This morning I visited a supermarket that I haven’t been to for a few months and in that time they’ve brought some changes in but because they’d neglected to send me a personal note outlining these changes, I found myself confused by what was going on. When I took up my post at the deli counter which involves arms akimbo to prevent anyone standing too close (southern Europe and northern Europe have different ideas about personal space; I’d prefer you were in another room and our hosts would like to sit in my pocket). Anyway, I’m at the deli counter in the middle of the scrum that passes for a queue and I’m distracted by deciding what I want to buy and how I’m actually going to say what I want to buy.* After I came out of my trance and found that shouting what I wanted at every counter assistant I saw wasn’t getting me anywhere ** I noticed that a system had been put into place. Now we had to take a ticket and wait until our number was called and then we’d be served. It was almost like being in Waitrose for a moment.
Except it wasn’t. Everyone was taking their number and seeing that there were at least two people ahead of them, decided that that was having to wait and almost like queuing so they went off to do more shopping, drink coffee, phone their mother, buy a house and then return and shout their order at any passing counter assistant. When this failed they produced their ticket with a number that went back to last week and shouted at anyone with a higher number than them that they were taking this person’s turn and they weren’t happy. So there’s a system but no one cares and it’s the usual bun fight at the deli counter but with the added fun of numbers that mean nothing.
* Shopping became a lot easier and less expensive when I learnt how to say ‘half’ and ‘quarter’.
** This is not me being rude, I’m actually fitting in and doing what the locals do. If I stood there politely, smiling and waiting to be served then I’d grow roots.