SideBar: This incident happened about three or four weeks ago while I was on a walk. I went home and wrote it out but failed to publish it. Here it is. I’d love to hear you opinion on the issue of seniors being bullied. They are such a vulnerable segment of our population but we don’t hear much about their day to day live-in todays world. Are you a senior? Have you ever been bullied? Or perhaps you’ve witnessed a senior being bullied. Please comment below.
I go for a walk every morning, but today it was a bit unusual.
The weather was cold and blustery. I bundled up in a balaclava, scarf, long coat, and gloves. Unless you knew specifically who I was, or knew my dog, you wouldn’t be able to pick me out of a police line-up later.
I didn’t think of it until later, but I was basically anonymous.
I meet people on my walks all the time. Sometimes we chat about our dogs or the weather, but little else. We say hi or nod and acknowledge, and move on. After all, we’re out there for some fresh air and exercise, right?
Well, that’s what I thought, but on this particular day I felt like a therapist… a secret, anonymous one, but a therapist nonetheless.
Here’s what happened.
So, I’m walking… careful to avoid ice and snow. The dog has done her business, but was still excited about seeking out and smelling all the messages left by other canines. This has her in the stop/start mode so I simply kept going.
I saw a woman on the other side of the park, walking in the opposite direction. This meant we’d collide on the path sooner or later. As I continued, I silently planned my day and kept an eye on the dog to make sure she wasn’t going to eat something, or someone, that she shouldn’t.
Lost in thought, I found myself within close proximity to the only other person in the park. I stepped to the side thinking she’d pass, but alas she stopped dead in her tracks and immediately started chatting.
I wasn’t in the mood for talking. The air was so cold, I wanted to finish and go home, but I didn’t want to be rude either, so I listened
It’s funny how we do that, isn’t it? I wanted to get home to rewrite the chapter I’d been imagining in my head, but instead, I was politely standing and commenting on the weather with a woman I didn’t know.
She lured me in slowly. Kicking the fresh snow and telling me how cute my dog is (like seriously, I know, right? she’s ultra gorge and I take full responsibility). I thanked her and attempted my first escape.
I really, really did. It was like my foot froze in mid-air as I said “have a nice day” and made to continue up the path. Holy shit. Did I open a flood gate or what?
“Well, I would’ve had a nice day if it wasn’t for the actions of my neighbor yesterday,” she said.
I didn’t need to prompt her with a question because she let it all go then. Within seconds she was in full tears, her nose running even in the sub-zero temps, and a mad scramble for clean tissues.
She found her tissues, I stopped, and continued to engage with her. This lady was probably in her mid to late 70’s. She told me she’d been a widow for several years and lived in the neighbourhood for over twenty years. She did however, have a new neighbour and this, or rather he, was the problem.
I’m a good listener. I really am.
Ask my husband. I’ll go somewhere and people will tell me things. Strangers will spill their secrets. Maybe it’s because I don’t look threatening. Heck, maybe I look anonymous even without the seasonal gear.
The thing is, it’s not something I normally seek out in strangers, but it happens anyways.
So, this lady obviously felt compelled to tell her story and I was the one chosen to hear it. So here goes…
She said that on garbage day, her new neighbour put his garbage can in her spot. When she took her’s to the road she didn’t know where to put her can. It had gone in the same place for years. Heck just the day before she’d scraped away the snow and ice so her can would sit properly.
Seeing his can in her place really hit her hard. She went and asked why he did that and he had some reason about cans in his driveway or something. That was the end of it for him. But for her, it was the beginning.
She said she didn’t sleep the night after that and felt that the guy next door was being pushy, bossy, and dismissive of her feelings. She’d been there first, after all.
I mean really, what do you say to that?
For me the issue wasn’t the garbage cans but the fact that she didn’t feel heard when she went and talked to the neighbour. She was shocked, I think, that anyone would question her authority or routines. A Karen perhaps?
We chatted. I made the suggestion to take the high road. She poo-poo’d it. She wanted an apology from him and possibly revenge.
I suggested that perhaps he didn’t realize what he’d done or how it impacted her, and a conversation was best.
Her reaction was —“well, he should’ve understood after I talked to him…” I stopped after that as I realized I was dealing with a right-fighter (someone who always needs to be “right”…right?) and no amount of discussion or suggestions would appease her.
After about ten minutes she walked on and left for her car as I continued walking. The interaction was a strange one, but I was obviously her sounding board for the day and that’s okay. I’ve seen her at the park since but I don’t think she recognizes me. I’m fine with that too. We all have our moments when we’ve had enough and need to unload–I think I looked like a safe one to take some of the load off her.
On the other hand, I was reminded that bullying can happen at any age. It’s not just a school yard thing. Seniors get pushed around and taken advantage of just as much as anyone else–maybe more.
This woman was very articulate and shared her story. Whether it was a bullying situation, I somehow doubt it. I believe there was a crisscross of communication. This is not to belittle her story, but to question the credence to the actual grievance. Garbage cans? It’s not exactly an intentional hurtful or intimidating action against a vulnerable person.
The word “bully” is one that implies implicit harm or intimidation against someone weaker, but it’s also a word that is overused and has lost much of its meaning.
Seniors are a segment of our population that do often get overlooked and unfortunately do not have a large voice. If you or anyone you know is being a senior and being bullied, please call your local authorities for assistance… but not about garbage cans please.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed this post. Let me know your thoughts in the comments. Follow below.