I know my column usually involves humor and zaniness, but I’m going to step totally out of character this week and be serious for a change. That’s because I want to share an incident that happened last week…and give credit where credit is due.
I enjoy shopping at the Ocean State Job Lot stores in both Hooksett and Concord because I never know what bargains I might find there. The stores also have an entire aisle of inexpensive dog treats, and believe me, with my two “horses,” I go through a lot of treats.
At the store in Concord, there is a young clerk who really stands out. His name is Kalan, and he is always cheerful and sociable. Whenever I buy dog treats, he and I end up discussing our pets and joking about them while he rings up my items. His warm personality seems a hundred-percent genuine.
The other day, I learned just how special Kalan and the other Ocean State Job Lot employees in Concord are.
Two days before Thanksgiving, I headed to the store to pick up some birdseed for my feeder and of course, to stock up on dog treats. To my dismay, the minute I set foot in the store, I had a sudden need to use the restroom. I thought it was very strange because first of all, I pride myself on my bladder of steel, and secondly, I hadn’t had anything to drink all day (a bad habit of mine), and had gone to the bathroom just before I left the house only 20 minutes earlier.
Unlike the Hooksett Job Lot, where the restrooms are located right near the front doors, the Concord store’s restrooms are in the farthest corner at the rear, concealed behind display shelves. Usually I won’t use a public restroom unless I’m on the verge of exploding, so I tried to talk myself out of using this one…but my bladder had other ideas. So I embarked on the 10-mile hike to the back of the store.
I finally made it to the ladies’ room and opened the door. There, on the floor, was an elderly woman. A walker, on wheels, was near her, but not within her reach.
“Thank God!” she said and burst into tears. “I have been sitting here, helpless, for nearly 20 minutes! I just finished saying a prayer and begging God to give any woman in the store a full bladder, so she’d come in here and find me – and here you are! My angel!”
Her words actually left me momentarily speechless. “Are you hurt?” I finally asked her. “Do you need an ambulance?”
She shook her head and sniffled. “I was shopping with my husband and we were about to leave, when I felt sick…stomach cramps. I came back here to use the restroom – but I didn’t quite make it. When I tried to clean up my mess, I fell! I’m so embarrassed! Just look at this bathroom!”
“Bathrooms can be cleaned with soap and water,” I told her. “All that matters is that you’re all right.”
“Please, get my husband,” she said. “He’s waiting for me at the front of the store. And you’ll have to find another strong man to help him lift me. As you can see, I’m no small woman.”
I rushed out of the restroom and ran toward the front of the store. On the way, I passed a female employee who was arranging items on a counter.
“There is a woman who fell in the ladies’ room!” I shouted at her as I ran past. “I’m going to go find her husband!”
Without a word, the employee dropped everything and darted toward the back of the store.
At the front, I saw a tall, elderly man and explained to him that I believed it was his wife who’d fallen in the restroom. He said he’d been getting worried because she’d been gone for so long, especially since she’d just had both knees replaced and was having trouble getting around. He said he didn’t know exactly where the restroom was, so I told him to follow me. First, however, I asked the employee at the courtesy counter if he could find another man to help lift the woman.
When the husband and I arrived in the restroom, the female employee was there, kneeling next to the woman on the floor and rubbing her arm, trying to comfort her. The woman started crying the minute she saw her husband. “And to think we had to come here all the way from Indiana for me to do this!” she sobbed.
The door opened, and Kalan appeared, rushing to the woman’s side.
“Can you help me get her to her feet?” her husband asked him.
“Are you hurt anywhere?” Kalan first asked her.
She showed him a skinned right elbow. “This is all, just a scrape. I’m so embarrassed about what I’ve done to your restroom!”
“The fact that you’re OK is all that matters,” Kalan said. He gave her a comforting smile. “Now, give me your hand and let’s see if we can get you back up on your feet.”
Instead of extending her hand, the woman hid it behind her back. “I-I messed on my hands, too,” she said. Fresh tears ran down her cheeks. “Don’t touch them, they’re disgusting!”
Kalan, without any hesitation said, smiling, “Ma’am, I have a two-year-old at home. Stuff like that doesn’t bother me.”
And with that, he took her hand and, along with her husband’s help, got her to her feet.
I just stood there in awe, watching.
“We’ve been married 53 years,” the husband said, looking lovingly at his wife as he got paper towels and soap and started to clean her up. As he did, the female employee immediately set to work scrubbing and disinfecting the bathroom and making it sparkling clean. The cleaner the bathroom became, the more relaxed and less embarrassed the woman who had fallen seemed to appear.
The woman’s walker had a seat on it, so her husband helped her sit on it and then, collecting all of her belongings, wheeled her toward the restroom door. Both of them thanked the three of us over and over again before they left. The woman then turned to me, gave me a big smile and said, “And bless you for your full bladder!”
I laughed and said, “Speaking of which, there may very soon be another accident to clean up if I don’t use the bathroom!”
“Get out of here, Kalan!” the female employee jokingly said to him.
Kalan, chuckling, finished washing up and left the restroom.
While I was shopping afterwards, the female employee came over and thanked me for helping the woman.
“I didn’t do anything,” I said. “You guys did it all…and I’m very impressed.”
I have to admit, the incident really made an impact on me. I learned a lesson in fate, faith and love that day…and it was because, of all things, I finally used a public restroom.
Life certainly is unpredictable.