shopping raven
shopping raven

Shoppy Horror

Pete Townshend once said that if you don’t want people to know anything about you, then don’t write songs.

This, admittedly, could be bias on Pete’s part, as he writes a lot about child abuse and mental problems and other parts of his traumatic upbringing. If you were to write, say, a song about your girlfriend leaving you, it wouldn’t give too much away as you’d be on safe ground; it’s happened to pretty much everyone with the exceptions of the Pope and Mick Jagger.

This is beside the point, though.

I only mention the song writing comment because, questionable though it may be, it does have a kernel of truth in it. Absolute truth, however, would come more in the form of “If you don’t want anyone to know anything about you, don’t write and then post the pieces on the internet.”

Because, frankly, I’m showing quite a lot of myself these days, and tonight will be no different as I’m going to tell you about another one of my little foibles.

I like to go shopping at weird hours.

My job is partly to blame in that I work late hours and my route home often takes me past a 24 hour supermarket, but I’m fairly sure I’m the sort of person that would still enjoy impulse buying at 1am even if my job didn’t push me in that direction.

Another reason is that I have trouble sleeping. Tonight, on my way home, I decided to go and buy some sleeping pills.

Frustratingly, because the pharmacy was closed, there were none to be had. Any other ailment in the world could have been dealt with. I had at least fifteen options for dealing with constipation, and (I just love this) on the opposite side of the same aisle were a similar number of products to deal with diarrhea. A mischievous part of my brain wanted to buy an equal number of both products and take them simultaneously, just to see what would happen. Theoretically, I would stay exactly regular, although I was slightly worried that the more left-field option would win out and I would explode.

There was the option for vitamins to take care of me and my baby (which is really a great leap for medical science when you consider that I haven’t even conceived one, yet) and enough cod liver oil to completely submerge a city the size of Milton Keynes, which is no bad idea.

Lacking the ready money to buy enough oil to drown Milton Keynes was not my biggest disappointment of the night, however. As I say, you can apparently only purchase sleeping pills from the pharmacy, which closes at nine, meaning that you can’t get sleeping pills at night.

Something, which I’m sure you’ll agree, should be instantly put in the mental file marked “QUITE IRONIC.”

Undeterred, I decided to abuse my body in other ways. (Self abuse does tend to help one sleep, but this is not what I meant.)

I wandered over to the bakery section and scrounged around the derelict looking shelves until I found a 2-pack of chocolate croissants.

Sometime around midnight, I usually become ravenously hungry, so this was an unfortunately necessary purchase.

I made my way to the tills via the pizza aisle, which made me really want a pizza, and the drink aisle, which made me REALLY want a pizza, although I’m not sure why, and that’s when the trouble started.

For some finicky reason, at 1:30 in the morning, the powers that be decide that only one cashier is necessary. So, I took my place in line behind five other people, all of whom had heavily laden baskets.

I say “all”, one woman had just a tube of Bonjella, but she had brought her three kids with her. I’m still trying to imagine a set of circumstances where you would need to drag your three kids out of bed in the small hours just to buy ointment for your gums. I can’t help but feel there’s an interesting background to that one.

Ahead of her were two nubile 18 year old girls who were making me feel old. Their presence didn’t, but one of them was wearing the type of outfit that leaves her lower abdomen and the small of her back exposed, and my only thought was not remotely sexual, but rather “It’s raining out, it must be weird to only have your hips getting wet…”

I blame the fact that I was tired, I really do.

Behind the two girls was a guy who had clearly done some serious shopping, which, in my book, is against the rules.

The whole reason I love being in supermarkets at 1am is the sheer strangeness of the items you find yourself buying. A friend of mine, no word of a lie, once had to buy baby oil and was hungry, so bought himself some bananas, too, and didn’t realise how suspicious this looked until he came to pay.

The gentleman in the queue, however, had nothing that diverting. The only things I could see that were remotely interesting were DVDs, and he was clearly the sort of person who didn’t realise that if you can buy a film – an entire motion picture, one that had a budget and actors that were paid to appear in it and everything – for 97 pence, it’s probably not going to be very good.

My mother is a sucker for that. She’ll buy DVDs for a pound on the rationale that “It was only a pound and it might be good” without ever realising how heavily the odds are stacked against that outcome.

The rest of his basket consisted of about twenty assorted grocery type items, and the girls had a similar number. All in all, I was fifth in the queue.

I began to wonder just how much I wanted two croissants.

I was considering mentioning this to a man who had just joined the queue behind me, as I could see he was holding very little, but a surreptitious inspection of what he had let me see that it was something medical.

This is another thing I love; aside from random items you would never think to put in combination, there’s a strata of people who are in the supermarket at that time of the night because they’re too embarrassed to go in daylight hours.

This was the main reason I didn’t speak to the guy. I didn’t want to start talking to someone who was buying genital wart cream or a Bon Jovi CD or some sort of bandage for a ruptured anus, because I doubt he would have been in the mood for small talk.

“What brings you out at this hour?”

“I had to buy some cream after being violently made love to in the ass for too long. You?”

Having bought my croissants from a checkout girl who seemed to think I was as big a loser as I did for having stayed in the queue so long for that one item, I got back in the car and went home. I may not sleep, but hey. At least if I want to drug myself unconscious during daylight, I’ll know where to go.

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