Adventures in Supermarketland
I was warned about culture shock before I went out to Botswana. I’ve moved around enough to know what to expect. I was braced and ready for it when I returned to the UK. But for some reason I thought I’d be over it by now.
I spent the first few months of my return safely ensconced on my mum’s sofa, leg in the air, trying not to move too much or do too much. I didn’t go out a great deal, and when I did I was nearly always with some one.
Last week I went to a mega-super-ultra-massive-store, from a big well-known chain. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a big shop. In fact, I’m fairly sure I’ve been to smaller malls! I went on my own, armed only with my trusty map to get me there and a shopping list to remember why I went.
Boy was that a mistake.
New supermarkets are always a bit tricky. They’re supposed to be the same everywhere but we all know they’re not. I like to do a little ‘up and down’ of all the aisles the first couple of times I go to a new shop, just to get an idea of the kind of stuff they have on offer and where it all is. Oh foolish me. Foolish, foolish me.
It started well enough. Lots of pretty things we don’t need, so I walked past them easily enough. Then there were some things that we don’t technically need but would actually be quite useful, and they are on offer, so I had to spend some time looking at them before remembering that pay day is a couple of weeks away. Stay on target. Off I trundle with my (remarkably well behaved) trolley.
I feel like I’m doing quite well. It’s a little difficult choosing between the dozen or so different types of sliced ham available, but in the end I take a deep breath, hedge my bets and throw in two (yup – BOGOF). Then I move to cereal. It’s a little tricky because I want something interesting but oats are not my best friend and for some reason I can’t find the oat free muesli someone used to make before I went away. Eventually I take a normal one and promise myself not to eat it every day.
I trundle my way around, looking at all the interesting things available, all the shiney new products that weren’t there before I left, or were but had different packaging, or now have new variations (as well as the ‘Original’ which has, by default, become a variation itself)… and by and large sticking to my list for the items that make it into the trolley. Slowly, slowly, the store expands around me… That aisle of tea and coffee doesn’t have any room for the sugar! It’s all chai and hot chocolate now! How are there 15 different kinds of hot chocolate?!
I can no longer see any external walls… just aisles and aisles stretching away from me. I can’t find the ‘out’, and even if I could I still can’t find the milk or the fresh juice or the eggs, so I can’t go yet! It feels like I’ve been in here for hours… I can’t cope with it. I’m not coming back again! I never want to go to a supermarket again – not even a little one! They’re tricksy and tardis-like and not a little creepy! I realise I’ve turned into that woman who wanders down each aisle, wild-eyed and looking like she might start screaming at any moment. You know the one. You’ve seen her.
Since I’m going through this hell, my warped mind starts to reason, I should get everything I might possibly need, so that I never have to come back! In desperation things start finding their way into my trolley, as though if I make the mountain big enough I’ll be able to climb onto it and see the way out. Oven chips. I haven’t eaten oven chips for years, but if I get them now I won’t have to come back for them if I decide I want some next month. Hair masks! What a good idea! I haven’t used one of those for a while…
“Hello? You just cut your hair off!”
In a tiny little corner of my mind a little me is trying to scream her way out of a straight jacket – “This is madness! Just leave!”
“Hush now,” I tell her… “I’m being completely rational. I won’t let this place get the better of me!”
Eventually I cross the last item off my list. 3 minutes later I find the checkouts. There’s a cheerful girl on the checkout (I can say girl, she’s younger than me). “Do I want any help with my bags?”
“Yes please!” Anything to get me out quickly.
Everything goes through smoothly. I even find a safe place for the eggs. As I’m putting my purse in my pocket my phone bleets a message… “Are you coming home?”
I’ve been over 3 hours…
I will go back. I think. Perhaps. With my mum. Because I really shouldn’t let a supermarket do that too me, even if it is a mega-super-ultra-massive-store. Should I?