Wednesday 26 February 2014

I am waiting to pay £1.60 for something in the Pound Store across the street. This serves as a reminder that perhaps shops shouldn’t give themselves a label based on a monetary amount which is privy to inflation. The ‘some things are a pound store’ doesn’t quite entice the customers in.

Anyway, I am in the pound store to get some fake WD40 to address the squeaking doors in the flat. Doors squeaking when you go through them about six times a day isn’t really an issue. When you are going through them about 40 times a day you notice the squeaking. Moreover, your partner notices the squeaking and asks you to make it stop.

The man who works there is telling me he is tired because he was up half the night. Ha, I am the parent of a new baby – want to play the who-is-the-most-tired-game? He was at the hospital. Did I see the story on the news about the car that had a crash in the centre of Manchester yesterday? It was his cousin and he was at hospital until 5am.

His cousin is OK. But he is keen to tell me that he drives quickly and that he doesn’t wear a seatbelt sometimes. I don’t know what I am supposed to say. He doesn’t know I am not a policeman. I could be wearing a wire for fuck’s sake. I am not wearing a wire. Or a policeman. He has gambled and won on this one.

I don’t know what to say, though. Is this a thing where I agree that driving fast is bad and not wearing a seatbelt is stupid and then he ends up attacking me for bad-mouthing his cousin? I choose to tell him that I can’t drive – and thus don’t know if driving above the speed limit and not wearing a seatbelt are bad things. I figure I am quite a convincing idiot.

I just say it all sounds bad and that I am glad his cousin is OK. I try to say it with a tone that conveys that I have a baby to get back to, I must achieve this as after about five minutes he stops repeating the same four or five things he is saying over and over. 

However I can’t quite get our yet. He shouts something in (what I believe is) Urdu to his co-worker. He places the fake WD-40 in a carrier bag. The co-worker appears carrying something that looks like lots of toothbrushes and hands them over. The man serving me puts these in the carrier bag. It definitely is lots of toothbrushes.

“That’s OK,” I say, “you don’t have to do that.” The sentence and the way that I say it belongs in a different time and place. It belongs in a bakery 30 years ago where a baker is putting some eggs in a bag for someone who can only afford bread, but the baker knows his soldier father is at war. It is a sentence that says, I appreciate your sympathy but your pity is not required. However, it is not some eggs. It is 24 budget toothbrushes.

“No. Don’t worry about it, we got loads.” This gesture celebrating his cousin’s survival and us talking about it is essentially a means to the stock management of an unsuccessful product line.

I am unable to think of a way to politely-but-firmly insisting on not taking the toothbrushes. I think I am quite good with words and thinking. I have never given this scenario too much thought and have to admit that I am not ready for it.

I am now the owner of 24 budget toothbrushes.

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