In the queue

As usual the queue for the check-out was slow-moving and as usual I was in no mood to be pleasant to any other living being in the shop. Why, I asked myself, couldn’t they train their staff better or get faster machines, anything to speed up the process.

The usual suspects are lined up.

Right in front, a little old dear is packing her cat food, special-offer corned beef and cheap sherry into her pull-along shopping trolley, slow, slow, slow. And when that’s finally done, she will take two minutes rummaging in her bag to find her out-of-prescription specs and then, once she’s located her purse, carefully count out her money, coin by coin only to find she is ten pence short, but oh yes, she knows that there is one at the bottom of the shopping trolley and so it goes and I really should see someone about my blood pressure.

Behind her is a young mum with a trolley packed to overflowing with half the shop and I know her from before when I saw her trying to pack with one hand firmly glued to her ear as she chatted to who-knows-who about who-knows-what on her not-very-smart phone and not making much progress and of course it will be no different today. I flag down a store supervisor and asked her to have a word, but she gives me an odd smile and said, “Sorry, love. Too busy,” which I think is a real dereliction of duty.

And immediately in front of me is a woman all in black with a black scarf and when she half turns I can’t see her face because she’s wearing a burqa thingy and I’m really irritated because that way of dressing is I think highly provocative and intimidating and symbolizes ignorance and subservience and we should do what the French do and ban them. Definitely time to start shopping online.

And eventually the burqa woman is at the head of the queue and as the cashier picks up a large bag of pistachio nuts they spill all over the belt, over Mrs Burqa’s shopping, over my shopping and over the floor. “For god’s sake,” I mutter as I pick some out from between my bottles of wine, fillet steak and whole lobsters.

She turned to me. “I’m sorry. Thanks for your patience.” All I could see were her eyes, but could read so much in them that, even now, three and a half years and two children (a boy, a girl) later, we hardly ever exchange a cross word and, as the doctor says, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with my blood pressure.

© Patrick Prinsloo

January 2013

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4 Responses to In the queue

  1. Patrick says:

    Thanks for this Anthony.

  2. I’m a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing if it’s done well. I think it works well here, especially with that twist at the end.

  3. Patrick says:

    Thanks for that. I’m not sure if he is an older person. I had him pegged at around 35 and somewhat bigoted as well. But whatever, he seems to have turned out okay.
    Well spotted the power of three. Not a conscious thing this time and I hadn’t noticed until now.

  4. Elaine Peters says:

    Happy new year, Patrick. I trust you haven’t ventured into the queues at M&S yet! I really like the long sentences in this piece, bringing out the self-indulgent ‘grumpy old man’. Power of three as well.

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