The Monthly Shop


Are you one of those people that just hate shopping with a passion? Your salary has been paid into your bank and you have to put something in that empty fridge for the family.


Month end, Friday afternoon, 4.30 pm and the trolleys at your local Supermarket are moving bumper to bumper in the aisles. You pull cans and packets from the shelves, crossing off the items on your list, trying hard not to wince at the prices. You're running late and the kids will probably be wondering where you are. Two chocolate bars get thrown into the trolley to keep them from complaining. Once finished you move smartly to the tills. Queues are stretched five and six deep, but you quickly note which tills have the people with the least groceries in their trolley. You manage to skip smartly in front of a large woman with an overpacked trolley who was headed for the same queue and smile quietly to yourself.


Now there is that endless frustrating wait for the queues to move on. Never again, you promise yourself. Never again. Yet here you are, once more, trolley full of groceries, psyched up and ready to blow your top. You can feel the pressure building up inside and wonder why you have to go through this routine month after month. You shuffle forward an agonising half metre towards the till. At last the till is in sight and the pensioner couple in front of you get served. As the final item is scanned, they query the price. "I'm sure it was R4.45 not R4.95'" states the woman. The packer gets the nod from the till lady and rushes off to check the price.


Five minutes pass, during which time you watch the large woman you stepped in front of walk out of the shop from another till. You fume. The packer returns and after a quick muttered whisper, they call for a Superviser. The clock inside your head begins ticking faster and faster. The unsmiling Superviser punches a few codes into the computer and then dashes off to solve the next problem.  Just when you think everything is almost complete, the pensioner begins searching through her handbag. "But I'm sure I put the chequebook in here yesterday ... or was it the day before?" she says more to herself than her husband. The tiller stares blankly at the pensioner then turns to talk to the packer.


Your legs are starting to buckle and you grip the trolley tightly, refusing to lose control.

By some miracle her chequebook appears, but she still pulls out more things from her bag. A muted 'aaagh' and a gentle nod of her head shows she has also found the elusive pair of glasses. She signs the cheque and turns around and apologises profusely to you. You force a smile on your face noting you are now at least twenty minutes late to pick up the kids. The tiller meanwhile is in full conversation with the packer and it is only when their talk is finished that she presses the button to again call the Superviser. Another few minutes of quietly blowing steam passes before the cheque is scrutinised by the same Superviser who stares woodenly at the pensioners face before authorising the sale.


At last it is your turn and you load your goods on to the sugar sprinkled conveyor belt which, would you believe, is not working. The tiller is again in conversation with the packer and turns a sullen face in your direction. She stares at the 8kg pack of dog food which you have just heaved onto the counter and waits for you to push it along to the till. You can almost hear her sigh as she begins the long haul of another set of groceries. You listen to her quiet mutters to the packer as the groceries pass through the scanner. Something niggles at the back of your mind. Was that once or did she scan that tin twice. It's now too late as the can has been plucked from the counter, hidden at the bottom of the plastic bag and placed in the trolley. The last of the items is scanned and you stare horrified at the total.


You thank your lucky stars that the debit card purchase is approved without a hitch and quickly glance down the till slip. Your eagle eyes suddenly spot the mistake. Just as you thought, the can of beans was put through twice. The tiller shakes her head regretfully. The transaction has been completed and you will have to go to the customer service section for a refund. The packer goes with you to explain what has happened and you stand in the queue - which is fortunately shorter than the till queue - feeling obliged to go through the process to get your R5.99 back.


You hurry from the shop and while loading the groceries from the trolley into the car boot, the over filled bag tears. Close to tears you watch in horror as the groceries spill onto the concrete floor. A car guard rushes to your assistance, helping you pick up the cans and bags. The change you normally keep in your car was spent yesterday on milk and the smallest you have is a twenty Rand note. "Sorry," you mutter, "I haven't any change today."


"That's all right,' he replies, "I'm pleased I could help you with your shopping."


He walks off to help an old lady into her car and you suddenly notice his worn shoes, the patchwork sewing on his shirt and the baggy trousers held tight with a worn belt. Something catches in your throat and you call him back and pass the twenty Rand note to him.


He touches his hat, smiles and says "Thank you ... thank you very much. And I hope you have a wonderful day." The gratefulness in his voice makes you smile back and you think about your life and realise how lucky you are to have a job, a home and a family.


"Have a good day, yourself," you call as you move off. And you think back, and yes, perhaps it has been a good day after all.