I think something strange and supernatural happens to me when I go into a supermarket. Not a little corner-shop type of shop; no, I’m talking about the huge, soulless hypermarket places, where they sell clothing and TVs and haberdashery, in addition to the usual foodstuff range.
Just recently, I was in a massive, almost empty place here in Dubai, bimbling about on a mission on behalf of ‘she who must be obeyed’. She had got it into her head that she wanted a specific type of hand soap and that it was only available in Dubai, not in Portugal. She is probably correct, as Portugal is not well known for its impressive choice in the hand soap department.
In any event, I am slowly drifting along miles of nearly deserted aisles, seeking hand soap, when I spy a colleague at the end of the aisle, some 50 yards away, pushing a massive trolley, piled high with provisions. I shout her name, ‘Amina’, and run towards her. With hindsight, I perhaps was a tad fast. It was the stupid little wheelie small trolley thing, you see. I was pulling it and it was empty, as I hadn’t yet found the hand soap to weigh it down. Consequently, it was flipping around from side to side, out of sight behind me. It was out of control, I’m afraid. It managed to get tangled up in a display of footballs. They came tumbling down and rolled around in a most impressive display of bounciness. I stopped and looked around. I was alone.
To my shame, I continued, swiftly towards my colleague, who had disappeared around the corner. When I approached, from behind and called her name again, she turned and was clearly not Amina. I quick-wittedly looked beyond her, waved at an imaginary friend and walked past her. By this time, a posse of assistants were running around, chasing down the errant footballs, the non-Amina lady was looking at me strangely and I was no closer to acquiring any hand soap.
I eventually found the soap and took a photo and zapped it off to Portugal, whereupon it was confirmed that the selection was appropriate. Much relieved, I exited the still-deserted shop and repaired to the nearest coffee shop, where I treated myself to a cinnamon bun thing, to soothe my shattered nerves.
The following week, I returned to the hypermarket, which was now very busy. I was seeking a power bank for ‘she who must be obeyed’ this time but was not really clear what this item was. I stood looking at these flat objects, and a lady with a headscarf who was standing next to me asked which one I wanted. At least, I thought she did. I replied to the effect that I wasn’t sure and, to cut a long, embarrassing story short, finally stopped speaking to her when she turned and looked at me. It became clear that she had an earpiece hidden under her hijab and was actually talking to someone else.
I will leave it some time before returning to that particular emporium. Ignominy!