Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Supermarket

I have long considered the supermarket as my favourite component of consumer capitalism. Anytime my mood needs a lift, I just walk to the supermarket, where I can experience the bright lights, the cheerful packaging, the thrill of finding marked-down, slightly out-of-date food items, and the satisfaction of buying something without wondering whether or not I’m actually going to use it. And so, I visit my local branch of the Co-Operative almost daily, delighting in every orange “reduced price” sticker, scanning the beers and wines for bargains and chatting with a kindly Northern Englishman who works there about obscure psychologists, our shared imperialist legacy and the inherent defects of our (otherwise disagreeable) capitalist system.

Only recently have I come to conceptualise the supermarket as yet another awkward social space, but as long as the maladroit are aware of the awkwardness hotspots, they can train themselves to avoid the problem areas. For instance, one must always regard stacks of tins with wariness. Even though they may appear to lock in-place vertically, they are more often than not precariously-balanced. Knock over a few accidentally, and one’s kindly impulse to restack them will inevitably result in towers of tins collapsing into the aisle like the Red Sea upon the Pharaoh’s army.

The check-out line is yet another awkwardness hotspot. Often, I try to calculate the total of my items beforehand, but being terrible at arithmetic, I frequently give the person scanning my groceries the wrong sum. I once did this to a small, middle-aged Glaswegian woman behind the counter who wears flamboyant hats for each of the holidays. After informing me of my error, and after I began pawing my pockets for the appropriate combination of coins, The Hat Lady, not feeling particularly whimsical on that ordinary day, told the shopper behind me that she would be with him in a second. She then turned to me with a look of pronounced impatience.

I promptly pulled out a banknote and tried to hurry along. Unfortunately, I did not bring an old plastic bag with me (as I usually do), and the one which The Hat Lady provided was unopened. There’s a trick to opening plastic bags that I have yet to master. I struggled with it for about half-a-minute before The Hat Lady tapped it open for me.

Let's sum this up:
To enjoy the magical experience of the supermarket, one must:
1) Approach tins with maximum caution
2) Never dick around with hat ladies.
3) Always recycle your plastic bags.


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