I love sitting in a public place watching people go by. Guessing at what they do, who they are, what their lives are like. It can entertain me for hours. It was on one of my trips to the mall when I noticed her.

She sat alone in the food court drinking her tea from a Tim Horton's paper cup. I knew it was tea because the string of the tea bag was hanging over the side of her cup. I'm guessing she was in her late 70s or early 80s. That age range came to mind because she had an uncanny resemblance to my grandmother (who passed earlier this year). Her gray hair was short with the type of curls that could only come from rollers and setting lotion. Her black coat was open revealing a white T-shirt with a floral design around the neck. Her polyester blue pants had a permanent crease in the legs and her sneakers, which I am sure she had chosen for comfort, had seen better days.
She sipped her tea and stared blankly ahead. Not noticing anyone around her. Just deep in thought. It was noon. She only had the tea...maybe she had eaten already. 

I wondered if she was waiting for someone. A granddaughter maybe who had worn her out from shopping . Now she was relaxing with her tea. Catching her second breath. I had to go. I had a conference call at the office that I needed to get back for but I still hadn't picked up what I needed so I was going to have to come back later in the afternoon.

It was after three by the time I got back to the mall. As I passed the food court, I remembered the older lady. she wasn't at the table. I was just about to turn the corner when I noticed she had moved. She was now sitting at the other end of the food court. How odd I thought. She's still here. I ran my errands for about 20 minutes and when I passed back by the food court I looked around but the lady was gone. There were washrooms off the food court and I decided to make a detour. When I was washing my hands I looked in the mirror and realized the lady standing two sinks down from me was the same older lady I seen sitting in the food court. She was trying to keep the water running but it was an automatic facet that shut off after a few seconds to conserve water. She noticed me staring this time "I can't get this water to turn hot" she told me. "I don't think it gets hot. I think they just give you enough time to wash your hands then it turns off automatically" I informed her.

As I dried my hands in the air dryer she went back to trying to run the water. I watched her in the mirror. She glanced toward me, seeing my back was to her, she took a clear plastic sandwich bag out of her rain coat pocket filled with tea bags and her Tim Horton's paper cup out of her other pocket. She took out a tea bag and placed it in the cup then filled it with warm water. She put the plastic brown cover over the top of the cup. Picked it up and left the washroom. 

I gave her a few seconds then walked out behind her. She walked over to a table, sat down and began to drink her tea. She didn't speak to anyone. She just stared, deep in thought as before. My cell phone rang. It was a work call...I needed to get back to the office. I quickly made one last stop. Five minutes later, I was ready to leave the mall. I walked through the food court expecting to see the older lady sitting at the table but she was gone. The table was clean.

As I left, I caught a glimpse of her getting on a bus. I walked to my car and never saw her again. Thoughts of her consumed me. Why would an elderly women spend hours sitting in a food court? Who knows how long she was there before I spotted her. Why did she have her own tea bags in her pocket? Who was she? Her wrinkled face told me she had worked hard all her life and raised a family. Did they know she was here all afternoon? Did they care?

Is she one of the forgotten elderly? 

The ones who sit at the mall all day because they can't afford to heat their houses or who have no one at home to be with. The mall would be a safe place for these people. Surely no security guard would ask an elderly woman to move along and stop loitering.

I'm going to look for her the next time I am at the mall.

Maybe I'll be so bold as to ask her if I can sit with her. She reminded me of my own grandmother.

I'll tell her that and I'll ask if I can buy her a cup of tea


  1. you always bring tears to my eyes. i love the way you tell your stories. beautiful. <3


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