Sally stood for ten minutes in the rain, searching out someone who could swap her loose pennies for a ten pence piece. She did not like the new slot trollies but she had no option but to use them if she wanted to buy her groceries from the glossy newly built supermarket. The trollies were heavy and difficult to control. The bruises on her ankles, caused by shoppers trying to keep control of their trollies, were evidence of previous sojourns into this consumer madness they called progress.
The smaller independent shops near her home had closed down so she no longer had any choice but to shop in this giant store. It wasn’t ideal but it was necessary if Sally was to feed her family. It was a situation Sally told herself she would get used to, she had to move with the times. She had to remind herself, yes, this was progress.
But try as she night, Sally hated the new shops, they were too big, too impersonal. There were too many people and the quality of some goods, especially fresh produce was a far cry from that offered by the greengrocer where she’d previously shopped. Gone was the individual attention from the shopkeepers, the friendly chatter whilst waiting for purchases to be handed over in little brown paper bags. Gone was the familiarity, the banter experienced by the children who loved chatting with the shopkeeper.
Eventually, the silver coin slipped into the slot releasing the iron monster: Sally was once again ready to do battle. Ready to make her way up and down the narrow alleyways looking for the items she had carefully written on her shopping list. Being such a big shop, being unfamiliar with the layout which changed regularly anyway it was so easy for Sally, and others like her, to end up buying things she didn’t really want in her search for the things she really needed. So the list, written with great intentions, soon became a forgotten spark of sanity.
Gaining access to the supermarket on a Saturday was a nightmare. Sally had to fight her way through hordes of noisy school aged children pestering the departing customers, asking if they could return their trolleys for them. Often people with cars would abandon their trolleys near where they had parked, left to be grabbed by keen-eyed youngsters who were eager to retrieve the abandoned deposit. For many this was a profitable pastime and worth suffering the wind and rain for a rewarding pocket full of ten pence pieces.
Struggling through the hordes could be quite threatening, as the youngsters jostled with each other almost crashing into the customers trying to get past them. It was difficult not to run into them as the automatic doors opened and closed willy nilly causing trolleys to be hastily withdrawn and rapidly thrust forward. There was no easy way of getting in and out of the shop and it appeared to be worsening by the week.
The two back wheels of the trolley had barely passed through the narrow turnstile when the customary wobble started up. Sally couldn’t fathom how all the trolleys in the bays could be so defective after such a short time in situ. It was only a month or so since they were introduced, four weeks or so since she was lugging two great heavy baskets around the shop. The new trolleys were meant to alleviate all the stress and strain of doing a big weekly shop, making it easier to carry more goods, spend more money, probably buy more than was needed. But they were heavy to push, impossible to manoeuvre and barely fitted down the narrow alleyways.
Passing by the towering racks of sad-looking vegetables the dull thud of her headache beat in time to the never-ending background music. The pounding caused Sally’s brow to crinkle up in a frown of pain and tiredness, furrows embedding themselves permanently beneath her frizzled hairline.
The supermarket was crowded with people of all size and ages, all attempting to manoeuvring cumbersome vehicles piled high with tins and boxes. Battling to reach the cheaper tins of beans which Sally hoped her children would grow to like, Sally’s sleeve caught and toppled several tins of ravioli which cluttered to the ground adding to the tumultuous noise surrounding her. Frustration swept over her as she knelt on one knee to retrieve the spilled cans, disinterested shoppers impatiently stepping over her leg. Their rude tutting, clearly echoing around her head as she attempted to replace the cans on the shelf served to only heighten Sally’s dark mood.
How she hated shopping.
Turning the corner after leaving the bacon counter, Sally narrowly missed running down a young child who jumped out in front of her, growling at her like an aggressive brown bear on the rampage. Her nerve ends already frayed to breaking point, Sally mumbled to herself, “little monster, he should be packed away in a deep freezer’, the passion in her voice revealing her level of anxiety and frustration.
Seemly on his own, the child went off to terrorise other unwary shoppers. Neither supervised nor chastised Sally became angry as she watching other children running amok amongst the shelves. A teenaged roller skater chose that exact moment to crashing into her trolley knocking it off course. Sally struggled to gain control and straighten it as it flew past the tall mountain of coloured toilet rolls that loomed in front of her. Just where were their mothers? Her nerves were frayed and her temper at breaking point. Would she survive much longer?
The final leg of her journey was made harder by the now laden trolley deciding to assert its stubbornness to the full as it suddenly started veering sharply to the left. Despite all the force Sally could muster, the metal contraption refused to obey her as she pulled and pushed it into a position where she could complete her expedition in this nightmarish world.
The queues at the tills were long, and extremely noisy as usual. Saturday was not a good day to replenish the kitchen cupboards, but sally had no other choice. Her husband didn’t come home with his pay until late on Friday evening, too late to shop as the supermarket closed at five o’clock.
Children pushed and shoved each other, banging into near-by trollies. Cries of wanting this or that, followed by the screams of mothers saying no, grated on Sally’s fragile ears. The noise reached a crescendo when one child was grabbed by the arm after ignoring her irate mother’s pleas for her to be settled down and be quiet. The girl suddenly threw herself to the ground kicking and screaming for attention, much to the embarrassment of her mother who appeared unsure what she could do to stop this display of childish temper. Other people turned away embarrassed for the plight of this mother.
Sally was finally out on the street, free from the confines of the building. The gentle swishing of the cars as they drove past through the puddles began to soothe Sally’s nerves as she stood enjoying the relative quiet after the last hour of torture. She joined similar laden ladies waiting to cross the road, lugging behind them wheeled shopping trolleys or bulging bags.
Although the bus stop was only a short distance away, the weight of the tins and bottles nestled in her bags placed tremendous strain on her arms and shoulders as she staggered forward. The few yards seemed like miles as acute tiredness enveloped Sally’s short frame.
Relieved, she watched the yellow bus come trundling up the hill to where she stood. But relief soon turned to frustration Sally as the bus kept on going without stopping. The tired faces of people silhouetted in the lighted bus windows, showed no sympathy for the plight of those still standing on the pavement as they passed by.
The next bus wasn’t due for another half an hour. Sally considered her options. Stay there braving the cold and wet for thirty minutes or start walking. She would get very wet but At least if she was on the move, she would be warmer. And so it was that dark wet day that Sally set off along the road to home.
Sally was just approaching the turn off to her house when the next bus finally came along pausing at the bus stop just long enough to disgorge its weary passengers onto flooded pavements.
By the time Sally turned the key in her front door and deposited her bags on the kitchen table her arms were numb, her shoulders were on fire and the headache that she had woken with this morning now resembled a mechanical pile-driver threatening to split her skull wide open. Too tired to remove her sodden coat. Too tired to do anything, Sally flopped her bottom onto the kitchen chair. Her head atop one of the bags, grateful for the softness of the pack of toilet rolls that cushioned her thumping head, Sally’s eyes slowly closed and she breathed a huge sigh of relief. Oblivious of the voices calling to ask what was for lunch, Sally slipped away on a sea of dreams, thankful that Saturday was over for another week.