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.
Author of ‘Cora Villa’, ‘Mellington Hall’,’ How Sweet the Sound’ and other popular novels
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