james dreyfus, notting hill, bookstore, shop worker, nosey

Back off my shopping basket

Observation is a peculiar thing. Sometimes we welcome it, crave it, demand it: “Notice anything different about me?”

But when it comes to those day-to-day transactions with strangers, observation can feel… invasive. Isn’t it best if the person behind the till in the local supermarket or dry cleaners just sticks to “Morning!” and “Bye!” Or it all gets a bit intimate. What you really don’t want is the feeling that you are being monitored. Or – worse – that someone is performing some kind of Mystic Meg/Harvard Business School analysis of your purchasing habits and what they say about your personality.

I take apples to the office everyday. We share them. Someone else gets milk. Another person gets the odd croissant. You get the picture. “Gosh,” said the lady in the Co-op the other day, “You eat a lot of apples.” I now go to the Tesco Metro down the road; slightly shamed by the judgement on my apple consumption. I dropped off a nightie at the dry cleaner/repair place this morning. It was torn down the back – I ripped it taking the rubbish out. “Interesting,” said the man with a full-on wink. Now I can never go there again because he thinks I have nightie-ripping sex which, sadly, I do not. And we’ve all met the grocery delivery guy who says, “Having a party are you?” No. I am a borderline alcoholic and no I don’t have any bags to recycle.

What next? The chemist saying, “Wow that’s a lot of tampons/condoms/worm tablets you heavy bleeder/total slut/worm incubator”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for service and human interaction. I’d rather have a chat than spend anytime near those automatic tellers and their oppressive bagging area suspicions any day. But what’s in my basket can’t be a conversation starter. Maybe stick to the weather.

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