Monday, June 24, 2002

They See Me Coming

Last week I did a big entertaining thing on the weekend, and Friday afternoon I was running around like a lunatic because I'd forgotten to buy whisky.

I went to Sainsbury's in the O2 centre - plastic nirvana, like even the fish - evaluating the whiskoid situation and trying to work towards a purchasing decision.

Just as I'm looking at the shelves, a youngish guy comes up to me. Twenties, thirties, I don't know. Smartly dressed in a marginally uncool way. He smiles at me.

"Excuse me, Miss." Now I wasn't his Sunday School teacher, and as soon as I heard his oh-so-polite slightly out of context opening conversational gambit - I mean who under sixty calls anyone Miss anymore? - I fingered him as partially released into Care In The Community and probably involved in some kind of training programme where he had to fall into three easy and natural conversations before he could graduate.

I smile.

"Miss, could you reach that bottle of whisky off the bottom shelf?"

I do as he asks, and as I hand it to him, I know I should keep my mouth shut, but am strangely compelled to respond.

"Hurt your back?" I ask. I'm still there twenty minutes later. I can't fucking escape.

Eventually, through a mixture of failed eye-contact and purposefully poor social skills on my part, he leaves.

Before I've drawn breath, an old woman with an almost empty trolley comes up to me. She has one box of cheap'n'tacky Naughty French Wine type vino in a box. With an orange reduced price sticker.

"You should get this," she says to me, as if we are old friends, "it's reduced. From fourteen pounds to seven."

I am suddenly enabled to make a speedy whisky decision, grab a bottle and run out of there. Do I have sucker tattooed in indelible ink on my forehead? They really can see me coming.

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