Saying Shoo to a Goose
I once found a good-looking Asian checkout girl in Tesco who had piercing blue eyes. She was a right Peter O’Toole. I didn’t have the courage, the first time I saw her, but on the second occasion I asked what I thought was the obvious question.
She seemed perplexed by my questioning. Mostly because, I think, I’d deigned to treat her like a human being and not just as some barcode-swiping bean-counter which, I get the impression, is the normal interaction they get from customers. There I was, deviating from my designated role, but I was right, though: they were contacts. I don’t know if it was all the attention but I never saw her wearing them ever again.
When I was younger I wouldn’t say shoo to a goose, but things have changed now and since ol’ blue eyes I like to think that I’d go in for the kill more quickly these days as with most people you don’t get a second chance. What can I say: I’m a man with questions. All I want to do is understand the world around me and, as the teacher explained to his pupils in an episode of South Park once; there’s no such thing as stupid questions… just stupid people.
I was rushing to get in for last orders at Holland & Barrett last Sunday and rather than finding them shuffling people out of the door I found the place buzzing with the usual clientele that ranges between militant vegetarians and the affluent middle class who just happen to have undiagnosed deficiencies of strange vitamins, which you’ve never heard of, that can only be found in highly-priced jars.
I mean they sell artichoke extract for gawd’s sake, and vegetarian rocky road, and even bags of Israeli salt which reminds me of a particularly harsh winter when I went to a Morrisons supermarket to buy some salt for the ice to find that everyone else had got there before me. With what was left we almost found ourselves using Himalayan organic rock-salt to grit the drive.
I was there after dehydrated vegetarian mince and found that all they had in stock was the entirely tasteless variety, which I’m sure bears a closer ancestry to dust than with actual mince, but needs must as the devil drives so clutching a bag I headed for the checkout counter where there was a girl with green hair called Emily who was having to deal with a nearby demanding small Asian lady wanted to know how much this jar of Manuka honey cost, and how much that jar of Manuka honey cost, pointing up at them on the giddy heights of the top shelf which were out of bounds to her.
I’ve never liked honey and once, in a former life, an acquaintance remonstrated with this notion: “How can you not like honey; bees make it.” I found that there was no answer to this perfectly balance argument.
Emily wondered away from the till and picked them both up; her green Holland & Barrett overalls making it look as if she should have been working on an allotment potato patch somewhere rather that indoors in a health food shop.
After having scanned both jars of honey and relaying the information she then, perhaps cruelly, put them both back out of reach on the top shelf, as if to remove temptation, and came back to serve me at the till.
The small Asian lady then demanded to know what the difference was between one twenty-eight pound jar of Manuka honey and another completely different twenty-eight pound jar of Manuka honey.
Having seen professional expertise in many shops before I reckoned the woman didn’t stand a chance of finding out but Emily replied with and air of authority which belied her age and said that the only difference was the packaging.
Perhaps it was all a lie.
Perhaps it didn’t matter at all.
The little Asian lady couldn’t reach either of them anyway.
Besides who pays twenty-eight pounds for a jar of honey?
Even if it is Manuka?
I have no idea what that is.
When I had Emily’s full attention I handed her my bag of mince flakes and – all geared up – I asked her the question: the question I felt it was crying out for me to ask: whether she dyed her hair to match her uniform.
She said that’s what everybody asks.
It turns out I’ve lost my touch.