Though it hurts me to say it (because I am one) we urgently need to get a grip on the problem of old people.
Well, the wrong sort of old people.
Yesterday I drove to my local Sainsburys in order to do a food shop mid-morning – I mention the fact is was a Sainsburys only because it was one: I could just as easily be referring to any large supermarket in the country.
My intended shop was not a major effort at all – just a few bits and bobs to supplement the fridge and larder … oh, and anything else I fancied and/or thought of as I was wondering around the aisles.
The ‘shopping’ part of it took me literally no more than twenty minutes in itself.
At the control of even a small shopping trolley, I’m like a supermarket version of these thugs on mopeds we have recently seen featured on the TV News programmes, going around nicking mobile phones off people standing on pavements and then disappearing into the distance … [only without the other bit, where police patrolmen in their cars catch up with them and nudge them off their mopeds and then we see the bastards flying off and getting up again a bit dazed, confused and feeling sorry for themselves – as they jolly well should do!].
In other words, I’m always on the move, me – I’m the Speedy Gonzales of supermarket shoppers.
In advance I know roughly in which aisle (and where exactly) each item actually is, so when I arrive – having collected a trolley outside on my way in – it is almost as though someone has fired the gun for the Olympic 400 metres final and I’m in the outside lane but one …
A couple of tubs of fruit salad, first thing on the left and the coast clear of shoppers – I just lean over on the move and it’s done!
Across the other side of the aisle, a bit further up – a bag of limes, anyone? A shimmy of a lean to the right as I’m going past … Bang – done!
That’s the fruit deal with and I haven’t yet had to stop at all.
Next for the veg.
I reach the end of the fruit aisle and go hard right, almost with an exaggerated lean as if I’m in the back seat of a four-man toboggan on the Cresta Run, the back of the trolley skidding slightly as I adjust the tiller a smidgeon to re-align myself with the veg aisle.
And so on …
Until I reach the aisle where on the third shelf up on the left there is a bank of tubs of Sainsburys’ Taste The Difference (premium) brand coleslaw – one of which is my next target.
Only there is a middle-aged lady shopper already positioned at the self-same place, her big trolley – much larger than my small one – now already parked sideways, inevitably across the entire bank of said tubs, thereby denying anyone else access to them.
As I skid to a halt beside her, only needing to grab a tub of coleslaw and then disappear into the distance in a cloud of dust like The Lone Ranger, she then begins the kind of shopping ritual that takes three to four minutes minimum which is enough to cause any ‘quick shopper’ like me to lose the will to live.
Perhaps she is stunned by the sheer amazingness of so much coleslaw in one place, or possibly – even though it is after 10.30am – her brain hasn’t quite warmed up yet.
Then she begins the process of examining each and every coleslaw tub individually. Looking first at the side facing her. Then at the left end. Then at the right end. And finally, at the far side – (and yes, they all say on them the equivalent of “This is coleslaw”)!
I’m getting impatient – [what the hell is she playing at? All coleslaw tubs are the same – that’s how they leave the effing factory, or should do]!
As soon as they have made their final selection, I brush past them, pick the first tub available and scoot off …
And so on it goes. At every aisle – as night follows day – there are these shopping zombies littering the place like the living dead.
And thus it was yesterday that I joined the back of what I had calculated in advance was the smallest queue at a check-out station. There were two shoppers queuing in front of me and then one lady in her sixties – no more than that – actually having her shopping dealt with.
By then, of course, I’d already made my first mistake – i.e. not looking ahead to see what kind of lunatic was at the front of the queue. This example was a stereotypical version of what I’m beefing about today, viz. a clear case of “the lights are on, but there’s nobody in”.
In short – and I’m so exasperated about it I’m not going to inflict a detailed description of what happened next – she was the kind of human who waits until the check-out lady had passed her entire shop through the till before she even begins bagging the first item.
Thus the rest of us had to wait whilst she placed it (one item at a time, as if she had not a care in the world) into her bags, the check-out lady at one point glancing at us briefly as if to convey “Sorry, everyone, she’s one of those you-know-whats …”
Naturally, when she found and brought it out, she spent some time looking in it before (almost giggling at the check-out lady) she announced “Hmmnn … I’ve been looking in the wrong purse!” as if she was expecting a round of amused applause – her credit card was allegedly in her other one.
So she – and we, observing – then had to search for it.
I’ve been thinking about this ever since – I mean, really thinking about it – and I believe I’ve got the solution.
The Government needs to ‘chip’ everyone alive when they reach their 60th birthday. When I refer to a ‘chip’, I mean one of those small metal items that people arrange to have injected into the soft flesh at the bottom of the neck of a much-loved pet in case they go missing.
[Thinking further ahead – if the science is there and I’m sure it is – why don’t the Government make it a comprehensive identity chip? Add the person’s passport details, criminal records so far, whether they’ve paid their council tax yet, and (if possible) also a statement of their IQ … you name it.]
That way, never mind shopping (which would be the real reason for this move), we could also then potentially, for example, go straight through Passport Control at airports – with a machine designed for the purpose ‘reading’ our chip as we do – en route for our summer holidays … and so on.
All of Life could be rendered so simple.
But back to Sainsbury’s (or, as indicated above, any large supermarket store).
As the over 60s arrive inside to do their shopping, their ‘status’ would be recognised via a control machine and they’d be handed a bright orange Sainburys baseball cap to wear – this way the rest of us could all spot them quite a way off.
At the moment I’ve got two options as to what later happens when it come to the check-out area.
The first – as heralded above – is that when we ordinary shoppers, who just want to get in, around the joint and get away ASAP, reach the area, we’d be able to spot the over-60s quite easily (via their orange baseball caps) and therefore have the opportunity join the check-out queue that has the fewest of them in it.
Alternatively – and the more I think about it this may be the one to go for – Sainsburys should create a special check-out solely for the use of ‘orange caps’.
They can then get herded down the far end and take as long as they like to check-out … and also talk about their health of their four cats, the weather, the death of Auntie Mabel last month and even how their waterworks problem are this week, if they want … whilst the rest of us can do our thing and get home within the hour.
Then, as they perambulate slowly towards the exit door with their inevitable and harmless Stan Laurel – “I’m pretty vacant! ” – look upon their faces, they get relieved of their orange caps … until the next time.
I urge all Rusters to support this campaign in the normal way, i.e. by sending a postcard indicating as much to the usual address.
If we can get to the magic number of 100,000, of course, then Parliament will have to debate the proposal – and, the way things currently are at Westminster, who knows, it might just make it to the Statute Book!