Saturday, 8 December 2007

Never Send a Man To Do A Woman's Shopping


It's a day of many flavours: some people spend the day in bed; some go out into the garden; and some wake up and decide what to do depending on their mood.

After a disappointing morning consisting of a lack of kinky boots in the post for Agnes, a lack of anything exciting in TK Maxx, an utterly wasted journey to find Stinking Bishop cheese, and getting my backside handed to me at Scrabble, things mainly got worse.

I think the turning point was the Scrabble. I could say that I had a poor run of letters. Indeed, during the first few turns I had nary a vowel to my name. Marque, Marquees and Ozone killed me off though, and I was comprehensively beaten. Agnes (like the rest of the Mildew clan) is quite competitive. Although Agnes loses to me at Scrabble more than she would like, winning today provoked such a visible euphoria in her, that I felt, all in all, it was worth it to suffer the gloating I would surely now receive.

As Agnes gave me her best grin, the finger and thumb formed an L on her forehead. "You'll have to go round like this for the rest of the day now," she proclaimed, chuckling.

So, in addition to signing the scorecard indicating I "had my arse kicked", I had to go out to the
to get a pair of tights, a face pack and some wine. I added some headache tablets to the list as all of Agnes's dancing and singing was giving me motion sickness and a mild buzzing behind my eyes.

Into the car I sloped as Agnes went off to have a 'long victorious soak'.

The local village shops have always annoyed me. There is parking outside the shops, but invariably this becomes a traffic jam at busy times with people stopping to "just pop in" and causing mayhem in their wake. Apparently 3pm on a drenched Saturday afternoon is just such a busy time. Indeed, it seemed that the entire village had turned out just as I had arrived for my few essential supplies. You remember the list? Aspirin, Tights, Face pack and Wine. Good.

I found a spot to park at the very end of the parade of shops. The last spot. Gratefully, I reverse parked into the space and jumped out of the car. As I walked towards the cash machine I cast a sideways glance into the launderette. A lone man was visible through the part-steamed windows. Hugely obese, he sat with his back against the industrial dryer fishbowl windows. A baseball cap perched tenuously on the back of his head, his tattooed arms resting on his prodigious belly and shovel-sized hands supporting his chin as he stared thoughtfully into space. To what was he going home? I wondered as I hurried past, collar turned up against the foul weather. Probably a crisp butty was the later reply from a still good-humoured Agnes.

As I stood under a leaky gutter and drew out some cash from the hole-in-the-wall, I planned my visit. Pharmacist for everything except the wine, then Tesco. Back to the car, then back home to present the no doubt still-gloating Agnes with a mud face pack and a non-laddered pair of tights.

The warmth of the air-conditioned pharmacy was a welcome respite from the howling gale and torrential downpour outside, but only for a moment. It seemed as though the entire village had not only come down here to shop, but all needed the pharmacy. The queue was a mile long. The in-store radio was playing music even the Cheese Police would be offended by, and a group of spotty teenagers were crowded around the lipstick and skincare section giggling to each other as they primped and preened themselves with free makeup from the samples on display. The staff were harried and disinterested and everyone was wet and steaming, and judging by the look of them, suffering from some ailment that was, without doubt, contagious. I walked around the shop, studiously avoiding the most diseased, looking for tights. Couldn't find them. I huffed and puffed near the teenagers, looking over their shoulders at the display, searching desperately for anything looking like a face pack. No joy. I then did what every good Englishman does under these circumstances. I queued.

Time passed, my life slipped away, and idly, I listened to the voice of the bright young woman broadcasting on Pharmacy FM. What qualifications are required for this job I wondered? Doubtless she would be sat in a warm comfy studio somewhere. The lone girl behind the counter was giving an elderly gentleman loud and sagely advice on the use of an anal cream. She looked about 12 and I watched as she spoke to him in a calm and even tone, giving application advice and warning against him putting his fingers near his mouth afterwards without washing. The rest of the people in the queue were unmoved, each in their own little world. Probably hoping to God that something would strike them down so that they wouldn't have to queue any longer and listen to the dreadful George Michael singing about his Last Christmas. Oh why couldn't that just be true?

Eventually, I made it to the front of the queue. "Do you sell tights?" I asked.

"No." The answer was delivered with no apologetic look and my ire rose.

"What about face packs?" I rubbed my hands against my cheek as if that would somehow help illustrate what they were. She just looked at me with a look clearly reserved for what she believed to be idiots.


I asked for my aspirin.

"Have you ever taken these before?" the girl enquired.

I was mildly annoyed at this point, and briefly considered saying "It's f*cking aspirin. What do you think?". Instead, out of a mild and masochistic curiosity, I said "no". This is why I lose at Scrabble. I am that stupid.

So now, with the Parsnip-Anger-Meter hovering at around 4, I walked out into the rain again and went to the local supermarket. Agnes had mentioned that the Co-Op sold tights, so in I strolled. I found the tights within a few minutes and then spent a further 15 minutes wondering what a denier was, and whether 15 of them was good. White, Tan or Black? Long or Medium (no 'short' option, which I found odd...). I picked up what I thought was right, and wandered down the aisle.

Pausing at the shower gel/toothpaste/hair dye section, I had a quick look for face packs. None. However the Saturday part-timer, a snotty youth of indeterminate age, looked up and gave me some Co-Op customer care.

"Looking for anything particular mate?"

"I'm looking for face packs." I did the face rubbing thing again (big mistake - don't ever do this) and the lad grinned lasciviously, glancing at the tights in my hand.

"Oi Dave!" he yelled to his colleague at the other end of the aisle. Needless to say the entire shop was now privy to this conversation. "Do we sell face pack thingies?" His grin threatened to split his face and he nodded at me, clearly believing I was about to rush home, don a pair of 15 denier, almost black tights and cover my face in mud. Anger meter = anger meter +2, and I considered smashing my fist into his face. Were it not for the legal repercussions, I would have had no restraint.

Dave sniggered, shrugged and shook his head.

As I stood in the lengthy queue that had clearly migrated from the pharmacy to the Co-Op and as I left to walk out into the pouring rain, I decided that Tesco would be my last stop. Wine. I needed wine.

The Tesco shopping experience was much better. No face packs, but plenty of wine. The queue, however, had been following me and was now beyond the guide ropes and down one of the aisles. One of the sales assistants piped up, saying to me that the self-service tills were just as fast for those who didn't need cigarettes or contraceptives, and as I fell into neither of those categories, I hurried to the lone empty machine.

Unfortunately, Lady Luck was on the toilet, and I was underneath. One man made it to the machine before me, and I stood dutifully behind him, smiling smugly at the queue and the jealous looks being fired my way. It looked like I was going to make it home whilst still on solid food.

I was wrong.

The gent in front of me had a hand basket crammed to the handles with stuff. Slowly and ponderously, he placed his basket on the side and began to read the instructions on the screen.

"SCAN YOUR FIRST ITEM AND PLACE IT IN THE BAG". Even I could read the instructions on the screen from six feet behind him. He paused, held up a bottle of urine and asked the assistant, "What do I do with this?"

"Just scan it sir and put it in the carrier bag."

He nodded slowly and placed the bottle in the bag. I stood there and watched as the queue for the human tills went down, but not in proportion to the shopping in the basket of the man in front of me. The same assistant walked up and smiled brightly. "It might be quicker if you went over there," she said, indicating the now non-existent queue.

Anger meter = anger meter +3.

Back in the car, I glared at the tail-lights of the moron parked two inches from my front bumper, squeezing into a space that only existed in his tiny bereft-of-intelligence mind. I turned my headlights on, hoping against hope that the bull-necked, shaven-headed thug would pull forward a few inches to let me get out. I was still out of luck.

Furiously turning the steering wheel back and forth, I eventually made it out of the space, glaring at him from the safety of my car. If I had possessed a shotgun, murder would have been added to GBH for me that day. Maybe not murder though, maybe manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

As I sit here typing this now, I feel the anger has totally dissipated. Writing is definitely cathartic, and in this instance Agnes, you were right.



Agnes Mildew said...

Charles, it was such a pain for me to beat you at Scrabble today. I feel such sheer, unadulterated pity at your ordeal. Forgive me. For being Superior to you...

Matt Chingduvé said...

I just thought it was me who got this kind of grief whilst out shopping! The fact that you had to buy woman things is bad enough, without all of the additional aggro involved, and I think you deserve some kind of reward. Or 8 cans of Special Brew :)

Charles Parsnip said...

Agnes: ::sigh::

Matt: I am not holding my breath for any reward. I would turn purple.

Misty said...

Charles I can totally relate.. lady luck is always on the john when it comes to me... such is life... Just wait til next week when it all happens again... My personal motto, if it doesn't kill you it will... WILL make you stronger!

all the best mate!

Charles Parsnip said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Misty!

fishwithoutbicycle said...

Look on the bright side, at least she didn't make you buy sanitary products.

Mark Dykeman, The Uncanny Broadcasting Brain said...

Great story, Charles!

By the way, are you a figment of Agnes's imagination?

Charles Parsnip said...

Thanks Fish. Every cloud and all that...

Agnes Mildew said...

Mark: No, Charles is not a figment of my imagination. I am a figment of his...