Colin Winthrop was a careful shopper. It was a habit formed from years of watching his recently deceased wife, Lucille, move every item in the grocery display until she was certain the item in her hand had the latest possible expiration date. At first her obsession had annoyed him beyond reason. Now, though, it was a natural part of his own shopping eccentricities... so natural, in fact, that it was done without even thinking about it. He had more important things to think about. His unemployment check was about to come to an end and he still had no prospect for a job. Of course, he knew the checks wouldn't last forever, but...
He put a can of beans in his basket, still good until late next year.
It didn't make sense to him that an older, more experienced person would have such a hard time getting hired. If it were his company it would be the experienced workers that would be hired first. It didn't make sense... he had so much to offer but nobody wanted him.
The bread had just been put out so he knew it wasn't old. He put the loaf in his basket.
Why couldn't he find a job? He had never had a hard time getting hired before. Maybe Lucille had been more of an inspiration for him than he had realized. But still, with his experience it should be easy to get employment. Every interview, though, always seemed to come around to the same frustrating fractured phrases: “At your age, are you sure...”, “When you retire...”, “Age isn't an issue, but...”
He put the quart of milk back on the shelf. The delivery truck would come this afternoon; he would return then to get fresher milk.
He knew he was better than his age would indicate. He ate healthy food, exercised daily, kept his mind sharp and still it was the young kids that were being hired instead of him. Age had eliminated him and others his age from even having a chance to be a valid part of society. It was unfair... totally unfair.
The oranges had no expiration date and it caused him to hesitate. How would he know whether the ones he got were the freshest? Look at it? Squeeze it? Smell it?
That was what was so unfair... he was being treated like a bottle of milk, not like an orange! How dare they look at only his age, as though he was approaching his expiration date. How dare they not take the time to test him, try his worth, give him a chance. Nothing was fair about how life had developed for him and yet he was still put under the same restrictions as the younger workers... find a job quickly or your unemployment check will expire. How unfair to be treated like expiring groceries on a shelf.
If only he would be given a fair chance...
Colin went back to the milk display and picked up the quart that had been rejected earlier. He looked at the expiration date and shuddered. It expires tomorrow.
“At least,” he whispered to the milk, “at least I understand you better.” He gently put the milk in his basket with a sigh. “I will drink you today.”
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