I watch the full grocery cart as it all but runs away from the dark little bow-legged old woman in the Whole Foods parking lot. Her low braid dances down her back as she hurtles behind it. She is rolling it to a car, w-a-a-y over there as indicated by the broad wave of an arm, the one with the key — the arm of the trim, contained woman directing her, whose voice can be heard through one, two, three lanes of cars. The car owner, her hair gathered into a low ponytail colonial style, minus a ribbon, needs color. Gray tufts at her hairline overwhelm the dark honey tint, turning it harsh and brittle. She has taken the trouble to tease the crown of her head, but possibly not this morning. She is a lady, even if a little off. She thinks she is chattering for the sake of the elderly Indian woman, but it seems to me that it is really for herself, to make the vast gulf between them and the awkwardness she feels about the deal they have struck a little easier to endure. She takes it as a point of honor that she is a person who is kind to her inferiors. The chatter belies her contempt. She is babbling on to level the field, to push away feelings that make her squirm. We are the same, she wants to communicate, although neither believes it. Within the terms of this brief transaction, there is little common ground with this worker: older and poorer than she, probably thankful to have a job although exhausted by it, weary from the labor and long hours and the two buses it takes to get to this rich neighborhood where she racks up shopping carts and takes bags to cars. She doesn’t answer.
continue reading Shelley Singer's essay at Women's Voices For Change.
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