I have nothing against bagging my own groceries. Really. But why is it that I seem to be the only Londoner who notices the sudden fast forwarding of time when it's my turn with the checker?
This is how it goes. I prepare for battle: I choose a checkout line, line up my items on the conveyor belt, unfold my cloth bags and place them in an easily accessible position. I pull out my money and nectar card so they're ready for the draw, push back my hair, lean forward in action pose and take a deep breath. I peer at the customer ahead of me and watch her every move: she bags her groceries. She pays the cashier calmly, completely unruffled. I'm almost tricked into believing that maybe it was just in my head last time? That maybe I'll be okay? No! I can't lose my edge. I shake my head and watch her pick up her grocery bags and then I'm off! The seemingly short distance between the queue and the bagging area takes longer than I thought. Luckily I've jumped out of my reverie into action, only to notice that I'm already behind, so I've got to make up for it with my deft agility. The cashier flings my groceries one by one across the scanner (my eggs!) and rams them into my carefully set up bags. I hurry to set the poor things up again and get in my rhythm but as I do I notice with dismay that the checker is sabotaging my efforts to strategically manage the weight distribution of the groceries in the bags. After all the pains I went through--putting all the heaviest items first so they could go first and be in the bottom of the bags, that clever little b is reaching farther up the belt and picking up the lightest items to scan first. My plans are going awry. More items sneak past my grasp and sweat pours from my face and I'm feeling the pressure. Her pile is growing smaller and mine is exploding out of control. Any moment she'll be finished before I'm halfway through and she'll tell me how much I owe. My survival instincts take over. I throw the eggs sidewise by the soup cans, drop the milk under the bread and somehow squeeze the grapes between the chicken and the toilet paper. As I pick up the peppers an impatient voice cuts through the clatter and tells me the amount I owe, as if I've forgotten that I have to pay. I grind my teeth and hold back my suddenly unquenchable desire to open the bag of flour and douse her, and instead juggle with the money and card. I manage to hand the cash to her and then hurry to bag a few groceries before she gives me change, but I've only had time to put the lettuce in. There's still an armful of items to pack when she hands me my money and I have holes in my hands so the coins fall everywhere.
I'm red in the face, twitchy and blazing saddles mad when I hear a barely audible sarcastic cough (I swear I heard a sarcastic tone). She doesn't have to say it. Her marching gorilla body, her territorial odor and her polite "excuse me" signal-- they loom in my periphery and they say it all: I need to leave the bagging premises or else. OR ELSE WHAT? I want to cackle. I want to laugh an evil laugh and make them think they made me crazy and that now they'll have to deal with a crazy woman throwing tomatoes and smashing eggs and causing a ruckus in the bagging premises.
But I don't. Instead I walk away and think that If Sainsbury's was the only thing I knew of the world, I'd swear it was conspiring against me.