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“Can I help you?” Danny asked.

I looked at the person who posed the question. Despite my mouth starting to automatically say “No, thanks” my brain did one of those things where it seems to be able to pause time as a stream of thought is processed in a nanosecond.

Did I actually need help?

There was no price information box of pumpkins waiting to be defaced. Maybe the opposite of defaced is more accurate, as they were designed for having faces carved onto them. Anyway, they didn’t have a price on them, and there’s only so much I’m willing to pay for an imperfect pumpkin I plan to vandalise. So, yes, I did need help. But did I think Danny would be able to assist?

Danny (I don’t know if that’s his real name, but he looks like a Danny) has Down’s Syndrome. Every week, at some point on our shopping trip, he’ll appear at our side and ask, “Can I help you?” And every week we answer “No, thanks” because we don’t need assistance. We know what we want and where it is.

But this time I did need help … and yet I nearly automatically answered no. The more reasoned part off my brain instantly called me out on this.
“Why were you going to say no?” it asked, accusingly.
“I don’t know,” the hasty section answered, somewhat sheepishly.
“I think you do know. I think you know exactly why,” Mr. Reason wasn’t letting me off the ropes.

And he was right. I was going to say no simply because Danny had Down’s Syndrome and I subconsciously assumed he might not be able to help me. It was prejudice, pure and simple, and I was ashamed at the thought.

Danny looked at me, waiting for an answer. The nanosecond was up.

“Yes,” I said. “As a matter of fact, you can. There’s no price on these pumpkins. Do you know how much they cost?”
Danny looked at the box of pumpkins for a few moments.
“Hmm, no I don’t,” he wandered around the box, checking labels I’d already checked. “No price, here. No, that’s not a price tag.” He scratched his head an looked at me. “There’s no price on them.”
“That’s okay, thanks,” I started to walk away. Danny hadn’t been able to help me.
“Wait,” he called me back, then shouted. “MAVIS.”
A woman wearing a net cap appeared from behind the bakery counter.
“Mavis, do you know how much these pumpkins are?”
Mavis didn’t know either. She and Danny then started talking about how strange it was there was no price tag.
“What’s up?”
Another member of staff appeared, but this one had a phaser in her hand.
“There’s no prices on these pumpkins, Melanie,” Danny told her. “Do you know how much they are?”
Now there was a small crowd of us around the pumpkins, and other shoppers were peering in our direction, wondering what was so interesting.
“Two quid,” Melanie answered confidently. “I bought one myself a couple of days ago. But I can check anyway.”
She pointed the phaser at the pumpkins. “Yes, two pounds each.”
“They’re two pounds,” Danny turned to me and repeated the price.
“Brilliant,” I smiled. “In that case I’ll take one. Thanks for finding out for me.”
“You’re welcome,” Danny beamed.

It might have involved half the staff in the shop, but he had indeed found out the price. I was still ashamed and annoyed at myself for hesitating to seek his assistance, even if it had only been for a fleeting moment.

The following week I stood scanning the world food aisle, looking for an ingredient for a new recipe we were going to try. It wasn’t anywhere to be seen on the shelves.
“Can I help you?” a familiar voice asked.
“You don’t happen to know where I can find Holy Moly Smoky Red Pepper & Tomato Salsa?”

Danny probably won’t ask if he can help me again. Then again, he probably will.

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Jack Montgomery

Jack is an author, travel writer, photographer, and a Slow Travel consultant who has been writing professionally for twenty years. Follow Jack on Facebook for information about his writing, travel tips, photographs, and tales of life in a tiny rural village in Somerset.

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Some of the items on this site won’t be to everyone’s liking, I get that. Basically this is my place, my wee studio to mess around in – experimenting with words and thoughts. I’ll be chuffed if you enjoy it, but if you don’t, c’est la vie. As a friend used to tell me “it would be a boring life if we all thought the same.”

Jack Montgomery
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The Setúbal Peninsula,