The View from Faraway Farm: Do you need help outside?

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I was in a supermarket in West Lebanon, N.H. the other day when the cashier asked me "Do you need any help outside?" What in Hell is she talking about, do I need any help outside? Is this something to do with elderly people? The confusion must have shown on my face because the question not only caught me off-guard, but it made no sense to me. I had to check all of my appendages to see if they were A. Still there, or B. Were suddenly afflicted with a fast-acting wasting disease that made me appear incapable of carrying two lightweight sacks of groceries 50 yards to my car. She quickly explained that they ask everyone that nowadays and she didn't mean anything by it. "No problem, thanks for asking," I said, and went on my somewhat confused way

She didn't ask the senior citizen lady in front of me if she needed "help outside." Of course, the lady in front of me dyed her hair and troweled on a quarter-inch layer of makeup. With me it's what you see is what you get. Pure white goatee, age spots on the backs of my hands, and an old-looking kind of flabby neck due to a year's worth of losing close to 40 pounds. So what if I look like Hell, I can still somehow manage to get two half-full bags of groceries out to my car without Big Travis doing the heavy lifting. Am I getting age-sensitive all of a sudden?

My MUCH younger fiance comes out of the craft store where she had been shopping and I tell her about the "Do you need help outside" incident. "Oh yeah," she says, "a lot of store employees are asking that. I've been asked that. It's probably some kind of leftover holiday PR campaign." I'm thinking to myself that it's not helping ... me.

I think back to other similar situations. The farm store where I buy those woodblocks made from sawdust to burn in one of my woodstoves. I generally buy a dozen 40-pound packages of blocks at a time. I load them onto a cart in the store, pay for them, and roll them out to my truck and load them in the back. No big deal. Recently the cashiers have started asking me if I need any help with that. I tell `em no thanks, I need the exercise, which is true. Thanks for asking.

A couple of weeks ago I push my cart loaded with woodblocks out into the parking lot and open the tailgate and suddenly a young guy in a truck parked adjacent to mine says "you need any help with that?" I politely beg off and thank him for asking. (expletive here) *%#@^% is going on? Do I suddenly look that old and decrepit that folks are taking pity on me and are now offering to carry part of my load? I'm not accustomed to that! Let me tell you what I am accustomed to.

Getting carded well into my 40s while buying alcohol, and I don't even drink. Getting told that I look a lot younger than I am. This sort of thing went on into my early 50s until it subsided. Now it is going rapidly in the other direction and it took a while to adjust. It has since progressed to where I am being treated as if I'm out on furlough from the old folks home every time I'm out in public. I'm afraid one of these days that several well-meaning store clerks are going to corral me, hand me a mug of hot cocoa and ask me to wait for the van to come pick me up. Maybe it's time to accept a couple of realities.

I should be far more aggressive about inquiring after senior discounts. I need to embrace the warmth and caring of others and let them haul my groceries and load my woodblocks. After all, they are not the ones who are delusional. I am. I am a senior citizen, past the age of retirement, possibly needing help outside accepting the fact that yes, I am this old, but I sure as Hell don't act like it!

The Morning Almanac with Arlo Mudgett can be heard Monday through Saturday mornings on radio stations Oldies KOOL FM 106.7, 96.3 and 106.5 and over Peak-FM 101.9 - 100.7.The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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