Buying one or two of something that is inexpensive will raise an eyebrow, given that such an object will even be available on a unitary basis. Ever looked for “a” sheet of paper, “a” safety pin, “a”razor blade. Take one egg, the recipe said and I felt that it might well be easier to follow that advice to the letter rather than to try and buy one. Buying one egg is not easy; certainly not as easy as taking one egg as eggs are, if not free, at least free of a bar code. So, to the putative shop lifter, an egg in the pocket is better than six in a box. The worst scenario would be forgetfulness leading to the finding of a chemically created and steam pressed omelette in the pocket of your jacket clearly illustrating that dry cleaners are also no slouches at molecular cuisine. Such an omelette would also act as a sign that we are not alone and that someone is watching from on high. “Lord, lord I didna’ ken” you may cry, and the Lord in his infinite mercy may well reply, somewhat frostily ” Well, you ken noo”. It is worth remembering that you are unlikely to encounter a store detective who is both Scottish and whose mercy has not been strained. It will have been, through a horse hair sieve leaving you in a horse hair shirt of festive repentance.
This fear of Scottish detectives and the Lord’s vengeance arose after an encounter with a deity of this modern world – the unforgiving, omniscient, omnipotent “serve yourself, and serve you right” electronic, supemarket scanner. Up to this point in my life I have not found anything that warrants standing in a queue, although RyanAir have forced me to stand in such a queue which ended in a experience which, as expected, did not warrant the misery of the wait. Because of this disinclination, when shopping in a supermarket, I choose to pass the test of the scanner. I have never seen Hercules queuing for the till, as cleaning the Augean Stables takes less time and they pay him with a box of shopping. Nice work if you can get it – better than having your liver pecked for eternity.
I have come to respect the scanner for the untamed beast that it is. I see myself as the Scanner Whisperer. My scanner and I are contained in a calm capsule of commerce in which the only sound to be heard is the curt bleep of acceptance signalling the scanners approval of each of my disparate, yet carefully weighed and labelled packages. Outside of this capsule is a world of blinking red lights, trumpeting alarms and the cries of the damned. It would not take a reincarnated Dante long to establish The Nine Circles as a chain of supermarkets offering a superlatively painful way of shopping to those amongst us who were not without sin. A red light started to flash, seemingly very close to me, so much so that I feared my capsule of calm had been breached by an overload of external errors. Mind numbingly, I realised that it was my machine signalling that I had failed it in some trivial, yet unforgivable, way. I kept passing the printed bar code, that was clearly marked on the lid of the box of six eggs, over the glass platen and then putting the box in my bag on the scales – alles in ordnung, mein Fuhrer. The machine was now apoplectic and flashing floridly fit to bust, yet I could not for the life of me see how I could appease it. Would I have to remain here in the Ninth Circle and miss the festivities? And then the angel descended and spoke in tongues to me. Luckily I speak “tongue” but I was still troubled in spirit for I knew not the reason for her coming, nor the meaning of her salutation. “Don’t be a prat, the bar code stands for each single egg. You have to pass the box six times for six eggs”. And so it came to pass that I left the Ninth Circle and wandered freely into the car park, hoping that the fiery chariot had not, yet again, got a flat battery.