Whenever faced with doing something I’d prefer not to do I really try to be grateful that I am healthier now and can be called upon by others. Better that I look on chores as not things I have to do, but things I GET to do. And so it is that on alternating weekends my brother and I each GET to take Aunt Helen shopping. She is, indeed, the gift that keeps on giving.

Neither Hal nor I are confrontational people. By and large we are either satisfied with things or prefer not to make a fuss. Never have we been accused of being the squeaky wheels getting the grease. You won’t see us sending food back at restaurants, nor are consumer complaint departments on our speed dials.

This level of acceptance however, is not congenital. Quite the contrary. Over the past 94 years Aunt Helen has raised Complaining to an art form. Perhaps that is why she is on a first-name basis with most store managers in the one square mile between her home and her grocery.

In concert with our bi-weekly mission for staple items we often escort our aunt to other establishments. To this day she cannot understand how any of them stay in business and relentlessly cites to us the fatal flaws in each proprietor’s operation.

Did you know for example that Marc’s, the oldest and biggest discount chain in Northeast Ohio “doesn’t know how to merchandise”? Or that it carries unneeded goods, or that it was “stupid” to move the store (when the strip was demolished)?

Or that a newer chain, Targets, is also mismanaged? “Why isn’t there anyone here to help you? How can they not have terry cloth bathrobes? The cord on my new telephone should not be curling!”

These, though, are not the only merchants that improperly merchandize their wares. She makes the same assertion regarding Sears Optical, Kaufmann’s, Macy’s and Walgreen’s, and we we’re still at Cedar-Center!

For that matter, imagine, she exclaimed, the nerve of Pollack Jewelers! In 2007 it was unable to fix a watch she had purchased there in the 1950’s. She brandished her half-century old receipt; they acknowledged it was theirs; but they could not fix it! What kind of jeweler is this?

She can, bless her heart be an equal opportunity destroyer. Consider the following declarations recorded by my brother in only the past few years:

Cleveland Heights/University Heights Library: “Poor choice of books.”
National City Bank (Week 1): “Why didn’t they ask for my identification”?
National City Bank (Week 2): “Why do they need to see my identification? They know me.”
Cleveland Institute Of Music: “Why don’t they return my calls?”
Abba’s Kosher Meats: “The chicken is too expensive.”
Boris’s Kosher Meats: “”The chicken is too small.”
Tibor’s Kosher Meats: “The chicken should cost more per package.”
East Ohio Gas: “Need I say more?”
Kaufman’s: “The May Company was better.”
Macy’s: “Kaufmann’s was better.”
CVS Pharmacy: “Why don’t they carry reinforced pantyhose?”
Corky’s & Lenny’s: “The portions are too big.”
Jack’s Deli: “The tables are too wide and the booths are too small. Where should a family sit?”
Mayor Beryl Rothschild, University Heights, Ohio: “Why didn’t she return my call?”
Jo Anne Fabrics: “They have bad scissors.”
The House Of Lights: “It’s too dark in here. And don’t they have plain lamps?”
Sharpie Pens (Week 1): “Why do they smell?”
Sharpie Pens (Week 2): “Why do they run through the paper?”
Search For Pens (Week 3): “Why don’t they carry Flair pens? They don’t smell.”

Enough! (you say). OK, enough. The rest of the list can wait.

It is not funny, though. It is sad. Can you imagine a world in which one finds fault in everyone? Where everything is half empty rather than half full? (Well, not everything. Hal notes that our aunt insists that despite it all, she “gets along with everyone.”)

“T”ain’t necessarily so. Many of these merchants, (most notably Tony of Marc’s), have their own stories of interactions with our aunt. They will regale you with episodes of consumer complaint from a kindly little lady escorted by one of two wimpish middle-age men (usually making disclaiming gestures behind her back).

Truth be known, in 1977 when my ex-wife gave birth to our son the labor was less painful than some of these shopping moments.

Aunt Helen means well. She truly does. If she only understood that everyone else does too. Then, just perhaps, her life would be half-full.

One Response to “DRIVING MISS DAISY”

  1. Aunt Helen says:

    When are we going shopping on Friday? Will you have time for a couple extra stops? 1) I have to return the Sharpie pens at Marc’s. They really do smell. Can we look and see what Walgreens or Staples has 2) The toaster oven purchased at Target last week is different from the one I purchased at the May Company 31 years ago. If Black and Decker is supposed to be the same as General Electric, then why is this oven not as good?

Leave a Reply