I was getting a pedicure a couple of days ago in preparation for my upcoming California adventure (Disneyland and the conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams). The workers were all busy and I was chatting with other customers. An elderly gentleman shuffled in, using a cane and just sort of looking around, not saying anything. He was met with silence and staring. There is a barber shop next door and one of the customers said, not to him but to the rest of us, “He must be looking for the barber shop.” Still more awkward silence. The owner of the nail shop finally got up and approached him and asked what she could do for him. He said he wanted a manicure. Then everyone took a sigh of relief, and he got a manicure. Although the other customer said, under her breath, “I didn’t know men got manicures.” I said to her, “Well, they have fingers, don’t they?” She smiled at that.
I began engaging the man in conversation and found out that he needed manicures because he has peripheral neuropathy (no feeling in his hands and feet) related to diabetes, which he has had for 40 years, so he can’t groom his nails. He is 77 years old, has had 2 open heart surgeries and 17 grandchildren. His grown daughters take good care of him. I asked him what he did for a living before he retired and he said he was a state senator. As it turned out, he was pretty famous in the press when he was a state senator and I’m sure everyone in the shop had heard of him. So… what did I learn from this? I’m still ruminating, but basically I wonder why we jump to such quick assumptions when we see an elderly man shuffle into our space. We naturally assume he is confused and lost. Why don’t we naturally assume he is vibrant and wise and knows what he is doing? Is this what I have to look forward to as I age? People assuming I’ve lost my mind? Bummer!