There’s definitely an upside to shopping online writes Darrel Bristow-Bovey, even though you can’t squeeze the fruit.
I was explaining to my partner why I don’t like online shopping. “It’s too impersonal,” I said. “I like to squeeze the fruit to see if it’s fresh. I don’t want my peaches to arrive all mushy.”
“They wouldn’t be mushy if people like you didn’t go around squeezing them,” said my partner. “Anyway, don’t buy fruit online, if you don’t want. Buy the other stuff.”
“No,” I said, stubborn as an old man in a checkout queue querying the price of a can of tuna. “I like to see what I’m buying.”
“Do you honestly think it makes a difference to shake the washing powder? What do you think? Some boxes are lighter than others?”
“You never know,” I said evasively. I don’t like it when she uses logic against me. “Anyway, living online is inhuman. One of the joys of shopping is interacting with other people.”
She stared incredulously. “Since when do you interact with other people?!” she demanded. “Swearing doesn’t count as interaction.”
“If people don’t want to be sworn at, they shouldn’t just stop in the middle of the aisle,” I muttered under my breath.
I’ll show her, I thought that afternoon, as I pushed my trolley into my local store. She doesn’t know me as well as she thinks she does.
I breezed down the aisles, smiling like a preacher and dispensing “Good afternoons” in every direction. It turns out this is an excellent way to clear space in a crowded store. People edged away; mothers pulled their children closer to their sides. This is great, I thought. This is the best shopping experience I’ve ever had.
I was in the aisle with the toilet rolls, reaching out my hand towards the merchandise, when I heard a hearty “Hello!”
I froze. Of all people to bump into, casual acquaintances are the worst. You can ignore good friends and strangers, but casuals demand small-talk. As she jabbered, I felt her eyes lightly scan my trolley for clues to my personality. I brazened it out. There’s nothing you can know about me from three bars of chocolate and a packet of spaghetti. But then …
“Don’t let me hold you up from your shopping,” she said. I looked at my hand, still frozen in mid-stretch for the toilet rolls.
She waited expectantly. This was a dilemma. If I were to reach for the luxury quilted three-ply she’d think, What a princess! Who does he think he is? Is he stocking the bathrooms at Nkandla?
Also, I don’t like three-ply. I think it’s over-rated and ineffective, and lacking in traction. In some situations, it’s possible to have too much luxury.
But I couldn’t reach for the one-ply either. One-ply isn’t toilet paper, it’s a cry for help. She would look at me with pity and contempt and think, Why doesn’t he love himself? If he doesn’t love himself, how can he expect anyone else to love him?
But two-ply? How pedestrian! How middle of the road! I don’t want her to sit at her book clubs or dinner parties saying, “Oh, you know Darrel? I thought he was quite interesting but then I discovered he’s just a two-ply kind of guy.”
I don’t want anyone to know I’m a two-ply kind of guy. In fact, I don’t want anyone to know I use toilet paper at all! These are private matters!
I arrived home and my partner looked in puzzlement at the packet containing three bars of chocolate and a packet of spaghetti.
“Where’s all the rest of the shopping?” she said.
“I’ll get it now,” I said, turning on the computer.