I take my lunch at the same time every day. On the appointed hour, I rise from my desk and vacate the building as quickly as possible (usually via the 1st floor window). Evading the guard dogs and searchlights, I play a game of Frogger across a very busy road and make my way to the local Tesco for a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a critique of the human condition.
In between bouts of awareness towards the inescapability of death, and upon its arrival what happens to my club-card points, I manage to cross paths with a wide variety of indigenous shoppers… and other forms of local pond life. It’s a strange place, filled with the very base levels of human emotion, moments of stark insanity and attractive buy one, get one free, offers. On average, I spend thirty minutes each day within its confines and I’ve come to a very worrying conclusion – I’m addicted to the place!
I like to believe that the world is a much safer place than the one portrayed on our television screens. If you take the scaremongering for what it is and step out, more often than not the world will meet you with an aura of vulnerability which comes from a good place, and when in sync, can be embraced and surrendered too. Unfortunately, this philosophy is completely redundant at the local Tesco – a supermarket that should be avoided like a council estate prostitute.
With each visit I pretty much see the same series of events played out, usually by the same people I saw the day before. Honestly, it’s like watching a really bad Betamax copy of Groundhog Day, it’s all grainy and annoying to look at, the tracking is a little fucked and it skips at the best bits.
Right off the bat you have the people that lurk outside the store entrance, usually selling either roadside breakdown cover or paintballing weekends. They all have the same Joker’esque smile crayoned onto their face and are desperate to make eye contact as a means of kicking off their sales pitch. On those occasions when I’ve accidently gazed in their direction, and have been asked how my day is going (an enquiry that is delivered with all the sincerity of a politician wiping his arse on a homeless person); I usually supply the following response with the same levels of sickening bonhomie:
‘I’m terribly sorry, old bean, but I don’t speak a syllable of English. Thanks all the same and toodle-loo.’
This usually confuses them to such a degree that by the time they have worked out that I’m being a little snarky; I’m already in the shop and moving towards the next collection of mouth-breathers.
Why is it that stores of this type have the same layout wherever you are in the world? I was in a Publix supermarket in Florida last year and the layout was identical – so much so that I didn’t like going in there because it felt so bloody similar.
Right up front you have the magazine aisles and lunchtime sandwich selections. I’m guessing they put this up front because it’s common knowledge that eating and reading are intrinsically linked, like swimming whilst painting. I’m also guessing that these aisles are up front because those taking lunch are so weak from hunger and lack of quality reading material they are unable to fully enter the shop. Truly, my heart bleeds.
After this point, you are plunged into a theatre of dread, in which to survive you must depend upon your ability to predict the unpredictable and invoke whatever supernatural guile you may possess. A skilfully-crafted maze of refrigerated cabinets, awkward salad isles, and confusing corridors of brightly coloured tins, boxes and packets await you – all of which is being traversed by a myriad of coupon-crazies and guttersnipe shoppers hell-bent on messing with my groove!
With each trip I take I can always rely on two things happening. Someone will usually stop dead in front of me for no obvious reason, and a kid will be shouted at by a grotesque parent… for no obvious reason. Of the two, I particularly like the stop dead event.
It’s not like these people stop to look at something, or pause a brief moment to mull over the store brand spaghetti hoops. No, these people seem to be governed by an invisible traffic light system that demands their total compliance regardless of all those around them. They just stop, like a fat bloke’s heart during his third plate of cheese.
I’m always tempted to take the hard line, and act as if I were in my car. In those moments when someone just stops for no reason, and you slam on your brakes in order to avoid a collision with their fuck-tarded stupidity – I’m not alone in my knee-jerk desire to immediately act like an arsehole taxi driver, lean on the horn, and swear until my vocal chords fray, am I?
Well, try this approach the next time some bastard hits the brakes on their shopping trolley. Get as close behind them as possible and start making loud “beeeeeeeep” noises. Go ahead and scream ‘fucking idiot’ at the back of their head, and question the whereabouts of their father and need for corrective spectacles in the hope of avoiding future altercations of a similar nature. As you pass them, give a massive “wanker” sign right in their face… and call them a ‘effing idiot’ again for good measure, and maybe do the “beeeeeeeep” noise again. At the very worst you will get a suspended sentence and maybe a little community service.
As for the poor child being berated by their parent, well, I currently live in Portsmouth, an area renowned for incestuous teenage pregnancy and people that revel in the lower spectrum of intelligence, respect and self-worth. I can only hope the poor little bastard gives their grunting mother/sister the slip and seeks a better life away from this abysmal plague-pit of a town.
So, after taking a zig-zaggy, partially-sighted, tour around the place – avoiding traffic violations and inbred kids caterwauling their lungs onto the floor – I eventually arrive at the last stage of the supermarket experience, the cashiers. After yet another battle of wits with an unarmed opponent, and with my head filled with visions of a toxic spill coating the area and rendering it uninhabitable for the next two-thousand years, I eventually leave the supermarket and head back to my office… another place filled with empty-headed-who-cares-bollock-talkers.
But do you know what the real kicker is? Ultimately, when all is said and done, the joke is on me. Why? Because through all this nonsense and snarky opinion, and away from my tortured tales of battles with local beer-can goblins and £2.00 fruit salads, I still sit at my desk and look forward to my next trip into oblivion. What a loser!
Paul Millard 2014