Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Truly Awkward Experience

A little over a week ago, the boys and I stopped by our Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market (basically a grocery store) to pick up a few things we desperately needed. It was right at 5:00 p.m. and the store was fairly crowded.

As soon as we walked in, I heard what sounded like a kid pitching a screaming fit. The boys looked at me and commented on it. I hoped it wouldn't last, but during the few minutes we were in the produce section, it continued - short bursts of screaming every 20-30 seconds or so.

On to the bread aisle, which was where the commotion was coming from. Only it wasn't a kid throwing a tantrum. It was a grown woman with Tourette Syndrome, who also seemed to be mentally disabled, and her caretaker. And she wasn't just screaming; she was screaming obscenities.

Okay. Why? Why in the world would you take someone with that condition into a crowded supermarket at a peak time of day? Then to top it off, all the caretaker did was say, "Quit that! Everyone's going to be looking at you." You think? You think maybe that only increased her agitation? I do, because the outbursts started coming with more frequency.

I quickly got our bread, grabbed some Little Debbie snacks for the boys, and proceeded to the next row as quickly as I could. The boys were frightened, and Caleb was intrigued as well. He kept asking me why she was screaming. I told him she had a disorder that made her do that, but I didn't really want to get into all that in the store, so I told him I'd tell him more when we got in the van. (Thankfully they didn't understand the words she was screaming! They were hard to distinguish at first, but once you realized what was going on, you could catch each one plainly.) I don't think I've ever gone through that store faster - unless of course I had a much shorter list.

As we turned into each new aisle and heard more screams of profanity, other people would look up from their carts with bewildered and embarrassed looks on their faces. They were hurrying, too.

By the time we got to the other side of the store and were almost finished with our shopping, the screams seemed to have slowed down a little, but she was still carrying on. I couldn't believe she was still there.

We stood in awkward silence with the other customers in our checkout line while our high-school-aged cashier tried to make light small talk. You could see the discomfort creep into his eyes with each scream. One more obscenity met us as we pushed our cart out the door.

As soon as we got in the parking lot, Caleb started asking questions again. Once I got the groceries loaded in the van and we were on the way home, I explained to him what I knew of the disorder. I once worked with someone with Tourette Syndrome, but his form only involved physical tics as far as I could tell.

If I hadn't been so tired and ready to get home, if I hadn't desperately needed some groceries, I would've just gone to another grocery store or gone home. Next time I will.


Lindsay said...

WOW. that's so crazy! #$&^@!! (just kidding!)

Lori - The Simple Life at Home said...

Yep, I could see how that would be so uncomfortable. I'm surprised the management didn't do something about it. But in this day and age, they probably wouldn't legally be allowed to, I guess.

I'm glad at least that the boys weren't able to understand what she was saying. That would have made it worse. But what was the caretaker thinking?

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