Thursday, May 10, 2007

Queue Nige

Here's a scenario that is played out every day and night in shops the length and breadth of the land, but it still mystifies me. Staggering home last night (no I hadn't been drinknig with Loophole again), I dropped into my local supermarket for a few necessities. As I joined a shortish queue, a woman arrived at its head, having bought a single item for £1.43. This was duly rung up and price announced. A hiatus ensued. The woman, baffled by this development, struggled to compute its various elements - she had 'bought', it seems, an item, and was now expected to 'pay' for it, and this might involve 'money' changing hands. Eventually she had grasped it and began delving in her handbag, where, needless to say, she failed, after much searching, to locate £1.43. A lengthy card transaction followed...
Now the mystery is - why does the fact of having to pay for purchases come as such a shock to some people, finding them totally unprepared. The deeper mystery is that, like it or not, these people are nearly always women - surely nature's shoppers. Any ideas?

16 comments:

  1. I've a feeling it's to do with cultural memory and possibly reincarnation. For the sake of brevity I'll go with reincarnation. For some reason a huge proportion of today's people in past lives were raised in the holy intellectual waters of Marx & the gang, and were infused with an absoute conviction that in the soon to be realised future Utopia, the undesirables of private property & money would be no more. Their faith was so great that now, finding themselves in a world which is manifestly not such a utopia, they are reduced to a kind of dull stupor, unable to reconcile themselves to the unheavenly present. Women being perhaps of greater faith than men, are spiritually more alienated by the unfortunate now.

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  2. I better add....
    And so the situation of having to pay in the shop is especially traumatic, a moment of terrible epiphany where their religious faith meets brute fact. And form there we can see how dualist ideologies such as Manichaeism arise.

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  3. Ingenious and persuasive as ever, Andrew. I think there's a more obvious factor at work too. The self-service form of shopping - now nearly universal - dissociates the experience of choosing from the business of paying. When you have to ask someone for something face to face, it's much clearer what's going on. I suspect that in small shops with manned counters this little drama is played out less often.

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  4. Thanks, Nige. You're right about the disturbing experience of the self-service shopping, and especially the new situation where you pay into a machine, so the human interaction cut off completely. Not just being in jest, but this all connects back to that hats, smoking, dominoes & "There is no society, only individuals" debate. Modern life as abstract.

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  5. Sorry, I'm back to my conviction that you're Bryan, Nige. He has discussed his annoyance at the person shocked at having to pay for a purchase before. Of course, could be that you two talked about it over brews and he was infected with your own irritation, but still. Suspicious.

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  6. These people, though annoying, are as nothing when compared to the people who get to the end of the escalator, stop and look around.

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  7. Is a control thing. Had she played the same thing with women, any woman, no matter how stupid, she would have been strung like a harp, drawn and hanged, and in that order.

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  8. Susan you're right dagnab it - I thought I had a mild sense of deja blogu. I remain, though, most definitely
    Nige

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  9. And David by god yes - and these cretins are invariably hauling huge suitcases behind them on trolleys. They banned smoking in Tube stations long ago, on grounds of fire safety, yes one of these imbeciles cld easily create a fatal escalator pile-up.

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  10. Susan B., musin' on the gloamin' dayMay 10, 2007 7:42 pm

    This is off-topic here, but applicable a few posts down. Still, no one in the blogosphere reads anything older than a day, so I'll put it here.

    Is there anyone besides me who, upon hearing the name "Sarkozy," thinks "Kaposi's Sarcoma"? I'm sorry, but I really can't help it.

    And speaking of diseases and the body politic (this also refers to another post), 'twas it G.K. Chesterton who said, "If the poor are the cholera, the aristocracy are the consumption"? I never quite figured out that quote, though I loved it. Fast, nasty disaster or slow agonizing one?

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  11. Nice thought, Susan, but it hadn't occurred to me. I like that G.K.C quote. Hadn't come across it before. A fast, nasty disaster for me then. Fair enough.

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  12. Thomas Arnold in a letter to his friend Justice Coleridge:

    "You will not sympathize with all the sentiments about Aristocracy, but I think, if you ever see the subsequent volumes, you will find that I have not spared the faults of Democracy. Still I confess that Aristocracy as a predominant element in a government, whether it be aristocracy of skin, of race, of wealth, of nobility, or of priesthood, has been to my mind the greatest source of evil throughout the world, because it has been the most universal and the most enduring. Democracy and tyranny, if in themselves worse, have been, and I think ever will be, less prevalent, at least in Europe; they may be the Cholera, but aristocracy is Consumption; and you know that in our climate Consumption is a far worse scourge in the long run than Cholera. [II, 122; 18 May 1838]"

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  13. David. The original.May 10, 2007 9:33 pm

    Andrew - bollocks. Goes back much farther than that. All to do with women expecting us hunter-gatherer males to do all the practical external stuff. Same with keys. All men will have the front door key deployed 100 yds from the homestead. Women will struggle to find them on the doorstep. Much surprised to discover my mother-in-law has never put any petrol herself in her car in 40 years motoring.

    Incidentally, our local John Lewis employs staff on sale days to haul dawdlers off the escalators lest their be one almighty pile-up.

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  14. 3rd time lucky ...

    Been pondering the Manichaean heresy. What if they're both bad and we're only here because they enjoy bear-baiting ...

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  15. Both bad as in the Good & Evil of the Manichaean worldview both evil? I can certainly see how the ideology might have originated & probably inevitably originated, but I think it's inherently pretty mental in its efforts to balance a perfect spiritual reality experienced as real, with a domain of external reality where perfection seems to be far from view.
    I suppose it's pretty reasonable within Manichaeism to assume we're just the playthings of malevolent super-beings.

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  16. Susan B., still musingMay 10, 2007 11:43 pm

    Dave Lull, my god, man, you can find *anything*! That's the quote in full and p'raps I *read* it in a G.K.C. tome since G.K.C. did, indeed, write about Victorians -- well about Dickens, anyway -- and I did, indeed, write a dissertation about Victorian novelists, including Dickens, and since you cannot write about nineteenth-century England (or 20th, or 21st for that matter) without writing about class, I read a lot about the working classes & the aristocrats and trop de blah blah, as the French say.

    Anyway, glad to see the quote in full.

    To David, the Original: I named the people who stop the instant they step off an elevator as one of my biggest pet peeves. This on a thought-experiment thread not long ago. I wonder if that means you are me? No, you can't be. I fumble for my keys on the porch and drive my husband crazy....

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