Thursday, September 20, 2007

"Ding-dong” The PA system comes alive, “Can Kate from the Mobile Phones department please go to the Mobile Phones department.”

This is Monday night at ASDA, and Bristol is throwing lumps of everything into trolleys packed with lumps of everything .

A short angry looking near-pensioner lady in a green jump-suit pushes past me quickly with her trolley, ushering her partner along with frantic head-movements. “Whatever happens I really need to get some butter!” she announces as if something's about to happen to cause this task to become an epic challenge.

“Well get some butter then”, comes the disinterested but startlingly logical reply from a disinterested but startlingly logical looking husband.

“You’re the one who spreads it on your toast,” she responds in a tone that indicates she believes spreading butter on toasted bread is the deviant act of a sex offender.

“Not all of it I don’t!” comes an overly-hostile and rather disconcerting reply.

And off they go, the trolley trusted forward, a woman with unnecessary purpose. A women with butter safely wedged into her trolley. “Shall we get two loafs of bread or one?”.


“Don‘t be stupid Brian!”

My turn. I’m staring at thousands of types of spread trying to remember which one I got last time, and if I liked it better than the one I bought the time before that, which I don’t remember the brand of either. I decide on Flora. But do I want ‘Flora’, ‘Low-Fat Flora’, ‘Low Saturates Flora’, ‘Low Height Flora’ or ‘I Can’t Believe it’s not Fucking Flora Flora”? I close my eyes and grab the first thing my hand touches: A rather portly lady in her mid-forties. I apologise.

Next aisle. A girl in her late teens stood next to her trolley, a toddler screaming in the seat. “You can’t have those” mum insists whilst an outraged young girl strains at a tin of Transformers shaped spaghetti.

“But I want them” comes the well thought out argument.



I admire the mother; a lesser woman would extinguish this screaming cycle by pushing the trolley away from the object of her daughter’s attention. A lesser woman would have decided that this was an unwinnable argument. Not this lady. If it’s going to take a thousand “YOU CAN’T HAVE THEM”s to emotionally crush this two year old big-shot, then I am in no doubt this lady’s in for the long-haul.

There’s another announcement over the PA. Kate’s still not made it back to Mobile Phones.

Kate’s not coming back.

Kate’s found there’s more.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Popped to the toilet whilst in a bar on a Saturday night and it’s time to wash your hands: Got to turn the tap on…YOURSELF. Actually use energy from your own body to dispense water...the indignity! Then you have to summon the strength to push your hand against the dispenser to release that clean gooey fresh smelling soap gooey goo. If you're still able to stand you can again activate the tap, this time to swill your hands. Sounds hard work so far? Hold onto your desk, cause this next bit might just blow your bollocks off: An energy sapping four second walk to a hand-dryer!!!

Yes this whole process does not cost you anything financially, but with only 190 calories in each of the four pints of lager you've had so far, this has surely been a reckless expulsion of valuable energy.

At least this is what someone thought. Sometime, I don’t know when and I don’t know where, somebody saw this as a gap in a market. And that’s why, sprinkled throughout bars whose names begin with the word “Bar”, toilet attendants stand poised at their sink, ready to make the whole arduous process of achieving clean hands an effortless yet financially burdened process.

But the rather damning truth is that I’ve never, in my whole life met anyone who has been glad that they are in a bar that has a toilet attendant. Never been in a pub where someone’s come back after going for a piss in an attendentless convenience looking completely knackered, complaining that washing their own hands has completely wiped them out and that they’re going to have to go home early to have a lie down.


You’re a target the minute you enter their lair. “Hello” he says mouth smiling, eyes fixed like an eagle on a rabbit. As the only ‘customer’ in the room at that moment, I abandon any thought of using a urinal. I’m not up to the challenge of going with someone staring at me intensely, manically tapping on a squeezy bottle of soap singing “Freshen up, freshen up, you really gotta freshen up.”

I hide myself safely away in the furthest cubical, knowing I have to stay in there for an amount of time that would justify its use over a urinal. I weigh up my options. I can’t just walk straight out. I may just of got away with that if I’d used just a urinal, but coming out of a cubical; well that’s doubly wrong. I have to wash my hands.

Why should I not wash my own hands? Why should I put up with being forced into the service of this person; compelled to place a pound coin on his stupid angry saucer for fifteen unwanted seconds of his mis-placed labour. I wont. I'll sanitise to my own rules. I shall produce the cleanest pair of hands in England with my own sweat and toil.

I throw open the cubical door, stride confidently towards the unoccupied basin. “Freshen up?”, I ignore his plea. My naivety means I think that I’ve beaten him. Soon I realise I haven’t. A flash of movement and he pulls out his final card. His finger primed on the trigger of the cheapest fragrance in England. The nuzzle aimed directly at my face. “I’m not afraid to use this thing,” he informs me his smile sharpening, “we either do this the easy way or the Slazenger Sport way.”