Sunday Lifestyle

Is it weird or is it sick?

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez Ventura - The Philippine Star

I remember when I was 10 years old being at the Baguio market with my grandmother. I saw a plant that made an ideal gift for my mother. “How much?” my grandmother asked. Ten pesos, she was told. “Too expensive,” my Lola said. “How about P2.50?” Humiliation shrank me to half my size. How could Lola bargain so heartlessly? From that day on I never bargained. I either paid the price or walked away because I thought that was the fair thing to do.

But there’s another side. I grew up not just shopping but also selling things. I set the price fairly and I do not allow anyone to bargain. Inevitably some people ask for a senior’s discount. That’s already part of the price because I am a senior myself, I explain, and that’s the truth. My price is the final price.

All of my customers so far have agreed... until a few days ago. Most of my readers know I do not like to receive phone calls on my cell because I make rosaries all morning and phone calls bother me. I prefer texts that I can read and reply to when I have time. I have no assistant so it’s important for me to concentrate and create. In the afternoon I sit with my husband who is ill and keep him company more or less until he goes to sleep. That is not easy either. Night is the time I mend my spirit. I read, play computer games, watch movies or serials on TV until I fall asleep.

One morning a lady calls my cell phone telling me her son is buying the medicine I sell for her. I have sent her all the text information I have on it but she says her son wants to know the company that manufactures it. I text that and the website. Then she calls me again. This time I’m in the shower. She wants more information. I tell her I cannot send it immediately because I’m in the shower. “Oh!” She becomes very apologetic.

Later she calls again and tries to bargain. I’m sorry, I say, that is my final price.

“Oh,” she says, “but you see we have found another lady who sells it for P300 less but since I’m talking to you I feel I must get it from you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “that is my last price. I suggest you buy it from the lady who’s selling it cheaper.”

“But... but…” she said, revealing that she was lying. She just wanted me to lower my price. I don’t set my price too high and I don’t lower it for anyone. If she wants to buy from me, she has to pay what everyone else pays — the price of the medicine plus the delivery charge of the company I use for delivery.

Then I receive a text from her saying that a secretary has gone to deposit my asking price and to please send it to her address, which is just in Metro Manila, so she doesn’t have to pay for the delivery charge. This got me very upset. Here was a customer who would do anything just to get the price down to satisfy herself.

This time I called her. I told her not to deposit the money because I did not want people like her as customers.

“I don’t have to pay for the delivery charge because I live in Metro Manila,” she protested.

“Stop the deposit or you may never see your money again,” I said firmly. Then I hung up. I sent her a text to validate my request. Fortunately I haven’t heard from her since.

When I calmed down I thought — maybe she has Alzheimer’s. If she does, her family should know about it, become more protective of her, make sure she has company who will restrain her from flaunting her madness to others. Almost suddenly this incident replayed my mother’s Alzheimer’s for me and all the humiliation it put me through.

Humiliation is what makes some instances particularly memorable for us. There we are feeling normal when someone does something that makes us feel small, makes us wish for invisibility. My grandmother’s bargaining turned me off to bargaining. My mother’s behavior when her Alzheimer’s was serious made me pray for invisibility. We don’t know how to prevent the humiliation, how to have more understanding, more knowledge beforehand.

Maybe we should learn more about what happens to our parents as they age. We should be more watchful and less dismissive of them. This lady had a son who, I suspect, thinks his mother is just a senior, possibly a nag. I wonder if he realizes she might have Alzheimer’s. I hope he reads this column.

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