Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why do they always do it?

It being time for my quarterly shearing, I went into town this afternoon to have my wig scratched. Feeling lighter both of head and wallet, I then stopped by the supermarket to pick up a few essentials.*

I've mentioned it before and I will doubtless mention it again, but Aberystwyth is not a great place for shopping. Normally this isn't a problem, since I hate any activity that forces me into close proximity with strangers. Sadly the downside of living in the 'h' of nowhere is that none of the big supermarkets will deliver, otherwise I'd have no need to go near civilisation at all.

As it is, the Horse Doctor and I have to make do with a Morrison's store, previously Safeway's, on the outskirts of town. It's relatively small as supermarkets go, and has a terrible selection - way too much own-brand 'value' products, which trade in quality for cheapness. Such marketing plays well into the 'Cardy' mentality that seems to be prevalent in Ceredigion (or Cardiganshire). It's typified by the restaurants in Aberystwyth - bland food and lots of it is the order of the day; your average Cardy will think himself well served if his plate is heaped high for the minimum price, and never mind that the food on it is either tasteless or actually inedible.**

But I digress; this isn't meant to be a moan about Aberystwyth shopping, so much as Aberystwyth shoppers. Maybe all shoppers.

I assume (perhaps erroneously) that most people have been in a shop before in their lives. Maybe even more than once. So why is it that as soon as they have stepped through the doorway, they have to stop and gawp at the scene in front of them?

It's always the same: walk boldly, hobble with cane, or drag too many screaming children towards the doorway; step over threshold; stop.

Why stop there? Why? In the narrowest part of the building? When there are dozens, hundreds of other people trying to get in behind you? Have you never been to this shop before? Are you unsure how to use it? And even if you are unsure how to shop, have you no concept of what you are doing?

I've seen young women walk through the supermarket door, take out their mobile phone, dial up a number (not receive a call, mind you - there might conceivably be a justification for their behaviour if that was the case), and stand in the restricted flow of people whilst having a conversation that's got nothing to do with shopping at all. It's suddenly occurred to them, mid-stride, that they simply have to tell Elsie all about what Barry did to Joan at the party last night. Or worse, to ask Kylie if she saw Celebrity Big Brother last night.

What the fuck is it with these people?

And it's not just today's youth (tsk, tsk.) I know it's cruel to poke fun at pensioners, but they are just as bad. Perhaps when you're getting on a bit, the world seems to go that bit faster than it did. Entering something as busy as Aberystwyth Morrison's at lunchtime on a wet Thursday can be a bit overwhelming. You need to take a moment to gather your wits before doddering off to the tinned sardines and catfood sections. But please, don't do it right in the doorway.

And then there are the families out for a shopping trip. In days of old, when we had poor sanitation and a low life-expectancy, and they used to send boys up chimneys and down mines whilst their sisters scurried about under the spinning machines in't mill, people used to stop on the street and talk to each other. Nowadays, we don't walk anywhere, and it's (still) considered impolite to hold up the traffic by stopping your car in middle of the high street to have a blather with your neighbour who's driving the other way. So the supermarket (since Aberystwyth has no mall) becomes the modern equivalent - the one stop gossip shop.

It's bad enough when you're trying to get to the frozen peas and you have to run the gamut of auntie Mabel's piles and the terrible trouble grandpa's been having with his rheumatics. But many of these good burghers can't wait until they reach the chiller cabinets for their fix. They have to natter right there in the doorway. Whilst I'm trying to get in and out of the shop as quickly as possible.

I'd rather not have to shop at all. I'd pay good money for a delivery service out here,*** but even when I've managed to fight my way through the checkout, there's still one more obstacle to overcome. There, just beyond the exit, are more people standing like gormless idiots trying to remember where they parked, or phoning their mates to tell them that they've finished in the supermarket and are about to head across the way to MacDonald's,**** Or who have simply forgotten what it means to be a living, breathing person.

Well, this has turned into a bit of a rant. It's all part of the general degradation of society, IMHO. People no longer consider the effects of their actions on those around them. I'd go a step further - they no longer see the other people around them as people. Strangers are not unimportant - it's not a question of being rude to them because it doesn't matter. To the vast, mindless mass of individuals milling around in their bubbles of insensitivity,
we just don't exist.

Julian Cope has a name for these brain-dead folk. He calls them the Living Dead. He may be a complete weirdo, but you know what? He's spot on.

*bread, milk, Riesling, the usual stuff you run out of at awkward moments.
** every so often some enterprising fellow sets up a new restaurant, with really good food in sensible portion sizes and costing what I would consider a reasonable amount. They either go bust after six months, or slowly morph into the pile-it-high/sell-it-cheap establishments that dominate the town.
*** and even put up with getting the squashed fruit and unripe vegetables.
**** yup, we've got one of those. And a Burger King too. Whoopee.


Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

James, I love you. I love you for speaking the truth that NOBODY has before!

These people who stop in the middle of the doorway or the aisle drive me NUTS! It's a huge pet peeve! Or go walking out behind cars that are already backing up.

I just wonder, if they're living dead, does it matter if you run them down? Just scrape up the mess from the sidewalk and move on...

April 20, 2006 5:59 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

It would be doing them, and the rest of us, a kindness.

April 20, 2006 6:08 pm  
Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

You know, when Kevin says that he sounds so cruel...

But you REALLY should go read Terrenoire's blog post today. Second post, Decline in the Death Rate

I nearly peed my pants reading that!

April 20, 2006 9:10 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

That was a good one. He has a rare wit, Mr Blackearth.

April 21, 2006 2:59 pm  

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