At the grocery store this week, a woman dropped a box of blueberries. They went everywhere. She was too old to pick them up, and people up and down the aisles just stopped and stared. I just stopped and stared. Her trembling voice, shouting “Cleanup—I need a cleanup!” Embarrassed. Close to tears. Fucking blueberries. All of us staring at blueberries. A two minute pick up job. Less if others help. But we don’t. We just stare, and argue with ourselves.
After a good minute or two of arguing, I deduce that I’m a complete and utter asshole, and put down my basket. Pick up the blueberries. Feel like an absolute idiot as my left palm fills and I have no space for all the rest.
Now it’s my trembling voice, weakly shouting “Anyone have a bag?”
People stare. They keep staring. The line six carts deep. Everyone watching. No one helping until someone does and it’s another woman who grabs the empty box of blueberries. “Here, use this.”
Thank fucking goodness.
I fill the basket.
Sixty seconds of my time. Of my day. The older woman is so grateful. I’m just upset it took me two minutes to decide to help her out. Waiting in a line that isn’t moving. As if I have somewhere important to be. As if anyone else has somewhere important to be. Piss off—none of you go to the market when you’re in a rush.
But the other woman says something to me. The one who gave me the box. “Don’t lose that kindness,” she says. “Don’t lose it. Don’t grow out of it don’t let anyone take it from you. Hang on to that. Hang on to being good.”
Blueberries. I am fucking crying in the market. Beneath all of those halogen lights. Of course, I want to tell her that I’m no such thing. That I watched for minutes, waiting for some other help to come. That I am tired. Emotionally crippled from events of the past few weeks that I absolutely can barely get out of bed in the morning and now I am here and now I have to be human and bend down and clean up fucking blueberries. When I just want to sleep. I want to tell her that I am the reason that the older woman cried. I am the reason, there with all the rest of them.
I am sick of friends and family dying. Of shooters, of suicides. I am sick of a billion little blueberry bombs on a grocery market floor. Of an older woman close to tears because no one steps in when we all know we ought to.
I have re-learnt for the thousandth time the most important lesson of my life this week: be kind. And, if you choose not to be, take responsibility for the results. Choosing not to react is still a reaction. Just a poor one. A piss poor one.
I got pulled over once. It was late at night, and we were leaving Borderline. I had had a couple of Coors Light bottles over the course of a few hours, and I got pulled over.
The officer gave me the tests. It was freezing out, and I was tired. I didn’t do so hot. He sat me down to have a talk with me. “Listen,” he said, “Your BAC is fine and well below the legal limit. And I know it’s late, and you’re tired. But your field tests were piss poor. So do me a favor, go over to that Denny’s over there, have a cup of coffee, and head on home. And don’t do this shit again.”
Piss poor. Had he wanted to, legally, he could have pulled me in that night. Piss poor isn’t a pass. It’s not a failure either, but it isn’t a pass. Maybe a C-, maybe a D+. But when you can be a fucking A, why be anything else.
We are dealing with an epidemic—and that epidemic isn’t mental illness. It isn’t depression. It’s how we respond to it. Reconfigure how you see the world. The problem isn’t those who are hurting; it is how all of us react to them.
Let’s make a collective pact to not leave old ladies crying in a grocery store. To be a little bit better. To stop arguing with ourselves for sixty seconds when the problem could already have been solved. No one walks this road alone. Don’t pretend you do. It’s a piss poor attempt at justifying one’s entitlement. And we can’t stand for it another second more.