my register and began ringing people through. All the while noticing that the strange noises that I had heard from the back was actually coming from a small, middle aged, black lady who was madly gestering to my manager who was trying to understand her problem. It wasn't too hard to figure out that she was a deaf mute lady.
The customers died down and I was able to go over and assist and try to figure out what the issue was. My manager had a confused look on his face, as did my other co-worker as they were trying to converse with this woman by writing their questions out on paper. She would read the question, "What can we help you with, are you having trouble?" She would only write one word responses, some of them being "yesterday today", "poultry", "pharmacy", "BIG", "mean", "take". She was also gestering as though she was pushing a cart and then all of a sudden the cart was gone. She then wrote "Police". Obviously we had thought that she had got her cart stolen.
While desperately trying to convey something, she was not really articulating anything at all and acted really clueless through out the whole ordeal. She kept trying to convey something else before we could figure out what she was trying to convey just seconds ago. It was basically just going around in a circle after a while. We called over to the store to see if anyone could shed some light on the situation, and everyone was pretty much clueless, that and being the day before Thanksgiving they were completely swamped.
We ended up calling the police to see if an officer could be sent over for assistance and thought maybee they would have an interpretor available to better understand what the issue was. I wrote to the woman that the police were on their way to help and drew a little smiley face on the paper to help assure her that we would get things straightened out. She was not mad or frusterated, she was visibly distraught and very confused. I tried to ease her a little by looking her in the eyes (which I do with no one, way out of my comfort zone) smiling kindly, and acknowledging her.
The police showed up and she went through her motions, written words, and squeeky sorrowfull noises. I felt very empathetic for her, something a rarely reserve for anyone who I do not know. I felt bad that she didn't have anyone with to help her, I felt bad that I thought she was probably a little bit mentally disabled as well, I felt bad that everyone else was getting frusterated with her, etc. etc.
The phone ended up ringing while the police were with her, getting ready to tell her that there was nothing that they could do for her. It was a manager from the store. He had stated that she was in the day before with a cart of food, Thanksgiving items, and was using her EBT assistance card to purchase her food. It turns out that the card was declined, that she had no assistance left until the first of next month. Apparently, he had explained this to her after calling the agency to check on the card and ended up taking her cart away. Obviously she didn't understand what was happening, and I am under the honest assumption that she thought she had paid for her items, and they were taken from her.
It took me quite a while after the situation was over, and both the woman and the cops had left the store, to assess what happened to this woman. I think that she tried for 2 days (yesterday today) to figure out what had happened and got bounced around from person to person in the main store, that she came over to the gas station as a last resort to have someone help her figure out what the fuck happened. All this woman was trying to do was to have a Thanksgiving meal, and not only could no one give her the time of day to make sure she knew why they were taking her cart away, they could not find it within themselves to help find an option to where this woman could have her items. It's a big fucking grocery store, a quarter from each employee could have served a feast.
I asked for my co-worker to ring my up a 10 cent piece of candy and paid for it using my debit card, making sure to hit the cash back option on the card swiper. He asked me, "Are you doing what I think you're doing?" I just said, "yeah" embarassed that I had water in my eyes and didn't want him to hear my voice crack. This situation just made me so sad that it would ever happen and that so many people let it happen before she walked into our store. Why the police had to be called over something so simple. It was just ridiculous and very stupid to me, I was totally angry underneath the true sadness I felt for her. I placed my bills in front of her, not a lot, but enough for a small Thanksgiving meal with hopefully most of the fixings she was wanting. I slid it towards her, looking her in the eyes again while I said "Please take this so you can buy yourself some food." Everyone stood there gawking at me like I was some freak show, even the cops. She signed me "thank you", I winked at her real quick to let her know all was cool turned around and headed toward the bathroom and bawled for a quick minute.
Not trying to be a big baby or to get all mushy or shit, cause I think most of you know that's not how I roll. But I needed to put it out there so I can remember not to be such a douchebag to people when i think I'm too fucking busy or that something's not my job or responsibility. We are all responsible for each other.