Copyright is held by the author.
“YOU LOOK like a general planning an attack,” Carl said.
Ann waved a dismissive hand at her husband as she surveyed that week’s colourful advertising flyers spread over the kitchen table. Tomorrow was Seniors Day at the mall.
“I need to plan my strategy,” she responded. The first Tuesday of the month was an important day. Shopping discounts for seniors are one of the few advantages of old age.
At the drug store the next day, a large bottle of Metamucil, a package of toilet paper, and that special tube of cream for Carl dropped into the buggy. “Jock itch” they called the irritating malady that disturbed his sleep. Men sure had some funny things wrong with them. Pharmacies sold everything now, from soup to digital cameras. Ann also bought a large jar of kosher dill pickles—a bargain compared to the supermarket price.
The young woman at the cash register sported green hair and black nail polish. Ann winced at the sight. What has the world come to? Management shouldn’t allow that. There was no sense of decorum anymore. Young people were out of control. In her day a person like that wouldn’t be hired for any job.
She watched the prices flashing up on the screen like a hawk. “But young lady, the sign says 15 per cent off on Seniors Day.”
“Only on regular priced items, ma’am. The Metamucil’s already on sale.”
“The discount used to apply to everything on Seniors Day.”
“The store changed its policy last week. Do you want me to cancel it?”
“No, no, I’ll take the Metamucil. We’re almost out.”
“There’s double points today, ma’am. Need any other groceries?”
“No thank you.” Ann wished the girl would stop calling her ma’am.
“Ice cream is on sale.”
“It’ll melt. I didn’t bring a freezer with me.”
“You want bags?”
Ann tapped a charge card on the terminal and the clerk passed her a receipt.
“What’s this extra ten cents on my bill for?”
“The bags are five cents each ma’am, and you have two.”
“Since when do I have to pay for plastic bags?”
“The government decided that they’re polluting our environment and want to stop people from using them. They believe that charging for plastic bags is the best way to do that. It’s only a matter of time before the store discontinues using them.”
“Canada goose poop in the park pollutes too, but they haven’t banned geese. How am I supposed to carry my purchases home if they won’t give out bags anymore?”
“Bring your own. They do that in Europe.”
“I don’t live in Europe.”
The girl shrugged, and Ann left. Nothing was the same anymore. The department store was next.
“If you have a store card, there’s an extra five per cent off lingerie today ma’am,” the clerk said.
Ann eagerly pulled the plastic rectangle from her wallet and held it out. “I get the senior’s discount too.”
“May I see your driver’s licence?” the young woman asked.
Ann smiled, extracted the licence and presented it. The clerk looked at the card, up at Ann, back down at the card and then passed it back. “That’s fine. What can I help you with today ma’am?”
Having someone question her age was a compliment that made the entire trip worthwhile. Ann looked around, and then whispered, “I need a brassiere.”
The girl motioned her over to a display rack. “These bras are very nice, ma’am — the latest style.”
Black lace push-up? What did that girl think she was? Only tramps and floozies wore those things.
“I’ll have that plain white, regular one on the other rack please — size 36C. Do you charge for bags?”
Ann smiled again.
“There you are. Have a nice day ma’am. Your receipt is in the bag.”
After window shopping, and trying on several blouses, but not purchasing one, she had a corned beef sandwich with coleslaw and a large iced tea for lunch. It was time to go home.
The mall was gigantic since the expansion. That huge outdoor equipment store was a waste though: aisles of hunting gear and other junk for men. Two boys were huddled over hand-held devices at a gaming kiosk. Why weren’t they in school? Something should be done about truancy. All kids want to do these days is stick their faces in those computer things. They should be outside in the fresh air getting exercise.
She became disoriented and wandered over two long wings of the building before finding door “D” where she’d entered that morning. Ann walked toward the handicapped spot in row 22 where she parked her blue Toyota Corolla, stopped, and stared in horror at the empty space.
It must be the wrong exit.
She hurried back to the entrance, plastic shopping bags bouncing noisily against her thighs and looked up over the door. A black letter “D” stenciled above it verified the location was correct.’
Panic set in. Her car had been stolen.
Ann searched her purse for the cell phone to call 911. Not there. Her mind moved back over that morning’s routine. Ah yes, it was on the kitchen counter at home, charging.
The store security office was hard to find. More comfortable shoes would have made the long walk easier.
“Young man, I need help.”
The young security guard glanced up from his automotive magazine and cup of coffee. “Yes, ma’am. What can I do for you?”
“My car’s been stolen. You need to call the police.”
“Where’d you leave it?”
“At door “D” in row 22, the handicapped spot. I always park there.”
He looked Ann up and down with a slight frown. “You don’t appear disabled, ma’am. If there’s no handicapped sign in your car, they’ll tow it away.”
“I’ve got one. My legs hurt if I stand too much. My doctor gave me a letter so I could get a sticker. It’s pasted on the lower right corner of my windshield in plain view.”
His gaze dropped to her feet. “You really should wear flat shoes.”
“Can we focus on my vehicle please, not my footwear? My car’s been stolen. Call the police.”
“You probably left your car in another spot. It happens a lot.”
“I know where I parked it — at door “D” in row 22, the handicapped spot.”
“Okay, lady, relax.”
What’s wrong with him? Doesn’t he understand? Relax? When my car’s been stolen? Ann dangled her key in front of him. “How can someone steal a car without having a key to it?”
“You’d be surprised what crooks can do these days ma’am.”
She straightened. “My name is Ann, not ma’am.”
“Sorry ma’am, I mean Ann.” He offered his hand. “I’m Roger.”
She hesitated, and then shook it. “Pleased to meet you, I’m sure. Now call the police, will you?”
“Why don’t we look around first, just to be certain? What kind of vehicle was it ma’am?”
Ann sighed. She was sick and tired of being called “ma’am” by everyone. “A blue Corolla. The plate says ‘BSTLADY.’”
Roger’s cheeks lifted and he flashed a wide smile. “Hey, that’s cute.”
“Phoo. It was my husband’s idea. I didn’t want to spend extra money on a vanity licence plate, but he said everyone has them now. His reads, “Carlscar.” Sounds like those caves in the United States.”
“You mean the Carlsbad Caverns?”
“I guess. Whatever.”
They went to the handicapped spot in row 22 outside door “D.”
“You’re right, lady. There’s no car here.”
Any darn fool could see that. How “secure” do these security guards make the mall anyway? With nincompoops like him in charge, we wouldn’t stand a chance against those terrorist people. That weird looking woman near Wal-Mart with the tattooed arms, piercings through everything, and purple hair. She probably stole the car.
“I told you that. My car’s not here because it’s been stolen. Call the police.”
“Why don’t we take my car and drive to the other entrances? You might have left it at one of those by mistake.”
Ann’s arms crossed over her chest. She closed her eyes and shook her head. “No, I didn’t. Absolutely not.”
“Let’s try the other areas just in case. I’ll help you with your bags.”
“No, it’s okay, I—”
Why did that bag have to rip as soon as he took it?
Roger picked up the items and grinned. “Metamucil and toilet paper. Well, they do go together, eh ma’am.”
That was embarrassing, but adult diapers falling out would have been worse. She let him carry the toilet paper. Those pickles were heavy. Buying such a large jar wasn’t a good idea. Ann was nervous about being seen sitting in the back of a security vehicle. It looked like a police car.
“I’ll sit in the front with you, Roger.”
Her head jerked back. Goodness. These young people drive like maniacs.
“Here’s row 22, outside door “A” ma’am. The handicapped spot has a blue Cadillac in it. That yours?”
They drove past a woman pushing a loaded shopping cart with one hand, and dragging a screaming child along with the other.
“Look at that. In my day that boy would get a good smack. Kids aren’t brought up properly these days.”
“Here’s the handicapped spot in row 22, outside door “B” ma’am. It’s got a yellow Volkswagen Beetle parked in it.”
“That’s a stupid car. We had one 40 years ago; tiny trunk for shopping and a lousy heater. You’d freeze to death in the winter.”
“You should have kept it ma’am. There’s a big market for old Beetles now.”
Who cares? Why won’t he just call the police?
Ann panicked as a neighbour she recognized walked out through door “A.” Dorothy Anderson would see her and assume she was arrested. That bitch is a busybody and gossip.
“Why are you holding your purse up like that ma’am?”
“Shielding my face from the sun. Too much isn’t good for you.”
“You should get that sunscreen with SPF in it.”
“Yes, good idea.” Dorothy didn’t see her. Thank goodness.
“Here’s row 22 at door “C.” A blue car is parked in the handicapped spot, ma’am.”
“That’s not mine. Why would I have a vanity plate that says, ‘BIGGUY’?”
“Oh yeah, guess you’re right. What make did you say your car was?”
Ann expelled air out through her lips. “A Corolla. C–o-r-o-l-l-a.”
“Maybe you parked it in a different row, ma’am.”
Ann’s face reddened. She glared at him and replied in a loud staccato burst. “My-name-is-Ann! Ann-Ann-Ann! I-told-you-I-always-park-in-row-22-outside-door ‘D.’ Someone-stole-my-car! Call the police!”
“You don’t have to yell, ma’am. I’m right here.”
Ann exhaled loudly and rubbed her face. “Sorry.”
Roger raised his index finger. “I’ve got an idea. Let’s drive up and down the rows. You stick your hand out the window and push the panic button on your key. When we’re near your car, you’ll hear the sound of the horn and we’ll find it. May as well use the technology, eh.”
“Oh, I suppose so.” What a waste of time.
They drove up and down the labyrinth of cars. Ann pushed the red button on her key for twenty minutes. No alarm sounded.
“I can’t do this anymore. My arm and finger are numb.” She also needed to use the washroom.
“You can stop. We’ve covered the entire parking lot. Your car’s not here.”
Ann massaged her traumatized hand. “That’s because it’s been stolen,” she screamed. “Do you understand now?”
“I guess we should call the police, ma’am,” Roger admitted meekly.
Hallelujah. He got the message at last.
“I need to call my husband. He’ll pick me up.”
“Okay, but you’ll have to give information about your car to the police before you leave here.”
Ann opened her purse, and then hesitated. “Oh—I forgot my cell phone. Is there a pay phone in the mall?”
Roger passed her his cell phone. “Here, use mine, and then I’ll call the police for you.”
Ann punched in her home phone number and then hit the call button.
“It’s ringing. Where’s that husband of mine? He spends all his time fiddling around in the garage and basement making a mess.”
Roger rolled his eyes and tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. He was engaged, and couldn’t help wondering what his life would be like after several decades of marriage.
“Carl, what took you so long?…That’s what I thought. We need to put a phone down there….Don’t tell me to calm down. Something terrible’s happened. No, I didn’t lose my credit card. No, the drug store wasn’t out of your cream. Someone’s stole my car, that’s what. Don’t say no! It’s not where I always park. What do you mean I didn’t park it? You have my car?”
Ann’s mouth fell open. She glanced at Roger and then raised her right hand up to her cheek. “Oh, that’s right. You dropped me off at door ‘D’ this morning because you had an appointment to get the oil changed in my car. I forgot all about that.” A warm flush of embarrassment crept over her cheeks. Roger stared at her with disbelief.
“Yes, I’m ready to be picked up, dear. At door “D.” Love you too, bye.”
Roger rubbed his face, shook his head, and muttered something unintelligible.
“I beg your pardon, Roger.”
“Uh, nothing ma’am.”
Ann’s face wrinkled. “I’m so sorry about this. I don’t how I forgot.”
Roger nodded. His knuckles whitened as he gripped the steering wheel. “Let me guess. That key in your purse is your spare one, right?”
“Yes, I always carry both keys.”
He sighed and turned to her with a half grin. “You’ve had one of those senior’s moments, lady.”
Did he have to smirk and rub it in?
The car pulled up at door “D.”
“Where’s the closest washroom, please?” Ann asked.
“Just inside this entrance, ma’am.”
Ann got out of the car and hurried into the mall, making a mental note. Next time order a small iced tea.