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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)

TITLE: An ASDA Abomination
By Justin Ray


I've got this friend, Paul, he eats dinner with a group of us each night after we finish work. We've got this rotation thing set up because it's not so great to cook for one or two people every night, so we cook for eight or ten. It loads of fun, we all crack jokes, act kind of childish from time to time, and wash the dishes in this assembly-line fashion that would make Ford green with envy. Paul makes a weekly pilgrimage to ASDA (the UK's version of Wal-Mart) in East Bolden. Every week, he announces at dinner that he's going to ASDA and asks if anyone wants to come.

In the five months that we've all been eating together, no one has taken him up on the offer for certain adventure. I don't know if I went out of curiosity or sympathy, but I know it was quit an experience. Well, that's not entirely true. I went partially because of an inconvenient truth. Unlike Al Gore's version of inconvenient truth, this was actually a true-truth.

On Wednesdays we eat at 5:15. I get off work between four and five, depending on factors beyond my control. This leaves me with fifteen minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes to cook, if I get the fine privilege of cooking on a Wednesday. I live in a really small, really cramped flat with dry-rotted stairs and five room mates: Kevin, Raphael, Jeremiah, Alan, and Black Mold. As you can imagine, there is zero fridge-space, so I have to do my shopping in the same afternoon, unless I make special provisions to clear enough room for a meal for ten people in the refrigerator.

It was a Tuesday night, and Paul made his weekly ASDA announcement and I thought, “Hey, I’m cooking tomorrow. Morrison’s is closed already, and I don’t have time to shop tomorrow after work. I should go with him and see why he likes the Bolden ASDA so much.” I told him I would go, and our temporary dinner guest, Colin, decided to join us.

So we drove out to East Bolden and arrived at ASDA. In twenty years from now, if I were to take one of those word association tests with a shrink, and he said, “England.” I would respond, “Atrocious customer service.” Almost every tertiary store in England opens at nine or ten and closes at five or six during the week, is totally and ridiculously packed-out on Saturday, and is close on Sunday. When I stepped out of the car in the ASDA parking lot, I was met with a giant lit sign boasting “24 hour” on the front of ASDA, welcoming me with open arms. I almost couldn’t contain my excitement as I walked rapidly through the automatic doors. In America, almost everything is open twenty-four hours. You can get groceries any time, any where. In England, I have a hard time finding a convenience store open for twenty-four hours.

My joy ended promptly after the automatic sliding door closed mockingly behind me. I walked around that store for about forty-five minutes with Colin and didn’t find anything I would dare serve for dinner. I got desperate for a couple of minutes and picked up the most low-quality “it’s not delivery, it’s not DiGiorno, it’s cheap” pizzas I’ve ever seen. I put them back, because I was too ashamed to serve such rubbish for a meal. Seriously though, I walked around the entire store, and didn’t see a single thing that interested me other than a children’s riot police costume.

With Wednesday rearing it’s ugly head, I became slightly worried about dinner. By noon, my ability to work was fully incapacitated by the fear of a dinner disaster. Then, by the grace of God, I remembered a saviour; Quality Pizza. This little take-out place on the corner owned by a family of Romanians. I placed an order for four ten inch pizzas and the stress was over. I picked those puppies up at 5:10, and had the boxes on the table at 5:15.

Just as a side note: Colin did manage to score some “Littlest Pets” toys for his daughter. Good on him, wish I had some luck in ASDA.

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This article has been read 497 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 03/10/07
I really enjoyed this! It has an authentic voice and wry humor. Be careful of it's / its. I was thoroughly entertained by this story.
julie wood03/12/07
I really enjoyed reading this! My favorite line was probably the one about the narrator's fifth "roommate...Black Mold."
That got me laughing!

Was interested to read about a "UK version of Wal-Mart." When I was over there back in the '70's, I saw no big supermarkets at all--only butcher shops, bakerys, fruiterers, and so on.

I enjoyed the title of this--it sparked my curiosity and somehow told me that this piece would be funny!
dub W03/13/07
Much of your power in writing is contained in your ability to capture description with word pictures - I loved the black mold reference. The narration was simply a vehicle for the descriptive tone. Pretty good work. A peer editor would perfect it.