Friday, March 20, 2009

Supermarket Sleep

I am at the supermarket, doing shopping. Good shopping. Great shopping. Classic shopping. Got my clubcard, got my vouchers, 2-for-1s, 3-for-2s. Checking the list, checking costs per unit weight, checking use-by dates, checking own-brand alternatives. It’s one of the biggest Tescos in the country, but I know it like either side of my hand.

I get to the checkout and am putting my stuff on the conveyor belt when I realise there’s been a catastrophic system breakdown and I’ve forgotten to get a butternut squash. Five years ago, butternut squash was just something weird they ate on Friends, now we have one a week. And they say that globalisation is a bad thing.

I know exactly where they’ll be, and the customer in front of me is still having her items scanned so I should be able to make it there and back without causing a delay. The customer in front of me is also a woman, so will doubtlessly, on being told the total she has to pay, stare in total befuddlement about this unexpected development and spend a billion years looking through her handbag for some means of paying. (NB This is not sexist, it is based on empirical evidence of at least one previous supermarket visit.)

“I’ve just forgotten something”, I tell the checkout woman. “I’ve just forgotten something”, I tell everyone in the queue behind me, and run off to the fruit and veg section. The butternut squash is exactly where I knew it would be. I pick one of optimum size and quality, checking the use-by date for maximum freshness, and turn to go back.

Then I stop in horror as I realise I have no idea which checkout is mine. I look along the dozens of lines, but nothing seems familiar. I scout up and down looking for landmarks, but I may as well be on Mars. Is this my checkout woman? Is this her? Was it a woman? Are these the angry people waiting for me? Is this my shopping? Suddenly I’m four years old and I’ve lost my mum.

I’m about to ask customer services to make a tannoy announcement when on one particular conveyor belt I recognise a pairing of a pile of nappies and a pile of ready meals. This certainly looks like my shopping. And the line isn’t moving. And everyone is looking at me angrily. But it can’t be my shopping because there, sitting between the alcohol and some more alcohol, is a butternut squash.

“Do you have a clubcard?” asks the checkout woman as I stare at the fruit as though a talking serpent has just asked me to eat it. Either someone else with not very much time on his hands (ready meals), and a child the same age as mine (size 5 nappies, large quantities of alcohol), who also looks exactly like me because all these people are expecting me to start putting his stuff into bags, has temporarily left the queue to go and get an item he's forgotten and I've come back a couple of minutes later, or I have sleep-bought a butternut squash.

I thought it wouldn’t be a popular move to go and put the second butternut squash back, so I’m now looking for recipes involving two butternut squashes.