Every little helps.

I wait ages in Tescos for someone to find someone else to slice my bread in the slicing machine. A cheerful, round little woman turns up and disappears with it. There are terrifying sounds and after a short while she reappears.
“Have we got another one? It’s ate it.”

She is joking, but there is an undercurrent of real fear in her voice. That machine must have eaten bread before. Maybe that’s why they have stopped putting sliced bread out. Maybe that’s why it took so long to find somebody who was brave enough to face it. Those staff only signs were there for a reason. I watch her bustle across to the bread rack. There are two more and she picks up one of them and waddles off. I wait for the roaring crunching noise to start again. There is a tense silence before a newly bagged sliced loaf is given to me in triumph.
There you are.”
Thank you very much.”
No problem.”
She widens her eyes at me.
It ate that other one.”
She plods off to hide behind the swing doors which lead into the store room and get her breath back. I wander around for a minute or two picking up my last few items and marvelling at what you can buy. Things like Half Spoon which lets you still put a whole spoonful of “sugar” in your tea while consuming only half the calories and stuff to put in the rinse cycle of your washing machine to stop your clean washing smelling bad. There are more ways of slightly altering and repackaging soap to be used for various purposes than my grandparents could ever have imagined. More packaging on more things than they would ever have believed possible. My grandfather, a retired farmer who never threw anything away, would have a had a shed full of it. I once bought some loose mushrooms in here and the till wouldn’t accept them. They had been taken “off sale”. Thanks to this revelation from my till a large display tray full of perfectly good mushrooms which had travelled from a far away field had to be rushed out of sight in shame and I had to buy the identical chestnut mushrooms vacuum packed in a plastic box. Madness.
A couple walk past me, the man looking out of place and disoriented as men often do in supermarkets. He is trailing behind his wife and doing his best to be useful.
Are we all right for chips?”
The withering look that she gives him seems to suggest that they probably are.
I reach the self service till. It saves having to answer stupid questions about whether I need a bag when I am pulling a trolley nearly as big as I am and refusing a points card for the thousandth time. I also don’t need help with my packing. Ever. This makes the self service till a good invention. At least it seemed like that to start with. I mastered the art of scanning quite quickly once I had realised that the touch pad wouldn’t work if I was wearing gloves and that the code on fruit juice cartons was in pale green, not black. It made me quietly proud.
I do all right for a while. Until I press vegetables instead of fruit on the till when I am weighing my apple and confuse it. The uniformed guard next to the till is there in a second. He flaps his floppy card at it and taps at the numbered keypad. Fruit is that one he tells me, pointing at the picture showing various fruits. I wonder if he thinks that I’m unsure which category my apple belongs in or whether he just thinks I can’t recognise a picture of it on a screen. Sadly the fact that I have (reluctantly) had to buy a pink lady apple instead of a cox makes this process quite complicated and I spend so long staring at the screen that he picks up the apple, reads the label and taps the right image before I can stop him. I am mortified.
Thank you.”
No problem.”
Things go well for a short while, until I try to weigh some loose carrots. This time it isn’t my fault when the till has another mental breakdown. He comes back. More tapping.
Don’t know why it did that.”
Nor do I. He has now decided that I have special needs when it comes to using self service tills and he scans my last three items without being asked. A few curt questions and he then tells me that he can “see that I am over 21” and therefore allowed to buy my wine. Given that I am fifty four this is either very observant of him, or a bit insulting. I’m not sure which. He asks me to put my card into the machine. I give him a hard stare, learned at an early age from Paddington bear, and he backs off a bit. The till accepts my number and churns out a receipt.
Please take your items.”
I put my basket on a pile, out of the way, and open my trolley. By now the till is worried.
Unidentified item in bagging area! Unidentified item in bagging area!”
I pack my items deliberately slowly, just to wind it up.


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