take one woman with low self esteem, but quite good hair
add one moronic illness
stir in some medication which causes hair to fall out
mix it all up and this is what you get...

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Shop anxiety 

A convenience store. The sort of store where medicines are behind the counter, rather than on display. I have been tasked with getting Big some paracetamol to ward off a potential bout of man flu.

After waiting an interminable amount of time while the assistant puts four eight-packs of beer excrutiatingly slowly into individual plastic carrier bags for the previous customer (he's probably got his car a couple of yards away - does he *really* need them all in bags?), I finally present my purchases (milk, bread) on the counter.

"Could I have a packet of paracetamol, please?"
"Yes, any preference?"

*thinks: preference? Paracetamol is paracetamol, surely. Okay, there's "Panadol", but I can't see any up there on display*

"No, just... well, paracetamol..."

*fumbles around the display of remedies*

"Nurofen okay?"

*thinks: I don't know how to make this any clearer. My only weapon is that of repetition*

"Um, no. I wanted paracetamol"

*looks bewildered*

Luckily, the Duty manager steps in, identifies the paracetamol and the exasperation levels return to "normal"

A supermarket. The "Handbaskets only" checkout (at least this way they don't risk offending my pedantic eye with a "10 items or less" sign).

There are two customers in front of me, their purchases segregated by those plastic separators with "Next Customer" emblazoned upon them (with the odd "Handbaskets only" thrown in for interest). The customer immediately ahead of me grabs another separator and puts it behind their hoard, allowing me to place my items on the conveyor. Another customer waits behind me, with the largest bottles of cider I've ever seen. I can see another separator, but the checkout operator has put it on the conveyor just adjacent to the metal slide which is used to convey the separators to waiting customers. It is just out of my reach. I wait until I can edge closer, lean over and grab the separator, placing it between my purchases and those of the cider drinker, concluding that the checkout operator had obviously accidentally "missed" the metal slide.

As she prepares to scan the goods of the next customer, she picks up the separator... and places it once again on the conveyor, adjacent to the metal slide. As she moves the conveyor forward, so the separator moves forward - she has to keep pushing it back, flustered, because it's getting in her way. Meanwhile, other customers have arrived, waiting to place their items on the conveyor and trying to locate a separator. They too see it, have to lean to get it and so the cycle repeats itself.

I observe with some amusement her stubborn refusal to place the separator on the metal slide. I imagine that she is a checkout anarchist, seeking to challenge our preconceived ideas about how a checkout should operate. Maybe she is employed by one of those hidden camera shows to observe the reactions of customers to her flouting of checkout etiquette.

I refuse to be drawn into the trap, act nonchalantly, pay for my goods and leave the store, amused, intrigued and bewildered.

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