Playing the System

Went to Pirate Pete’s yesterday. Been dreading it for a while. The worst thing about having kids is everything and also kid’s birthday parties. It’s fine when you don’t have kids because you don’t have to go to them. You have one kid and it’s going to get invited to many parties each year. Perhaps as many as twenty. Two kids and pretty much you’re going to a party every single day of the week.

“You wanna go, to the party? Kid’s a bit of a jerk, no?” I asked Jacob but he was adamant he wanted to go to the party. Yay, I get to stand with a bunch of people I don’t know while you get to play in the play area. Awesome! Sucks being me.

So we went to Waitrose to get a card and a present. I hate Waitrose but it’s the only shop near me that does toys.

The kid, my kid is very indecisive so it took a good 20 minutes choosing a card and even then he picked one of those ones of people from the black and white days with a bunch of shit written on them, wholly inappropriate for a child but he chose it. Choosing the toy took another 20 minutes. “What does he like?” I asked Jacob but Jacob didn’t know. He was just looking for toys for himself. “We don’t have to go,” I assured him but no, he wanted to go. We picked something for £12 which seemed like the correct value of present to buy. We were running late by this stage but luckily I’ve only got a basket. So I go to the basket only checkout as any normal person would as there’s a massive sign saying Baskets Only.

Some woman. Some aged woman has somehow got a trolley’s worth of shopping into a basket. I’m saddened but not surprised. She is in front of us. When she puts it down the cashier struggles to remove anything and scan it without the whole tower of shopping in the basket collapsing. I mean, things were falling on the floor. The cashier looked at me and I rolled my eyes to show camaraderie with my fellow shop assistant. She didn’t know I was also a shop assistant so her face remained expressionless because the people who work in Waitrose think they’re oh so special. Why look at me then? If you’re not going to roll your eyes or anything, Princess?

Anyway, the woman with the massive pile of shopping in her basket – shopping that is literally falling on the floor because there’s so much of it – looks at me. I smile because getting all bent out of shape will do no good. She returns my smile but she doesn’t seem ashamed like she should be. Odd.

She then walks past me back onto the shop floor while the cashier struggles with her shopping. Luckily the cashier is bagging it for her or we’d have been there forever. I watch the woman go, she doesn’t go far, just to the end of the aisle two away from us and she picks up four big multi-packs of McCoys. I looked down at Jacob and realised I was squeezing his hand tight. He thought I was joking until he saw my face. I continued to look at Jacob. He looked at me. The woman returned with her crisps. We had to step back to let her get past. Jacob saw something in my face and said, “no Daddy, don’t.”

I took a deep breath and looked at Jacob for as long as I could, it wasn’t long. I turned to the woman who was piling the crisps onto her basket which the cashier still hadn’t got to the bottom of. “I’m sorry that’s just… that’s… that’s taking the piss. That’s taking the piss. The fucking piss. Jesus.” I said. my voice was level and calm. I wasn’t saying it to her directly, just talking out loud. The woman looked at me gormlessly. “How’s that a basket?” I asked her. The woman smiled nervously. The cashier looked at me. “And you can’t go off and get more stuff, not when your basket’s down. Not when there’s a queue behind you. Not when the basket’s down.” There wasn’t a queue behind her, only me. “This only works if we follow the rules. If everybody follows the rules. That’s the only way this works.”

The shop wasn’t even busy and I’d have been quicker using a normal till, that was the worst bit, but I still sort of wanted to let this woman know she was in the wrong. The woman didn’t respond. “That’s the only way the world can work.” I was angry, for sure. but something told me she might have a massive son around the corner or something so I literally bit my tongue and squeezed Jacob’s hand. The woman paid and picked up her four massive shopping bags and because she was a wretched turd she turned to me before leaving, so she could have the last word.

“I don’t appreciate being spoken to like that,” she proclaimed like she was the Queen.

“And I don’t appreciate…” I didn’t have anything. “You.”

“Pardon me?”

“Get batteries for your hearing aid, Grandma,” I told her. She fumbled for her ears and then scuttled off. I shouldn’t have mentioned hearing aids. I didn’t know she had one. I hoped she wouldn’t have a heart attack and die on the way to her car. I calmed down rapidly.

While paying for my two items I again rolled my eyes at the cashier but she just looked at me with her dead Waitrose shark eyes. After paying we loitered for a couple of minutes at the top of the moving walkway to give the woman time to drive off and then we went to Pirate Pete’s. Jacob took his shoes off and went into the play area leaving me sitting in the café with people I didn’t know or want to know. I looked up to see the woman carrying the crisps. Of course. She was the gran or something and I was somehow the bad guy. I took out my phone and pretended to be reading something on it even though I didn’t have a data connection. I stared at the phone without looking up for two hours.

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