Friday, August 30, 2013

Control Freak

I just went to the supermarket for my weekly grocery shop. I should have stopped at home and written the blog first, but I’m glad I did it in this order because I was amused at what I noticed. Sometimes I don’t notice people as I get about doing my weekly shopping chore. Today I did. There was the little girl at the end of the aisle begging her mother to buy her a Barbie doll. Like most of us in the supermarket, the mother was under that spell of being in her own world, and didn’t regulate her tone, so her reply boomed down the aisle for anyone to hear.
“No! I’m not buying you any more toys. You have enough toys.”
Ironically, I had just been perusing the toy aisle at a discount store looking for odds and bobs that I thought a little girl in a third world country might enjoy. I was shopping for the Samaritan’s Purse Shoebox project. I used to take my kids to do this when they were young, and it was a rewarding experience helping them choose something that they liked to give to another child. It crossed my mind to whip out the pamphlet that I had in my bag, and suggest it to the harried mother, that she might like to let her little girl buy some toys for another child. I was in two minds when the little girl’s grandmother stepped up to her. I was closer to them by this time, and the little girl was whining at the Barbie display. Her grandmother said: “Be quiet! You talk too much and I’m sick of hearing you!” I wasn’t sure that these folks were candidates for my benevolent idea. I tossed it around in my mind for a few moments, but they bustled away, the little girl dragging her feet sulkily.
I found a great 4 pack of sports socks with brilliant colours. I put them in my shopping trolley thinking how my little girl would smile when she saw she had 4 brand new pairs of socks.
Then I got to the checkout. Mrs Efficiency obviously had the day off and had sent in a teenaged dawdler to do her job. The line up was long, and when another check out opened up, I toyed with the idea of changing lanes, but I checked my impatience and decided to endure, and let patience work its perfect work. I watched Miss Dawdle, and decided that I should rename her. Miss Air –head. Do you think that is too harsh? I’m not sure that she was really in touch with what she was doing. I don’t know how many times she tried to scan a product with the label facing up, before turning it over. When it was my turn to have the groceries scanned, I admit I was getting a little uptight. I’m a bit anal about how groceries should be packed, and I had stacked them in that logical order so that it wouldn’t be hard for her to figure out, but she didn’t get it. She left my 2 litre milk sitting on the conveyor belt, packing most of the other cold items in a bag. Then she put my frozen puff pastry in a bag with packaged goods. I was stressing inwardly and determined to set it to right once she handed the bag over.
I chanced a look up at another woman on the next checkout lane. Her lips were pursed so hard they’d almost disappeared. The look that I saw was clearly one of disapproval. I began to wonder what her problem was, and then got all flustered because I couldn’t imagine having to try to work out her problem as well as my own with Miss I’m-Set-On Turtle-Mode.
It was then I gave myself a mental slap. I knew what was going on in my head, and it was up to me to regulate my behaviour. I didn’t really have any idea what was going on in the Barbie Nazi mother’s head, or the Lost Lips lady’s head, or even my checkout girl. I suspect nothing was going on in her head. Really when it came down to it, my behaviour and choices are what I can control and am responsible for. The other folks have their own lives to live.
But perhaps that’s why I like writing fiction. I like to have characters who have all sorts of issues and dramatic responses, and I like to CONTOL them. Ha ha ha! (Evil sounding laugh). My characters I can control, regulate and discipline. I can arrange their lives; even throw troubles and trials at them. I can let them fail, crumble and rail against everyone. And I can let them repent, reform and get their act together. It is a great lot of fun, really. I just have to remember that sort of behaviour on my part must be restricted to fictional characters. I’d better let the poor supermarket public get about their own lives without interference from me.

Meredith Resce
Author of ‘Cora Villa’, ‘Mellington Hall’,’ How Sweet the Sound’ and other popular novels
Visit Meredith Resce Author page on Face Book


  1. Thanks for the smiles, Meredith. I'd rather work on a book than do the supermarket thing any day. Shops and driving are both situations when it's so easy to get irked and let our frustration show. I'm so glad we're able to choose our attitudes, as you say.

  2. I had a good laugh over your post Meredith. Could imagine it all very well. But yep. You are spot on. All we can control is ourselves, our attitudes and our actions. I do agree.

    Isn't it great that we have writing material at our fingertips no matter where we are - in a busy shopping centre, on the street, out in nature or ANYWHERE?

    We writers are truly blessed!
    Thanks for your amusing post Meredith :)

  3. Ditto with Paula & Anusha! A good laugh. But you've inspired me, Meredith. I can see a five minute radio program coming fro your experience. I'll call it Control Freak. I too, have throttled down those feelings of frustration when I've had better things to do than wait while someone holds up the line. Gotta think this is to teach us patience.

  4. Well done Meredith in taking ownership of your reactions and feelings despite the frustrations you experienced. It is so easy to get irritated with others, especially as Paula says - in shops and on the road. Having been on the other side of the equation too often - with fractious toddlers and bored children in tow through the long trek up and down the supermarket aisles - trying to avoid the kicking feet as master 2 or 3 sits in the trolley and deliberately lets fly, or catch the fast little hands that grab interesting things off the shelves, or field the tempting goodies and chocolates so kindly (note sarcasm) put at toddler eye level by shop managers in full knowledge that most parents end up giving in to avoid the embarrassing supermarket tantrum or just the wailing of a tired, bored child who has had enough by the time one gets to the check-out - I've come to the conclusion that supermarket shopping can make the most saintly parent look and sound like a horror. Or maybe I just was never saintly enough. So glad my two are past that stage now & even better that I can shop on my own. :)

  5. I so enjoyed your post, Meredith! Thanks for the chuckles and the gentle hints!

  6. I wonder what Miss I’m-Set-On Turtle-Mode, Barbie Nazi mother, and Lost Lips lady would have thought if they knew what was going on in YOUR head. LOL.
    Great story and good point. Must leave control freak at home when going to the shops. ;)

  7. Had a chuckle Meredith. So easy to judge others when we don't know what's going on in their lives. A good lesson for us all to wear a smile when we shop even if we don't like shopping. Never know what others might be thinking of us otherwise.

  8. So glad you went shopping before you wrote the blog!

  9. I simply cant imagine how you know what goes through MY head when I'm shopping!! Although I may just be the one who's holding up the line because I'm too busy people-watching to concentrate on what I should be doing. The supermarket is a great place for observing idiosyncracy in mannerism, appearance and dialogue.

  10. Oh Meredith I LOVE your post!
    Many life times ago when I first began work in 'the Bank' I used to purse my lips at unruly mothers who left their unruly children at the Lego table whilst they lined up to do their banking....and then I became 'that' mother with 'that' child!
    Life is a wonderful teacher isn't it?
    I too am glad you wrote your post after the shopping trip!

  11. Maybe this world would be a much more peaceful place if more people were writers, then we could all take out our frustrations on our characters.