QUID PRO QUO

At the checkout counter of my local supermarket this morning, I reached into my bag to pay for my shopping, and pulled out a pack of ‘Bronco, The Deluxe Toilet paper’, unopened since it was manufactured more than 40 years ago. I placed it on the checkout counter, and delved back into my bag. There’s so much in there it’s always hard to find what I’m looking for.

My hand brushed against something purse-like. It turned out to be the leather bound note pad which I bought, a couple of years ago, for my shopping lists. I flicked through it. Only the first page had been written on. It said ‘Next time, remember to write a list.’

What was this? A 2007 copy of plastic spoon collectors weekly. That, too, went onto the counter, while I searched deeper. Out came a half empty tin of Vinyl Matt Emulsion. The colour was called Mort, and I had painted the whole house with it, just before my husband ran out, screaming. He never returned. It’s a difficult colour to live with, but it did the trick.

This was followed by an old box of box of hair curlers. I bought them when I was still easily swayed by the power of advertising. It said in the advert that they would give my hair beautiful wavy curls, and the subliminal message seemed to be that they would make me irresistible to men. I wore them out once, but the result was disappointing, to say the least.
I never wore them again.

The shop assistant stood, waiting patiently. I added a 1950’s cotton apron with a pattern of sewing machines, gas ovens and vacuum cleaners on it – only slightly stained down one side, a battered old clockwork car, a carpet tile, a bag of ball bearings (handy on the garden path when you don’t feel like receiving visitors), and a chipped bakelite door handle. As I piled each item up, I glanced at the shop assistant. His eyes flickered impassively towards the growing mountain.

I pulled out a cutting from an old magazine, offering a free trial pack of disposable nose hair clippers.

The till rang up. It opened. He swept the toilet roll, the magazine, the paint, the curlers, the apron, the car, the carpet tile, the ball bearings and the door handle into the dispenser. I saw him sneakily slip the magazine cutting into his pocket.

”Here’s your change, madam,” he said, handing me a pair of boxing gloves and a set of 4 lace-edged antimacassars.

I was sure that wasn’t right!

I took the receipt, and marched quickly out of the shop, before he had time to realise that he had over-changed me by two antimacassars.

© Jane Paterson Basil

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