There’s a mango in my breath mints
I’m not a shopper. For eight blissful years I did my grocery shopping begrudgingly, yet expeditiously with my old housemate Carlo. We stormed the Pick ‘n Pay minutes before closing and marched with military precision to the aisles we knew and loved.
Six packets of mince, six packets of chicken, tomato sauce, Nik Naks, rice, pasta, potatoes, cheese, Nik Naks, milk and Nik Naks. Twenty minutes, no dawdling, home before Survivor, monthly shopping done and clockwork enough to get the Swiss to doff their mountain caps.
Of course, we ate enough spag-bol in those eight years to turn even the most patriotic Italian against his national dish, and only recently did I discover that Pick n Pay has a fresh produce section. Who knew?
Things change, however, and since visiting the shops with my wife-to-be and shopping in a more haphazard and laborious manner than previous years (“Should we get this, should we get that?” I don’t know, Robyn. I just don’t know. But here are some Nik Naks), I’ve noticed that normally well-mannered, law abiding citizens throw all their good breeding to the floor, somewhere between the fresh fish and wine aisles, and trample all their usual dignity to the ground.
Bumper trolleys is an obvious one. That’s something I’m sure you’ve all experienced, where a clearly exasperated mom, two malfunctioning children in tow, barges straight through you with the animal ferocity of thirsty honey badger to get to the soothing crates of sparkling wine.
Dazed and dawdling aisles wanderers, like extras from a Romero zombie classic, are another shopping hazard. These characters lurch from aisle to aisle, stopping without warning, usually in that no-man’s land between the end of one aisle and the start of another. What is it that catches their attention so suddenly? What could they possibly spot as they reach the end of the dried fruit aisle and totter towards pet care and insect repellents?
Is there some magical Aisle & ¾, akin to Harry Potter’s train station, that only shopping wizards can see? Does it transport them to a magical lane, where everything is 75 percent off, the fruit lasts longer and the queues at the till are non-existent? That can be the only rational explanation, for why else would people simply stop walking and stare, frozen to the spot, into the florescent nothingness that is a grocery store ceiling…
Till point insanity
Most interesting, though, are the till points. I’m sure at your favourite store you’ve noticed that you can’t reach the till without passing through a tempting gauntlet of last-minute confectionary stalls, cooldrink fridges and magazine racks. As with most adventures, the hero can only escape after one final, character-defining task. If Hercules had to perform his Twelve Labours for a modern audience, at least 10 of the 12 would take place in a shopping centre.
It’s here, at these till points, where you’ll spot the weirdest things, and the final confirmation that people lose all semblance of sanity after 30 minutes of grocery shopping.
Take a closer look at those chocolates, open the cooldrink fridge or glance at the magazine rack. Notice anything strange? You bet you do. Mangoes plonked amongst the Mars Bars. Nappies placed on top of the Shape. Packets of boerewors lining up with the Cokes, and other seemingly out-of-place items like deodorant, toothpaste, chilli paste and chicken legs scattered amongst the generally well-organised sweetie stand.
Is the shopping dementia that bad that sane citizens decide they desperately want a mango… up until they reach the till and lose all control of their emotions? Or that junior needs nappies for 29 minutes of the shop, but what the hell, he can do without as the moment of truth arrives.
You’ve clearly picked up deo, toothpaste and that mango for a reason. Nappies I can understand. They’re helluva expensive, and if it comes down to that and a bottle Allesveloren Shiraz, well then my kid can just poop in the garden.
But scattering random items at checkout time? A sure sign that shopping leaves the most hardened of business men and women, mothers and fathers, and even experienced spenders, with their marbles well and truly lost.
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