Superman, Supermom and Supermodels I don’t mind but supermarkets are another story. Throw a toddler into the mix and the nightmare is complete. However, food has to be bought so I persevere.
Shopping when I was young was a different matter. Instead of gleaming brass and marble malls, I would visit Johnnie’s Corner Superette. Johnnie, a hulking Greek with a shadowed jaw and a gold earring was always there with a smile and a wink and sometimes a toffee. Mum would give me a list and I would fill my basket with the basics; sugar, flour, vegetables and a hunk of meat wrapped in brown paper. Johnnie’s is still there but a tad expensive these days.
I thought of him on a recent trip to the supermarket. Kimmy was installed in the trolley and we set off. I needed sugar but choosing sugar was no longer a simple matter. Should I take granulated, icing or castor or would old-fashioned brown or caramel-brown be more suitable? On the next shelf, sugar cubes and coloured crystals caught my eye. They also caught Kimmy’s eye. “Oh Mommy. Look at the pretty sugar. Please can we get some?” I ended up with a box of rainbow crystals. Did I mention that all these sugars come packaged under three different brand names?
As I steered the trolley down the aisle I remembered a previous trip which had ended in humiliation. On that occasion, I had seen baked beans for 50c a can. Delighted, I tossed ten cans into the trolley. At the checkout, they rang up as $1.10 each. A patronising supervisor escorted me back to the shelf after hearing my vociferous complaints. “This brand is $1.10, Ma’am. If you look closely you’ll see the display has overflowed onto the next shelf which is marked at 50c.”
At least Kimmy was behaving I told myself as I ran my finger down the list. I’d promised her some jelly worms if she sat quietly and she was trying hard. I popped some biscuits into the trolley and headed to the fresh produce. I needed a bag of onions but they weren’t priced. Of course, there wasn’t a staff member in sight. There never is when you need them.
Sighing, I stared at them in indecision. If I bought them, they may turn out to be expensive. But I did need them for dinner. I was still undecided when a young man slouched past in supermarket uniform. He shrugged his shoulders at my question. “Scan them at the customer scanner.”
Technology and I don’t mix, but there’s always a time to learn. I grabbed the onions and aimed the device at the barcode. This way, that way, sideways, backwards. No price appeared. I could feel my face burning with embarrassment. I was sure the whole supermarket was watching me. I abandoned the onions and took off as quickly as my trolley would allow. I’d picked one of those that had a distinct lean to the right and it took mammoth effort to keep it going straight.
I grabbed a few more things and then Kimmy broke some bad news to me. “Mommy.” She sniffed. “I need the toilet.”
“Oh, Kimmy.” I sighed. “Can you wait one more minute while I pay? I’ll get you an extra big bag of jelly worms.” Her face brightened at once.
Well paying was another of my personal nightmares. The supermarket has twenty five checkout points but I had never seen all of them in use. Right then. Only eight were open and all were blocked by queues of overloaded trolleys. “No problem.” I muttered to myself. “I’ll find an express till.” Right at the end, it was empty but as I approached, a woman with a hugely laden trolley started unloading her goods.
Kimmy was squirming now and I knew she couldn’t hold it any longer. I glared at the woman and the cashier as I abandoned my trolley. Bathroom business is an involved process when you are two and a good ten minutes later I returned to the supermarket. The culprit with loads of shopping had gone and so had my trolley. The manager discovered a staff member packing its contents back onto the shelves. Amidst profuse apologies from the bewildered man I stalked out. Kimmy was hot on my heels throwing a full blow tantrum. “You promised, Mommy. You promised jelly worms.”
I scooped her up. “I know Kimmy. We’ll get them at the Johnnie’s Superette.”
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