When I am in the supermarket, I like to help the guys on the till because they pack the bags too.
So to do this, I make sure that I stack the conveyor belt with my groceries ready to go: first the frozen and chilled stuff, then the vegetables and fruit, then general food groceries, bathroom and laundry, dog food and finally eggs, bread and biscuits. Of course this does not mean my bags get packed like this, because supermarkets want your shopping experience to be like visiting a friendly neighbourhood shop – you know, the type you used to see everywhere before supermarkets drove them out of business. To this end, they make the poor teenagers working the tills strike up conversations with the customers, which they don’t always get quite right and it distracts them from the tasks in hand.
So when a spotty youth who is swiping and packing addresses me and says, ‘So, what have you been doing today?’ In the manner of the Spanish Inquisition, I try and remind myself before I reply, ‘None of your damned business, now stop trying to multi-task and concentrate on recognising vegetables,’ that neither of us wants this social transaction. The spotty kid just wants to earn phone credit and shoe money and get through this mad hormonal phase that is reeking havoc with his or her love life, and I just want to get out of the shop with my shopping in the order I stacked it without having to share details of my life. I end up smiling and saying, ‘Nothing much,’ and getting on with the business of loading the bags into the trolley.
In the smaller shops, they tend not to make conversation unless they have something to say, or they mean it. The other day I was in a small Chinese supermarket, crammed with freezers and shelves of the weird and the wonderful, but which is also home to lots of fresh cheap vegetables, which is why I buy my fresh stuff there now, not the supermarket.
The till area is small and so I can’t really help stack, I just bung the basket on one side of the till and grab the stuff to bag it as the lady on the check out rings in the prices. The other day when I was doing this I got a bit carried away and grabbed the coriander off the scales before the lady had had a chance to price it.
‘Oh, oh, oh, noooooooo, ‘she said to me (English being her second language but still infinitely better than my Mandarin. ‘Noooo, you wait. Hahahaha!’
‘Oops sorry!’ I responded – ‘Too quick!’ And I laughed and opened my purse.
‘Why you no want to pay?’ Said the lady – ‘Look, you got lotto ticket, you millionaire!’
‘Hah!’ I cried, seeing the ticket I had put in there the day before, ‘You are right! I may be a millionaire because I haven’t checked it yet.’
I carried on thinking about this after I left the shop. This charming lady, with whom I had just exchanged a joke was absolutely right. She had not only sold me vegetables, she had developed the concept of Shroedinger’s Lotto.
Just as his pesky cat, who is usually the subject of the thought experiment, could be both alive and dead in the box until the box was opened, my ticket had both the losing and the winning numbers until I released it from my purse and ran it under the scanner. Until the moment when the message appeared saying, ‘Sorry not a winner’, I was a multimillionaire.
What to do with this unexpected windfall? Most people plump for travel or paying off their mortgage. If I did the latter I could sell my house and buy a mansion and have huge rooms with high ceilings that could handle both paint and wallpaper simultaneously. I could have elegant furniture and plump, stylish cushions and a table that sat twelve.
Hmmm, maybe not that big a table. We have a table that seats six. It is fine, as tables go, and it gets used once a year when my family come over for a meal during the Xmas break. The day before this occurs, every year without fail, I gaze in dismay at the piles of junk and paper that have somehow come to settle on its surface, like some inescapable law of physics. An empty, flat surface in my house is a magnet for rubbish. [I realised at this point I had mixed my physic metaphors here with Quantum and common or garden physics plus magnetic wood, but decided to just roll with it – this was a thought experiment, after all]. Every year, instead of sorting through the junk and throwing it away, we open the spare bedroom door, chuck it all in and then shut the door. There will come a day, in the not too distant future, when we go to open the door and find it jammed shut against the weight of rubbish that has piled up in the room.
Well travel then? Tricky, I hate flying. I love being on holiday, but I hate going on holiday. Organizing dog sitters, organizing Xanax so I can get on a plane without screaming and being arrested, trawling through Duty Free and trying to work out just why I want to buy the huge bar of Toblerone, when I know I don’t like nougat. Arriving exhausted because I have cried all the way and knowing that now I am here, I will have to get on another goddamn plane to get back. Maybe not travel then.
Clothes are not a temptation, what is the use of buying lovely clothes when you are shaped like a watermelon? You just look like a watermelon in an outfit made of slightly more expensive fabric. Plus I hate shopping.
In the end I decided to go with just being fantastically rich in my mind, but not spending the money on anything for a while, just having the freedom to know, that if I wanted to, I could ring up work tomorrow and say that I was just taking a few months off to – I don’t know – spend some quality time with my dogs and my family.
That is the problem with being a theoretical multimillionaire – it is hard work.