Features / Writing

Nice: Jordy Van Den Nieuwendijk makes a concerted effort at self-improvement

First published in Printed Pages Spring 2015

I see her a lot lately; at least once and often twice a day. Always in the same place – never anywhere else – at the supermarket near my house. Seeing her there so regularly makes me wonder if she lives inside. I picture her sleeping on toilet paper beds, stealing table wines and going for all-you-can-eat sprees at the deli after closing time. I keep noticing the way she dresses herself; everything she wears looks carefully chosen. Her beige-clad peers could learn a lot from her.

She got me the other day when I was waiting impatiently in the slow line. She hit me right in the back of my legs with her burgundy mobility scooter and it instantly changed the way I felt about her. She’s always been an immaculate old lady with pristine silver hair, but what’s with hitting handsome young fellows in the supermarket? Get a grip lady! You’ve had plenty of time to learn to drive that thing.

I looked behind me and stared her in the face, pretending it didn’t hurt. It hurt. I couldn’t decide what to do. Should I smile and let her know not to worry? Maybe a little laugh and a careless “Uh-oh!” or a grumpy disapproving head shake? Maybe I should give her a ticket for dangerous driving; throw something from the checkout at her head! (This was a pretty appealing idea as I had frozen raspberries, eggs, tomatoes and a banana all at the ready). So many options! I suddenly realised I’d been staring at her for several minutes debating my next move. Although she’d almost killed me I decided to let the whole thing pass and asked if she would allow me to help her with her shopping. Surprised by the kindness in my Dutch voice, she thanked me and I loaded up her groceries. It felt so good to be of service.

But later I realised I’ve not really been helping strangers for the last couple of years, and like Carrie Bradshaw I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s true what I’ve been reading about our generation on the internet. Are we really all so self-absorbed and egocentric?

When you’re creative – particularly someone who makes images for a living – it should be easy to figure out ways to help others; workshops at children’s hospitals or drawing portraits of the elderly at a retirement home; easy things to do that can brighten up other people’s days. 

And so I’ve decided to start doing nice things for other people, starting with the easiest one of all; a drawing for my own granny – who is not as well-dressed as my supermarket crush, but at least doesn’t try to wound me with her mobility scooter all the time. Here you go Granny!