Imagine you’re in a supermarket, your average Mercadona in your average neighbourhood, where an elderly lady, let’s call her Esperanza, does her shopping regularly. She leaves her flat, walks to the shops and then gets a taxi home to avoid having to carry her heavy bags. Despite her age, she is mentally sound and copes perfectly well on her own, without help.
She makes her way around the store slowly, filling up her trolley with what she needs for her day-to-day life. When she has everything she waits her turn in the queue and then puts her items on the belt.
“Beep, beep, beep,” the assistant passes the products one by one through the till. “That’s mine up to there,” she says and the assistant announces the total: nearly 60 euros. The customer takes out her card to pay. “Can you key in your Pin please?” asks the assistant.
But Esperanza has gone blank. She can’t remember the combination of numbers, although it normally comes to her easily. She tries once: error. She tries a second time: still not right. She tries to locate one of her children but he doesn’t pick up the phone. She gets nervous. She’s barely noticed that while she was trying to get her son on the phone she has moved away from the till. She goes back and asks the assistant to take off the most expensive items so that she can take home what she can with the little cash she has on her.
And then it happens: “Madam, you don’t have to; that guy over there has paid the whole bill,” says the assistant. Almost 60 euros. She has barely time to turn around and catch a glimpse of a tall young man walking out the door.
Esperanza is flummoxed and grateful; she thinks it might have been a friend of one of her children, who heard her trying to call and recognised her... Although if that had been the case, surely he would have introduced himself and offered his help directly. Instead her generous benefactor had preferred to remain anonymous...
So now, when you’re in a hurry and you get stuck behind an elderly person struggling at the cashpoint machine, think of the cognitive problems and the digital barrier they have to face, and that maybe with your help they would finish sooner. And whenever you go to an administration office, think of the trouble an elderly person might have with the machine that gives them a number so they know when it’s their turn.
I hope you remember this story and think that it could be your mother who, on the other side of town, came across a kind person who paid her supermarket bill because she couldn’t remember her Pin number...
Happy Christmas everyone.