I join what seems to be the shortest queue. It’s not moving, in fact the customer and the cashier are chatting, even though the customer’s bags are full and ready to go, and her card is an inch from the reader. After a few moments, she looks back at us.
“Sorry, it’s my fault.”
The cashier demurs.
“No, it’s ours actually. Dud barcode.”
“Don’t worry,” says the lady in front of me. “They’re open till nine this evening.”
We all now start politely looking back into the shop in the hope of spotting an official person carrying a loaf of bread. Time passes. I look out of the window.
“It’s stopped raining while we wait,” I observe.
“Don’t worry,” says the lady at the next checkout, over her shoulder. “It’ll start again.”
I risk looking behind me. There’s only one person, and he doesn’t seem particularly aware of the passage of time. I resist the temptation to inspect the contents of his trolley and ask questions like What on earth are you going to do with all that milk? The official shop lady appears on the horizon, holding the loaf high like an Olympic torch. There’s an in house technical discussion, then the transaction is complete and the customer pushes her card into the slot. I feel her pain, but I also think please, let her get it right. She does, very coolly considering, and gives us a wry grin and a cheery wave as she departs.
The lady in front of me steps forward. She looks at me.
“I’m a bit slow too,” she says.
“Don’t worry,” I reply.
When I get outside it’s pissing down. Which doesn’t matter in the least.