It’s an anxiety-filled age, all right, filled to the brim with stress and anxiousness.
Just last week, a friend described to me the older woman he met in the supermarket who had lost sight of her little grandson.
Paralyzed by her own panic, she could do nothing but stand rooted to the spot, alternately calling his name and the name of her creator.
My nice friend went right over, got a description of the child, and began trotting along the aisles, looking for the pint-size blonde in a blue shirt.
When he spotted such a tyke standing in front of a younger woman with a smaller child on her lap, he pointed.
“Here’s a blond boy in a blue shirt!” He called to grandma.
Whereupon the younger woman leapt to her feet, snatched both kids in a vice-like grip and shot her hand out, fingers spread wide.
“THESE ARE MY CHILDREN!” She shrieked. “STAY AWAAAAAY!”
Looks like being a Good Samaritan just doesn’t pay the way it once did.
It’s that people feel such stress. We’re fizzing with it, like apple juice just turning into cider. We’re buzzing with it, like hornets trapped in a jelly jar.
I was parked alongside the curb yesterday when a woman in the car in front of me showed signs of trying to pull out.
I backed up to make room and waved her toward me.
Her hands flew in the air in a gesture of frustration and the next thing I knew, she was standing by my car window.
“Uh Oh,” I thought. “Angry lady!”
But the lady wasn’t angry. The lady was near tears. “I can’t back up!” she cried. “I can’t do anything!”
“See this cast?” she went on, holding up one arm, encased from the elbow down in rigid white. “Six weeks I’m wearing this cast! And now the doctor says two weeks more.”
“Awful,” I countered.
“I can’t brush my hair!” she said.
“You can’t do your bra!” I said.
She lowered her voice, constricted now with emotion. “I can’t pull on my pants,” she all but whispered.
“Here’s the trouble,” she went on, pointing to a thumb similarly encased and held fast to the rest.
“Wow. Well, you know, cut that part off,” I suggested. “Have you got a hacksaw at home?”
“Cut it off?! You can cut off your cast?”
I shrugged. “My young cousin did. As a matter of fact, she took off her own braces.”
She pondered a minute. “I’m calling the doctor back. I’m making him free my thumb.”
“Right,” I said. “Just say, ‘See here. This won’t do.’”
“Right!” She cried, and dashed back to her car with fresh resolve.
Later I thought to myself “Hmmmm. Here was a person buzzing around in a perfect little go-cart of stress and what did I do but climb in beside her and help drive?”
But tension is like that, as quick to jump hosts as the friskiest flea. Quicker to spread than the most contagious flu.
Maybe what we all need is a mass inoculation.