a maze of words leading to …?


TrolleyI arrived at the supermarket checkout with a fully-laden trolley. “Would you like a bag?”, said the young lad on duty.

I stared at him incredulously for a moment, then smiled warmly and replied sweetly. “No thanks, I’m going to stuff it all into my trouser pockets.”

“Oh”, he said, sounding a tad uncertain.

“Or failing that”, I continued in the same calm and reasonable voice, “I could balance it all on my head and then shimmy my way out across the car park”.

“Oh”, he said again, looking distinctly uneasy now, eyes flicking down below the counter, where I suspected a panic-button might be hidden.

“Yes”, I mused, rubbing my chin thoughtfully, “the East African balance-technique will probably be best for supermarket stuff. And I’ve been practising it for weeks in front of a mirror, using tins, packets, jars and bottles from my kitchen. Twenty-eight items is my record so far … but all without walking of course.”

“Oh”, he said, nervously glancing to his left and right, no doubt hoping to see an approaching security guard.

Warming to my theme, I pressed on. “I’ve really been looking forward to putting all those hard practice hours to work … doing it for real, in a real supermarket, out here in the real world.”

“Oh”, he said once more.

But there was no stopping me now. “Yes indeed. And if the swaying column of foodstuffs does somehow come crashing down and injure another customer, well, the supermarket’s insurance will cover all that … won’t it?”

“Umm, I err, umm … I’m not sure if …”

“So”, I said briskly, rubbing my hands together, “if you could just help me with placing the items one by one on my head, we can get started.”

“Umm, well, err, I’m not sure if …”

“It’s OK”, I said, “because when we get to the last few items I can kneel on the floor, and you can climb up onto the checkout counter, and that way I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to finish off stacking them on my head.”

“Umm, well, err … I don’t think …”

“OK, never mind”, I said, conscious of the growing rumblings of discontent from the long queue of customers behind me and realising it was time to end this exchange.

And so, sighing deeply, I lavishly indicated the trolley’s contents and then pointed extravagantly to the sheaf of bags on his counter, saying, “Alright, yes, I would indeed like – not to say need – a bag. Several in fact.”

Well, I thought, onwards if not upwards.

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