I swing the car round the roundabout and through the switch back that leads into the car park. This is done at 3mph due to the enormously oversized MPV in front which ignores the roundabout entirely and has trouble negotiating the bends. The MPV indicates right and then drives straight on taking the next right instead, ignoring the No Entry sign.
I take the correct right and swan up and down the car park lanes looking for a free spot, I eventually find one, after removing the stray shopping trolley, and park. I walk back across to car park to the main entrance smiling slightly at the sight of a traffic jam around the MPV as it tries to park in a space between two badly parked cars. It eventually squeezes in, and one very small woman gets out.
I mentally flip a coin: basket or small trolley. Tails, small trolley it is. I walk to the main trolley corral and find it empty, I wander to the nearest trolley deposit area and spend a few minutes finding one with steering that attempts to obey the laws of physics. With my new friend pushed gallantly ahead I walk back to the main entrance. Fifty meters later the wheels lock solid, immobilising the trolley and tarnishing my soul with the resulting mental swearwords. I head towards the baskets to find none available and proceed down the checkouts looking for one that’s been abandoned. Success! I walk back from checkout 18 to 1, and proceed up the travelator to the upper floor where CDs, DVDs and other housewares are kept.
I walk on to the moving belt and stride upwards. A woman ahead has parked her trolley right in the center, “excuse me”, and I breathe in and try to squeeze past. The next obstacle is a small family. Husband, wife, trolley and 3 crack-fuelled pixie-demons coated in the sticky remains of high-sugar, high-caffeine bribes to stop them sucking the souls out of passers by. I decide it’s not worth the risk and wait as the belt takes us up to the first floor and the speed of a snail swimming through a bucket of treacle. The pixie-demons emit unspeakable slime.
Looking round at the signs overhead, I spy the section I’m looking for, it’s at the far end of the next aisle. I turn the corner into the lane and am confronted by the living dead. A hugely obese woman takes step and slow painful step towards me pushing a trolley, mouth open and respirating heavily. An item takes her interest; she parks her trolley sideways across the aisle and stares vacantly into the middle distance when suddenly the sounds of souls in extreme external agony come from the empty air. She answers her mobile phone and her deep concentration of the ensuing conversation means she fails to notice the queue of traffic backing up behind her. I take the long way round.
The trip back to the food floor is easier; I slalom past the trolleys and manage not to cause serious injury to the kids Heelying down with me. Must try harder. I consult my list, just 6 items required but scattered around the store. I need a plan.
I mentally map out a route that takes me past everything I need, but avoiding the busiest junctions. Let’s go. Dairy proves no problem, nor the fresh meat, nor the veg. I narrowly avoid splintering my knee on a trolley being piloted by a 6 year old boy and duck into the Asian food section to be confronted by the entire Indian nation, in miniature.
After a moment, I revise my estimate of the number of children present down from several millions to about 12. I soon learn to appreciate the training they have been given. I move to one side and two or three of them cunningly move to block me whilst maintaining the air of innocence. I break right to avoid them and nearly trip over another child who’s moved in to flank me. Only acrobatics save the kid from the lifelong mutilation of having the wires of a shopping basket imprinted on its face. I grab the item I need and head for the last section required: wine and beer.
It’s quiet, too quiet. I hastily pick up the bottle of wine I need and head for the checkout. With just a few items in my basket I head to the Baskets Only queue and am delighted to find a till with just two people in it, one being served and one waiting.
I should have spotted the trap a mile away. I am such a fool.
The chap waiting has been there so long that he’s near fossilised. I peer over his shoulder to examine the situation and glance into someone’s Hell.
An evil harpy crows over the contents of her shopping, picking an item out at random and asking “So how much is this one?” and then “It never said that on the shelf!” after the till jockey blips the item through once more. “Well I don’t want it, or this one”. This continues.
Hideous as it is, you have to admire the sheer malignance here. When shopping on a budget, don’t bother looking at the prices carefully, just jam as much as you can into a basket, then hit the “10 items or less” queue and debate it with the poor sap manning the checkout. Brilliant.
Several centuries pass, my turn arrives.
“This is buy one get one free.” I awake from my hibernation. “Hmmm?” “It’s buy one get one free, and you only have one.” “That’s okay.” “I can go get one for you.” “NOOOOOO! I mean, No, thanks”, avoiding another millennium rooted to the spot. I pay, decline the Computers For Fools vouchers, I leave.
I return to the car and on my way find that a BMW X5 has parked next to the MPV mentioned earlier. It’s parked by the MPV’s driver side door and I estimate the very small woman will need to slim down to nanometers to get into her car. It’s tempting to hang around to see the resulting argument but I think I’ve had enough fun for one day. I go home and start to prepare dinner, chopping the onions mask my tears.