It has always fascinated me that for some bizarre reason, supermarket trips have had a bad habit of attracting drama. Recently, when I innocently ducked into Woolies for a quick shop, I was lucky to escape alive.
I would dearly love to mind my own business and purchase my bunch of grapes and the like in peace, but it seems-no can do.
It was 7pm. It was dark.
My shopping list contained a few small essential items that my family had obviously decided we couldn’t live without for one more minute, and so I made a bee line for the store in the hope of escaping in a few short minutes.
It was pretty empty. Just the odd weirdo like me and a few dreary eyed looking suit people who had obviously just sat at a desk for 14 hours, had square eyes and were picking up a Mccains re-heat meal for dinner.
As I gathered items, my trolley somehow filled to the brim-I hate it how that happens. A few small essentials sneakily become rations, for a week and beyond. I’m not sure how my mind works when this occurs, but all of these boxes, tins and packets of stuff on the shelves, were into trickery of the most evil kind. They blackmailed me into assuming their necessity.
I rapidly put a lid on it and forged ahead with my over-sized shop, to the checkout-and that’s when I noticed it…
Looking back, I really wish I hadn’t.
A family of 8. Kids, parents, and grandparents had made their way to the checkout with their trolley-only one of their kids, clearly walked straight out of the store with ‘hot’ goods in his hand.
His dad followed-I wrongly assumed-to return the child to pay for the item. However instead, he lent over his kid and assisted him with opening the contents.
I looked at the checkout assistant, who in turn looked at me. We pulled funny faces at each other in disbelief. She appeared nervous and uncertain, but ran for the manager all the same.
Ok, I thought. So THEY’RE sprung! This will be interesting.
I kept quiet in my little space as the excitement unfolded around me. The manager came over-
“Yes I saw it, but there is nothing we can do”
“Are you serious?”- Now this came out of MY mouth I think, I’m not sure why, a knee-jerk reaction perhaps.
I told myself to stay out of it, but the voice within was feeling dangerously defensive of all the honest citizens in the world who pay for what is not theirs despite their financial situation.
-oh no. I could feel an issue brewing.
“Yes. There are rules. They could walk out with a whole trolley-and they do-but we cannot touch them.
“Well that’s ridiculous” -Nicole keep quiet I thought….but it was too late.
“We all saw them do it, can’t you politely remind them to pay for it?”
Not good enough. If everyone else must pay, so must they. I turned to the grandmother behind me and smiled at her gently.
“Hello. You may not realise, but your little boy, forgot to pay for that chocolate milk.”
She gave me the death stare for what seemed like hours and then responded.
“I know dat. I know dat-Eh, Daniel…come over ‘ee wif dat chocolate milk” -She shouted, with a piercing tone
The little kid ran over, put his now empty milk on the counter, and they paid for it.
I continued to place my items to be scanned in an externally calm manner, but my inner nerve told me to watch my back- the checkout assistant kept her head low.
A few minutes passed and I peered in the family’s direction to judge their mood. The grandmother, was whispering in the burly father’s ear and pointing in my direction.
Here we go, it’s on.
Without hesitation, he came toward me, joining the rest of his clan. I kept a neutral expression.
“What you say ’bout my kid?”
I swung around and looked behind me, to give the impression I thought he was talking to someone else. My initial response was to play dumb, but I knew, it was too late for that.
“Oh, I didn’t think you’d noticed your little boy had walked out with a chocolate milk in his hand. My kids do it all the time, and I send them back to pay”
He stared at me for a while-
“My kids don’t buckin steal. Right? We got it from dat udder buckin shop”
He pointed in a very general direction. It was now 7:30, and all the shops were closed.
At this point, my mouth was on automatic pilot. I had no influence over it, clearly, as I responded with this…
“Ok. So did you get a receipt?”
The woman with the shrieky voice shoved the man aside and stepped in with her grey whispy hair and her three teeth.
Good God I thought. I hope she’s purchased toothpaste.
“Look. Shut yer buckin mouf yer buckin cant”
Excellent. A well thought out come back.
I looked at her, not moving. I looked at him.
“Please don’t swear at me. I am listening to you. Ok? I am listening.”
They retracted their steps the mother mumbling a few more expletives, the father still staring at me dying for the last day-
“You jus woch your buckin mannis lady…git”-He pointed to the exit.
I thought perhaps my manners had been a little rough around the edges and so declined to add anything further.
I politely ignored him, if ever there was a way to politely ignore someone, and paid for my groceries.
I parked my trolley right outside the checkout and stayed put, as I could see them all sniggering and staring at me in the distance.
The odd “Buck” and the odd “Daniel git eee, wotch your mouf” resonated off the walls.-because clearly, they were watching their mouths. They somehow managed to maintain their focus in my direction, whilst at the same time, consuming everything edible in their overflowing trolley. -and I’ve never seen so much toilet paper-diarrhoea?
I fiddled with my shopping as if in search for something to eat whilst my mind took in the last few minutes, and planned my next move.
I called Michael.
“I’m about to be beaten up”
A deep sigh from Michael.
“A bunch of people want to beat me up”
“Well I’m cooking dinner”
“Are you serious?”
“Where are you?”
“I don’t know”
“I’m in Mount Sheridan”
“Yes I realise that Nicole. Where in Mount Sheridan?”
“Oh……Coles…no wait, woollies”
“Just wait there. I’m coming”
As I hung up the phone, a member of the Woollies staff approached me.
“Are you ok? Would you like me to call security?”
“I’m fine, but yes please”
The security officer- a sizeable specimen-appeared in no time, with an enormous bunch of keys jiggling from his hip and an expression that meant business-you know that kind of ‘nobody mucks with me’ face?
“What seems to be the problem madam?”
Madam? Oh dear God-I am old, that just confirmed it.
“Evening Sir. There’s no problem, but would you mind escorting me to my car?”
We passed the agitated family- they were hovering around with no obvious place to be except perhaps to even the score with me in their perceived favour.
“Have they been troubling you mam? I know them well”
Oh geez, drop the ‘mam.’ He may as well be calling me Matron, or senior citizen.
“Um. Not really. They haven’t touched me, but we had words, and their aggression was enough for me to double think walking to my car alone”
It was when I’d reached my car safely, that I’d remembered I’d called Michael to come and get me-Darn it.
-Oh for crying out loud. Now he’s going to think I’ve been kidnapped. I contemplated running back in to find him, but that would negate the whole reason for the escort.
My mind raced-Should I jump in my car and drive home before the three toothed lady found me? -but then Michael would be roaming around thinking I was dead.-Hmmm. Perhaps waiting for him to figure everything out would be the ticket.
I chose the latter and before I knew it, he was striding at pace, toward me.
“Hi babe, what brings you here so late at night?” I questioned with a wink.
Perhaps I’ll leave the stolen chocolate milk alone next time.
…but then this is the problem isn’t it?
A combination of fear and the Law, have made it impossible to defend one’s own property. Woolworths Lawyers have implemented a policy that essentially protects the perpetrators, deeming it illegal for the grocery store to enforce consequence for obvious theft.
Next time, I will go shopping blind folded.
Supermarkets are a dangerous place for me.
Inspired by WordPress Daily One Word Prompt
Shelf-‘Put it BACK on the shelf where you found it’