Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Puffy face

The checkout woman had a puffy face. Her hair was dyed chestnut, and she was at an age where the act of dyeing one’s hair no longer has any point. I was hoping for a quick, in-and-out, commando raid and headed for the shortest queue. But I was thwarted. Clearly, Puffy Face was having difficulties. A woman was waiting for a price on a packet of apples, and this was causing a long hold-up. In front of me stood a very tall man, accompanied by a much smaller and much older one, who had placed only four cans of beer and a packet of Orbit on the belt, and who then stood in just the right position to block me from unloading my heavy basket. Thanks to the price-less apples fiasco ahead, we stood in this way for some time; me silently fuming with aching arms and him telling the older man to go and sit down.

At last the napple price was confirmed and Puffy asked the man in front of me if he wouldn't mind just letting the napple lady settle her bill as she had been waiting a long time, and there was only the one item to put through. The man shook his head and pushed his beer and chewing gum forward, saying something I couldn't make out in heavily accented English. It may well have been that he had not understood what was being said to him, but this reaction put Puff into quite a tizz, and she clearly felt bad at having to make Napple wait even longer. But what could she do? She picked up the beers and made as if to scan them, but then hesitated momentarily.
"Are you over 18?" she asked the man, ridiculously. He was at least 25, maybe even 30, but she was having none of it. He showed remarkable equanimity and (probably as a result of his experiences as a man from Eastern Europe living in London) reached into his pocket, where he kept photocopies of his Romanian passport and English bank card. He presented these to Puffy, but she was standing firm. Punishing him for not allowing Napple to go first, punishing him for being from Romania, she said that copies were not acceptable, and that she was sorry, but this was company policy, etc...

By this time, the older man came over, not fully aware of what had happened, offering to help, speaking softly in what I by now knew to be Romanian. This was the final iniquity as far as Puff was concerned:
"I can't," she said, enunciating clearly. "Now that you have tried to buy the alcohol, I cannot allow him to buy it instead."
"But khe is my father," said the younger man, reasonably and with very little show of aggression. Unlike me. By this time, I was royally pissed off at standing in Morrison's fucking supermarket on a hot summer's day, watching this disgraceful display of jobsworthery and racism and just snapped.
"Oh for heaven's sake!" I exclaimed. "This is ludicrous! This man is clearly at least 30 years old! Why can't you just let him buy the beer? He's not drunk, he's not underage, and we have been standing here for hours for absolutely no reason! You can do him in about 10 seconds and then we can all get on with our day!"
"I'm very sorry, " said Puffy, looking at me with her piggy eyes. "But there's nothing I can do..."
My outburst, which I was already beginning to regret, had caused a small commotion, and our checkout aisle was quickly adorned by a fleeced supervisor and a scrawny security guard.
"Are you all right, Eileen?" asked the supervisor, and the guard lowered at me, causing images of my recalcitrant youth to come flooding into my memory.
Romanian father and son quietly left the scene, and I began to feel a slight reddening of the cheeks (thinking that I might be asked to leave the store, or worse) before everything calmed down and the stupid bloody woman finally began to scan my shopping. She apologised to me for following company policy, and I apologised to her for being impatient and we all went on our way.

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