“Hello Mrs Avery, why is there such a queue to get into the supermarket?” I said knowing the answer: it was Christmas and people were overstocking their cupboards in anticipation of the big day, but what I didn’t understand was why everyone waiting was being supplied with a life-jacket.
“What do you suppose these are for?” asked Mrs Avery, my next-door neighbour.
“STOP talking and listen!” said the stern-faced man from the supermarket, “or else you’ll end up like that!” He said as he pointed to the unconscious shopper who was being stretchered out of
“I’ve lived here 75 years,” began Mrs Avery, “and I’ve never seen a Christmas this busy, of course when I was a girl…”
I’d heard this story before, “I’ve only come here for a tin of beans,” I told my elderly neighbour as I put on my luminous life-jacket.
“Ooh, beans on toast, I haven’t had that for ages. It’s just the right sort of blustery day for it too. I’ll add beans to my list.” And she searched her bag for a pen. I don’t know if she ever found one as the sliding doors to the entrance suddenly opened and I was sucked backwards
into the stream of shoppers that flooded the aisles. I wasn’t expecting this and I hadn’t listened to any of the safety instructions, I didn’t want to be stretchered out of the store unconscious.
I’d just have to use my natural shopping instincts to survive.
It was like riding the rapids through the fruit and veg section where some poor soul almost lost their balance, clutched at thin air and accidentally pulled over a crate of sprouts. The tiny round vegetables on the floor may as well have been bowling balls for the amount of shoppers who suddenly went down. Strike!
The ripples of panic turned into a surge and I felt myself swirled beyond confectionery and towards the breakfast cereal section, three aisles further than where I needed to be. Here the current was strong and also present in every cereal along with added niacin and riboflavin which seemed to help, as we passed through this section quicker than All-Bran.
At the top of cereals the crowd became choppy, unpredictable, so I held on to the shelves, waiting for a lull in the flow when I would be able to pass safely into tinned goods. I saw my opportunity and took it. Too soon. I was slammed into the BOGOFF special offers of citrus flavoured porridges as a woman with a giant flotilla of trolleys surged through.
She was shopping indiscriminately, dominating the aisles as she sped along, one hand steering the bank of chained-together trolleys while the other arm scooped stock off the shelves in a kind of snowplough action into the wheeled baskets. Every time a trolley was filled, Greedy Woman would pop a pound coin into the handle, releasing the trolley with a loud ‘Click-click’ shotgun kind of action and sending it spinning backwards to be looked after by one of the many complaining kids she had in tow who were busy opening unpaid-for packets of biscuits and scoffing the contents, all except for the tiny little pug-ugly dog-faced kid at the front who was decimating a packet of chews. She had him on a lead.
Despite her dictating the flow of traffic, I wasn’t going to be beaten: I managed to push past Greedy Woman and into tinned goods unharmed, although behind me someone else yelped and someone, possibly her, definitely her, swore at me. I couldn’t afford to look back, nor take responsibility for what had happened: all is fair in shopping and war.
Here in tinned goods the flow was much gentler and I could see the beans section coming up. The tide of shoppers lapped onwards, happy, the experience was altogether more civilised. There was time to breathe and look around. On the shelves opposite was the world foods’ section where a small child cried amongst the pasta. Kidaloni.
“Is she Italian?” asked someone.
“She’s crying ‘Mama!’ “ answered a concerned other.
Then an anxious-looking mother barged through and picked her child up – reunited. Everyone said:
I was the only one who followed it with: “Shit!” We’d gone past the beans, there was no going back, I’d have to go round the aisle again.
After a short blue-tinged interlude through the frozen foods, I was back in tinned goods: fruit – peaches, pears, lychees, fruit cocktail; real beans – kidney, black-eyed, butter, gungo?? And there they were – baked beans, I wouldn’t miss them this time, just a little way after tinned spaghetti: hoops, worms and alphabetti which spelled disaster, for in the opposite direction, forcing against the flow was the snow-plough trolley Greedy Woman and her posse of kids. She was still scooping tins into her trolley and was going to reach the beans before me. I needed beans. I had to have beans. They were the only reason I’d come here in the first place!
I began pushing my way through the crowd, the object of my desire nearly within reach. Greedy Woman continued ploughing through with scant regard for anyone who got in her way. Shoppers shrieked as they slipped under the wheels of the front trolley. She was merciless, and seemed to be speeding up, so much so that her kids were finding it hard to keep up with her and the tiny pug-ugly dog-faced kid was limping. Greedy Woman was staring me straight in the eye. Tins were cascading into her trolley, it was a simple matter of who would reach the beans first, I stretched out a hand and grabbed for the last one.
And that’s the last I remember.
Somehow I ended up in her trolley, god knows how they got me through the check-out – I remember a strange beep noise – apparently I didn’t have a barcode and so they had to manually key me in. Boop! I’d been bought.
And so now on Christmas Eve, I sit in a darkened cupboard on top of what I suppose amounts to a hill of beans: a stack of more tins of them than I could eat in a lifetime, let alone one day. Tomorrow, the big day, Christmas day. Why do people shop like mad for Christmas? Everything is open again on the 26th.
The door opens, it’s the pug-ugly dog-faced kid. They’ve dressed him in a mini santa top. He’s still limping. He looks angrier than ever. He starts growling at me. I throw him another packet of crisps which he eats, bag and all, leaving crumbs and bits all over the place. That’s the last of the cheese and onion flavour, I can’t wait to see his face when he bites into the salt and vinegars tomorrow, he’ll probably just spit them out and you know what I’ll say to him?
“Happy Crisp mess!”
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