Yes, I know, 1.30 pm on a Sunday is not the best time to go to the supermarket. It’s the window for the weekly shop or for legging-clad girls on a flying visit straight from aerobics. It’s for middle-aged husbands looking for alfresco lunch ingredients, and for young dads, sometimes alone and sometimes accompanied by the children. I smile at the hen-pecked husbands, ringing home to check if Greek Kalkidis olives will be OK as ‘they’re out of Spanish Couchillo’. Although just green or black to him, he knows he’ll be for it if he confuses his Kalkidis with his Couchillo. I bristle at the young unaccompanied dad, not only ringing home to check which fish fingers little Johnny prefers, but demanding loudly that his partner check their notes from last week’s wine tasting class so he can buy the one that will ‘tease out the blood group’ of a half-price piece of sirloin.
I am exasperated by the couples who mooch about the shop with nothing else pressing to do, so intend to spend the afternoon there. Picture the scene – she is wearing a pair of hand warmers that extend almost to the tips of her fingers. It is the end of May and, I admit, unseasonable weather is hammering at the windows. She is holding a cup of coffee that this supermarket offers free with their store card in return for the customer’s promise of a certain ‘spend’. She blows the steam from her coffee, warming her cupped hands around the branded container as she ambles through the aisles, gesturing here and there with her cosseted hands for her trailing partner to load their trolley, she being chilled to the bone and preoccupied with her coffee, and its power, therefore unable to reach up for the baked beans herself. The man following behind is displaying his skills in one of the recent manifestations of men’s masculinity. He also holds a cup of coffee – in one hand – and is pushing the trolley – with one hand. With no free hands he is powerless to load the trolley; he can only follow, mesmerised as he is by the power wielded by her coffee cup, which needs to be mastered with two hands. How they will ever get home is a mystery to me, let alone create a meal with what little they manage to buy.
However, I am incensed by the consumer who says ’Would you excuse me, please?’ and without a second glance reaches right in front of and across me to the packets I am considering. Chin almost on my shoulder, so keen is this customer to not force me to move or appear in the least bit selfish that he is perfectly happy to exhale garlic breath into my face as he leans on me, rather than wait the 10 seconds it will take me to select my tea bags and move on. I’d prefer it if he shoved me out of the way; at least that would be honest. Instead, we have these punters who think a smile and a few polite words allow them to push in. The concept of waiting is lost. ‘Would you excuse me?’ is a request, requiring an answer; it’s not a declaration of intent.
Anyway, shopping done, I was waiting for the lift to the car park with three young dads, one with a school-aged child in the trolley seat. All three of them moved to the opening lift doors as one and after a bit of polite trolley-barging they all got in, the last guy standing with his back to the entrance preventing the doors from closing. After a few seconds of silent waiting and trolley-gazing, this last guy leaned right across the face of one of the others to press the lift button. He had to move forward to do so, the doors started to close and I grabbed my chance to get in the lift. There was plenty of room, once everyone moved closer together. In the time it took for the doors to finally close and the lift to reach the car park level, the dad-with-child was well into an argument with his young son about who had pressed the lift button. His attention to detail and persistence were admirable, and Dad tried hard but by the time we all got out, we knew who’d won. I think dad should make sure he is armed with a coffee next time.