Dana had a medical appointment at 12:45. She asked, 'Could we do brunch instead of lunch?'
I hadn't seen Dana in over a month, so despite the fact my digestive system wants nothing but coffee until at least noon, I agreed. 'Joe Crackers patio at eleven. Got it.'
Of course, I arrived first. I always do. Call it some kind of compulsion. I'm not just punctual, but arrive everywhere ten to fifteen minutes early. Hey, we are who we are, and I'm too old to try to change my ways.
At five to eleven I heard a voice from the parking lot. 'Hey, Lynda!' She waved. 'How do I get in?'
I pointed in the direction of the front door and watched as she walked along the line of cars and out of sight, only to reappear two minutes later walking through the restaurant toward me. She arrived at the table along with a waft of some spicy scent, sat down and flashed her incredible smile. 'So girl,' - she drawled out the 'girl' -- 'how you doing?'
Dana had come to Florida from Atlanta after her husband's death in the military twenty years ago. Those years had done little to erase the soft almost demure manner of speech that often seems to disguise the fact she's one of the strongest and most intelligent women I know.
'I'm good,' I told her. 'You?'
'Sugar,' she began, 'I have got to tell you about my afternoon yesterday.'
'Please do,' I said.
And she did.
Dana first saw the old woman when she walked into the Charlotte County Administration Building. There she was, a frail, cotton-topped, wizened little thing dressed up in one of those 'old-lady' outfits, a printed floral tee shirt and Capri pants with a matching applique on the lower leg, both in a pale, pastel green. From a distance she looked like an animated after-dinner mint.
Something's up here, Dana thought, watching the old girl accost one person after another only to get a shrug or a mumbled, “Excuse me.”. Each encounter left her looking more disoriented and panicked.
'I should have minded my own business,' Dana told me with a rueful shake of her head. 'But I couldn't leave her like that.'
'Of course not,' I replied, knowing Dana is the coordinator for geriatric social services at F------- Memorial Hospital, and a truly dedicated and caring person.
'So I walked up to her and said, 'Ma'am, can I help you?'...'
The woman stared at her wide-eyed for an instant. 'Go away.'
'Ma'am,' Dana repeated, handing her a business card. 'I'm a social worker, an advocate for the elderly. You seem lost. Are you sure you’re all right?'
'Help!' the old bat screeched, spreading her hands wide in an appeal to the people walking in and out intent only on whatever business had brought them to the county office. They all averted their eyes and quickened their pace. 'Help!'
Dana stood, silent and dumbfounded.
A security officer, a large white man walked over. 'What's the problem here?'
Apparently now at ease in the presence of the guard, the woman thrust a paper at him. 'I need to go to this address.'
The guard read for a moment. 'You want the Department of Agriculture. Not in this building. Now, go out onto Murdock Circle, back to Highway 41, and take a right. About three lights down you'll see....'
He was still giving directions to the obviously uncomprehending old woman when Dana turned to attend to her own affairs, the Department of Motor Vehicles.
"Time to renew my driver's license," Dana explained. "You'd think as I'd held a Florida drivers’ permit for twenty years, doing so would be almost automatic, but no. Now I have to prove who I am by way of birth certificate or passport and my place of residence with two specimens of correspondence from either a bank or a utility company addressed to me, and the previous license. What a nightmare!' She sipped at her ice tea. 'You know I live with a roommate, and all the paper work's in her name. I called them ahead of time and asked, 'Tell me exactly what I need to show you. Their only answer was 'Bring in what you've got and we'll see if it's okay.' Does this make sense?' She shook her head and rolled her eyes. 'So I go with everything I can think to take and ---'
The line was at least forty people long. Good thing she'd taken the entire afternoon off, though she hardly planned on spending it in the DMV. No point in getting worked up over that which cannot be changed. She took a number, sat down and waited her turn.
An hour later, and with the instruction to bring in a letter from her landlady -
'Don't you think they could have told me that ahead of time?'
- she walked back out to the foyer.
The same old lady was sitting on a bench, her snowy-white head bent, eyes staring at her hands.
Dana walked by. Let the old bitch take care of herself, she thought in a spurt of anger, and suffered a stab of guilt. Didn't she work with the elderly every day? Shouldn't she, more than anyone else, understand they are not always accountable for their actions? Poor old souls, their minds were often not their own. Just as she was about to turn back and tend to woman, her thoughts were interrupted.
'You!' A bony finger pointed at her.
'You said you'd help me.' The wrinkled face pulled down in a pout. The sunken eyes blazed.
'She couldn't bring herself to ask politely.' Dana laughed. 'No, she sat like the Queen of England, waiting to be served.'
'What did you do?' I asked, knowing I'd tell her to piss-off and leave her where I found her, but Dana wouldn't.
'I said, 'Certainly, ma'am. I'd be happy to take you where you need to go.'
The old woman got to her feet. For the first time, Dana noticed the cane. Poor old thing. She offered her arm for support.
Again, the woman glared at her and spurned the offer. 'I hope your car's not far,' she whined.
It wasn't. Dana's Sebring was parked only six slots down. She unlocked the passenger door, waited for the frail old body to settle in and left the door open. 'Until I get the A/C going,' she explained. With both doors wide inviting any breeze to enter, she started the car.
'How did you get here?' Dana asked.
'I drove.' She pointed to a near-vintage Cadillac in a handicapped parking spot. 'You'll bring me back here when we're done,' she instructed.
Now both intrigued and perversely amused, Dana said, 'Yes, ma'am. Where are we going?'
A liver spotted hand passed her a letter carefully folded into thirds with only the top showing. 'This address.'
Florida Department of Agriculture, Dana read and noted the address, and the addressee: Mrs Rose Mahoney, Cape Coral, Florida. Re: application #2975A514-04-11..... 'You're Rose?' She was about to open the letter and read further, when it was snatched from her grasp.
'Mrs. Mahoney,' the old woman corrected in a waspish tone and closed the door. 'Let's go.'
'Do up your seat-belt,' Dana said, ignoring the woman's sour expression and maintaining eye contact until the request was fulfilled. Only then did she put the car in reverse, back out and head to Tamiami Trail. 'So what brings you all the way from Cape Coral?' she said, hoping to start a conversation and satisfy her growing curiosity.
'With the Department of Agriculture?' Dana smiled, trying to envision the frail old body working in the fields and unable to picture such an improbable scene.
'Not that it's any of your business,' Mrs Mahoney began, 'but I'm to be fingerprinted.'
'For what?' Dana stopped for a red light and took the opportunity to examine the old woman more closely. She must be in advanced dementia. Who gets fingerprinted by the Department of Agriculture? And why?
'And her answer blew me away.' Dana took a bite of her sandwich and chewed slowly.
'Come on. Swallow. Tell me,' I said, impatient with Dana's slow moving story-telling style.
She washed down the food with a sip of tea, her eyes sparkling with satisfaction. She put down her glass and stared directly into my face, relishing the moment. 'A concealed weapon permit.'
'You're not serious!'
'That's pretty much what I said.'
'Yes,' said Mrs Mahoney. 'We all applied.'
'All us girls at Flamingo Lakes. We live alone in our houses. You never know. Old ladies like us are sitting ducks, and the idiots in the gate house let anyone into the community. We discussed it and we decided we should all buy guns.'
'Oh.' Dana couldn't think of a single thing to say and opted for nothing.
They were approaching the building they wanted, but frontal access from the highway involved over-shooting the address and a U-turn at the next lights. She decided to turn left early and use the alley.
'Where are you taking me?' screamed the old woman, undoing her seat belt and cowering against the door. 'Let me out!' She glared at Dana through fear-lit eyes.
'Calm down,' Dana said and tried to explain this was the easiest approach.
'This is why I need a gun,' Mrs Mahoney shouted. 'So I can defend myself when I'm dragged into an alley by some ---'
'Honey, she used the N-word.'
'You mean nice?' I offered.
'I most certainly do not.'
Dana slammed on the brakes, angry at last. 'What is it you think I'm going to do to you? Look lady, I'm here trying to help you - God knows why - and I've given you my afternoon off - again, God knows why. You want out? Go ahead, get out.'
Mrs. Mahoney's demeanor changed instantly. She slumped in the corner. 'I don't know where I am..' A couple of tears trickled down the gray, wrinkled cheek. ‘You can't leave me here.’
No, I suppose I can't, Dana thought, her anger disappearing as quickly as it rose.
'You're a saint,' I told Dana, with no trace of sarcasm, I hoped.
'She was completely disoriented, paranoid and unable to follow the most basic of directions. Just another half-crazy old woman suffering the ravages of old age. How could I leave her there? I drove her to the entrance and told her this was where she wanted to be.'
'Will you come in with me?' Rose Mahoney asked in the sweetest of voices. 'I'm scared,' she added with a touch of plaintiveness.
'All right.' Dana pointed to the entrance. 'Go inside and wait while I park the car.'
'You won't leave me here?'
'No.' Dana sighed. 'I won't leave you here.'
The frightened old woman disappeared and the imperious lady returned. 'Open the door for me.'
Resigned and disbelieving, Dana escorted Mrs. Mahoney into the building, 'Wait here I'll be right back,' parked and walked her into the office.
'I'm Rose Mahoney,' said Rose Mahoney as she handed the clerk the letter.
Dana took a chair and watched, feeling much like Alice in Wonderland, as the old woman was fingerprinted and the final step of her permit to carry a concealed weapon was completed with no questions asked by anyone representing Charlotte County. She walked Mrs Mahoney back to the car and started the return drive to the DMV where the old Cadillac waited.
'Tell me,' Dana asked. 'Why did you have to come all the way from Cape Coral to Port Charlotte to do this? Wasn't there a place down there?'
'Yes,' said Mrs Mahoney. 'But Lee County wouldn't give me a permit. They refused me.'
'And Charlotte County did,' I said, shaking my head in disbelief.
'Didn't even blink an eye. On the drive back I told her...'
'You be careful with that gun. You do understand the law states an attacker has to be in your home before you use your weapon and --'
'Not anymore,' Rose Mahoney interrupted. 'That law has changed. They could be on my lawn.' The droopy old mouth turned up in a smile. 'Or coming at my car while I'm out, or ....' She went on, clearly enjoying the many scenarios in which she'd be justified in shooting someone. 'I learned all this in the class they made us go to.'
'You had to take a class for the permit?'
'An hour on Saturdays,' Mrs Mahoney said. 'We went together. All us girls from Flamingo Lakes.'
'I can tell you one thing.' Dana finished her sandwich. 'I'm staying out of Cape Coral.'
(Another completely true story from my neighborhood. Only the names have been changed to protect the author.)
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on July 20, 2011:
Thanks Amanda. Always nice to hear from you. Lynda
Amanda Severn from UK on July 20, 2011:
Hi Lynda, I know you don't have a problem with guns, but as a Brit with little or no experience of firearms, this story made me feel very nervous indeed. I can just picture that old girl with her bony little fingers clasping her gun, shakily taking aim through rheumy eyes. Too, too scary! I loved the story though. You always write in such an entertaining way!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on June 19, 2011:
Thanks for your comment. Lynda
JacksBlogs on June 19, 2011:
Now this is a great story and a great HUB. Knowing my mother's (96 yo) crazy concerns for her safety even though she lives in a very nice independent living center in the country, I am scared to see more Americans just like this woman get a gun.
The problem will only get worse with people being shot especially as baby boomers get old while being scared by your other HUBs about abuse of women and the like that are simply off the wall.
This HUB at least sounds true. My mother would shoot an elderly black woman in a heart beat and never quite know what she did wrong - another reason why she is "safe" in her "home".
- - JACK
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on June 18, 2011:
Hi Emilia, thanks and if you did meet the real Dana you'd know she's a saint.
Hi Peg, Nice to meet you here. Thanks for commenting.
Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on June 18, 2011:
You've written this with your usual arsenal of great descriptions and real world people. Fun to read and scary at the same time. What a world.
Emily Lambert from New Carlisle, Ohio on June 12, 2011:
Wow! What a feisty old woman! And, Dana, what a saint!
Thank you for sharing!
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on June 08, 2011:
Hi again, Tammy. Yes she does look like her majesty. You're right.
Hi MysteriousOne -- glad you enjoyed the story. I also believe in the right to have arms and defend yourself but am not oblivious to the fact that the more guns out there, the more people will be shot. Shouldn't those with mental health issues and such be precluded? Where in Florida do you live? Nice to meet you. Lynda
MysteriousOne on June 07, 2011:
Very interesting story! I live in Florida,and a lot of what you wrote is true.Anyone in Florida can own a firearm,as long as they are not a felon....but of course,they're the ones who have access to them.I believe in the right to bear arms,and the elderly are defenseless to anybody who may try to invade their safety.I'm rambling...but really enjoyed your hub! This, btw,is my first visit to your hub,and I happened to hit on a subject close to my heart! Voted up,up and up!
Thank you for sharing!
Tammy Lochmann on June 01, 2011:
BTW that pic sure looks like Queen Elizabeth....
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on May 31, 2011:
Thanks Tammy. You always brighten my day. We don't see you often enough these days. Lynda
Tammy Lochmann on May 31, 2011:
That was hilarious. We have a ton of those little old ladies here in MS. I even gave one my place in line at the doctor's office only to find out she wasn't sick, just a pain in the butt. I was actually sick (turned up positive for the flu).
I just had a chance to do some reading and you didn't disappoint, as always. :)
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 29, 2011:
Good, Hello, hello as more people are shot by their own weapons than ever get to use them to defend themselves. True statistic. Thanks for commenting. Lynda
Hello, hello, from London, UK on April 29, 2011:
I enjoyed reading your story. But show me a gun and I run a mile. I am petrified of them.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 20, 2011:
Thanks Christopher. The knee-jerk reactions are par from these commenters who seem to find offense in everything I write, often, as is the case here, reading intent into my words that does not exist. Even funnier in this case,as I am a gun owner. You got it right off the bat. Thanks. I was beginning to think I was losing my touch. Much appreciated. Lynda
Christopher Price from Vermont, USA on April 20, 2011:
This was a great story well told.
I was surprised by the knee-jerk defensive postures taken by some of those who commented, but then I am from Vermont where no concealed weapons permits have ever been needed. A couple of municipalities have stricter regulations, but statewide we are free to arm ourselves as we see fit.
Your descriptions of the little old lady and the tale as it unfolded were wonderful. And the intent of the permitting process being nullified by bumbling bureaucrats is just icing on this cake.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 19, 2011:
Thanks Quilligrapher. I'm not exactly a spring chicken myself, you know. About the 100, this is the second time I've been there. The first time lasted all of two days and dropped to 94. I have no idea what it means because it bears no relation to traffic, last written hubs, comments, involvement on the site -- nothing I can measure. So I'll take the capricious 100 for however long it lasts. Thanks.
Hi Ghost. You're probably right. I expect half the neighbors will have for sale signs up by now as well. Thanks for commenting here. Lynda
Ghost32 on April 19, 2011:
I'm thinking the crime rate in Cape Coral should have started dropping precipitously by now, at least if the bad guys have gotten word about all those girls from Flamingo Lakes being armed to the teeth and eagerly looking for targets.
Up and Everything.
Quilligrapher from New York on April 19, 2011:
A funny hub, Lynda. Nice going. You could probably make a good career writing about us old geezers. BTW, my congratulations on the '100'. It was a long time coming and certainly long overdue. Now, if we could only figure out what it means. Q.
Old Poolman on April 18, 2011:
Lynda, you are so correct, not everyone is suited for gun ownership. Your story was funny as heck and I can draw a mental picture of this old lady packing a gun.
At my local gun range I have observed some guests who should absolutely not own a firearm, or any other type weapon as far as that goes. Fortunately we have some excellent range managers who watch closely and will quickly correct any unsafe actions.
Nice meeting you.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 18, 2011:
Thanks Old Poolman. I'm from Alberta. When the government of Canada tried to register all guns in the country, after four years and millions of wasted dollars, experts figured there were more illegal guns in Alberta than were registered in the entire rest of the country. Finally the government gave up. I have no problem with gun ownership. That wasn't my point. In truth, it was meant as an entertaining story about an old lady who obviously was determined to get her permit no matter what, not a political statement. I shudder to think of old folks in their dotage arming themselves and walking about. I spend enough time with them to know they aren't always in control.
Interesting comments -- yes, isn't it great?
Thanks for your interest and support. Lynda
Old Poolman on April 18, 2011:
It appears that gun ownership and concealed carry permits should be standardized in all States. Some make it impossible and some are so lax it is a joke.
The facts are that the bad guys can buy a gun most anytime and anywhere if they have enough money. This will never change regardless of any regulation changes.
Gun ownership is not for everyone but is a personal choice issue for most of us. I firmly believe there would be an all out war in this country if the government tries to stop individuals from owning guns.
This hub sure drew some interesting comments.
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 18, 2011:
Where do I start? How about I address you all at the same time?
First, every state is different and Florida is notorious when it come to ease of purchase of guns and related permits. I don't know about the "carry permit" or concealed weapon permit as it is called here. I'm only passing on the story as told to me and from other stories on this subject I've heard, this does not surprise me. I've never applied for a carry permit. My weapons stay at home, though being new here I was surprised at the lax gun acquirement process. That I can speak to from first hand experience. I am not anti-gun, or against people arming themselves. I've handled firearms since I was a girl, grew up with them around me, learned respect for them at an early age. I did not write this as an anti-gun story.
My concern was for the lack of screening procedures. Not everyone should have a gun, as we are all well aware. Not everyone should have a concealed weapon permit. I ran this tale past Dan, a State Trooper who lives on the next block. He says it is all too probable, but actually the old lady would have to complete six one hour classes. Mandatory. Once she finished the six classes, she'd only have to do a questionaire and pass a criminal check.
As for Dana, she is a very real person who co-ordinates services for seniors. She would never pass by an old person looking lost in a public place. I might add, she is also my distant supervisor, as she certifies all who do the work I now do, care for seniors trying to keep them out of the nursing homes. I love the work -- very rewarding, but that's beside the point. The behavior of the old lady is very common -- not that she's a racist battle-axe, to quote a comment, but that many late age seniors are that mercurial -- happy one minute, aggressive the next, paranoid the next. They may be comfortable in the environment at one point, only to be lost five minutes later. This I can attest to, working with them as I do these days. I've learned to let it be like water off a duck, take the good when it comes and ignore the rest. The other point, one that was driven home to me when I was certifying is this: we have no right to hinder a senior going about their business, even if we know it is wrong, or detrimental. They are adults, not children, old not infants. Until the State decides they are incompetent in some fashion,(such as removing a drivers' license) they have the same rights as any other citizens. It was not Dana's place to decide whether the woman should or should not get to her appointment.
Lee County had already found her incompetent to hold a permit for a concealed weapon. Charlotte County apparently didn't do their homework. And should have.
I love collecting stories like this from around town. I hope you're enjoying them.
Thanks for your support, all of you. Even the rude comments are appreciated. Lynda
Nan Mynatt from Illinois on April 18, 2011:
Well written and fascinating comedy story. I hope that old ladies do not carry guns, they may accidently shot themselves.
TheManWithNoPants from Tucson, Az. on April 18, 2011:
Great story and well written. There are, of course down sides to everything, and people who's mind are on the way out, shouldn't be running around with a gun after a 1/2 hour gun class. Having said that, sometimes you have to accept a few down sides for things that keep us free. There are two questions. Do we have the right to bear arms? The second amendment says we do. Do we need guns? Show me an unarmed cop here in the U.S. (no such thing) They all seem to think guns are important. When I see all the cops have quit carring guns, I'll know that the bad guys gave up theirs. When that happens, you can have my guns. I've been shot, and had a beautiful young lady who I loved, got brutely raped. Unrelated insidents) I could do nothing to stop it because the bad guys were the only one's with guns. Getting shot was my fault. I was young, and being a tough guy, I dared them to do it. Them was a jealous girlfriend. Can't blame a gun here. If there wasn't a gun, she'd have stabbed me.
The first incident is something I'll never get over, and it happens everyday all across our country. The guy got two years after he was finally caught. If I ever find him, you can bet he'll pay, and he'd gladly give me a gun to shoot him, I promise. It's been a long time, and he's probably dead by now anyway. I'm actually working very hard to forgive him, but it's a little slow moving.
I shouldn't have gotten into all this, but I wanted to point out that taking away guns would have consequences we can't deal with in my opinion. Thank you for this well written hub, and thanks for the time.
Old Poolman on April 18, 2011:
I really seriously doubt the lady described in this hub would be able to get a concealed carry permit. If she did, someone in the issuing agency should be fired.
Ronnie Sowell from South Carolina on April 18, 2011:
I carry, as you know, but agree that folks need to be trained, rational and proficient if they choose to take on this responsibility. If that little old lady shoots some kid who offers to cut her grass, everyone will be up in arms!
(Couldn't help myself, sorry.) Excellent hub, but what's new about that!
drbj and sherry from south Florida on April 18, 2011:
I was never afraid of, you'll pardon the expression, little old ladies in matching pant sets, but now I am, very afraid.
Funny story, Lynda, and even funnier since it appears to be a real life vignette.
JS Matthew from Massachusetts, USA on April 18, 2011:
Beautifully articulate and honest! This is a great Hub!
Old Poolman on April 18, 2011:
I happen to be a gun owner, and hold a concealed carry permit. To obtain this permit in Arizona, one must take an 8 hour class, and a weapons handling proficiency test. There is a cost for the classroom work, and for the permit itself. The permit expires every 5 years, requiring a classroom refresher course, and of course another permit fee. Along with these requirements, one must submit a fingerprint card and submit the information for a background examination. I also belong to a local gun club, and practice with my weapon at least once per week.
I live in a very rural setting, and the average response time from the local law enforcement is 45 minutes to 1 hour. As law enforcement numbers are being reduced due to budget cuts, this response time is getting longer and longer. There is no way I would live where I live without some means of protecting myself and my family.
I can tell for a fact the character in your story would not have been able to obtain a concealed carry permit in the State of Arizona. A concealed carry permit also only lets you protect your life, not your property. Even if shooting someone in justified self defense, a permit holder will be sued by the person he shot or their family, and will spend a minimum of $10,000 for legal defense. That is correct. Even if the law says the shooting was justified, he will still be sued.
Concealed carry permit holders are not cowboys or vigilantes roaming the streets looking for bad guys to shoot. They are merely people who are willing to assume the risk of protecting themselves and their loved ones.
Your story was interesting, but somewhat misleading when it comes to gun ownership and concealed carry. If all of the good guys carried guns, the bad guys would not be nearly as bold as they are today. Law enforcement has had their hands tied so badly with stupid regulations and laws they can't do much until a crime has actually been committed. I for one will take my chances and defend myself if necessary.
The Frog Prince from Arlington, TX on April 18, 2011:
"Used your imagination in spots?" Now that's hilarious to say the least. ROTFLMAO
lmmartin (author) from Alberta and Florida on April 18, 2011:
Why thank you, Will, sarcasm aside.
I did not make this up, though I did have to use my imagination in spots.
I'm not against people arming themselves -- I'm from Alberta, after all and have handled my fair share of guns -- only in providing permits to people who are not cognizant enough to be careful with them.
WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on April 18, 2011:
You managed to paint gun owners and concealed carry holders as racists, kooks, and hateful, dangerous people, all in one small story.
And what a story! Amazing coincidences are rife in your narrative… nice black lady aids racist old, white, battle ax to obtain a concealed carry permit, knowing full well that old people are incapable of fending for themselves or be trusted with a gun! Gasp! It’s enough to make any gun-hating leftist's heart go pitter-patter!