Wednesday, 31 October 2012
This was a Sunday afternoon experience I did not expect. Our weekend was thrown into turmoil as a result of taking on a new town centre office and having to do out of hours work getting it fitted out.
My lovely wife was running around after kids and their Sunday activities, and I was on the tools installing bespoke magnetic display panels. Normally I'd be at home preparing our traditional Sunday roast, but that afternoon it was not possible. As a consolation I offered to go to Waitrose for a pre-cooked chicken before 4pm closing so all I'd need to do was roast some small chipped potatoes, steam some greens and make a sauce. Sounds simple and quick, I'm sure you'll agree.
It was simple I'll admit. But getting there involved an experience I had not predicted. I rushed to the nearby Waitrose at about 3:50 and headed straight for the cooked chicken counter panicking that there may be none left. I was in luck.
I spent a few minutes pondering over whether one large or two small chickens would meet our needs whilst I felt mildly ignored by the three assistants behind the counter as they seemed to be just chatting to the only other customer beside me. I'd just made my decision (2 small ones) when an announcement came over the PA. I was so fixated with my need for chickens I didn't hear a word of it. The next thing I was aware of was the giggling behind the counter as the assistants announced 'all chickens 99p' as the shop was about to close. The eyes in the back of my head sensed a swarm of customers approaching, and to my front the staff were saying 'quick! buy the lot before the usual mob grab them all!' Jesting I said 'I'll take them all for a tenner' still not aware of the 'usual' crowd building up behind me. All of a sudden I became acutely aware of the tension around me, I slowly turned around to see about 20 anxious people, hovering around nervously with empty shopping baskets, each one jostling for position hoping not to miss out on one of the dozen or so 99p bargains. Not a queue, just a sort of wriggling gathering.
I feel a bit mean writing this, as I truly understand how that for some the need for value for money food is so real, but my mind couldn't stop speculating... 'the usuals'? I thought. I imagined the same bunch of people visting the supermarket at a specific time, anxiously wandering around with empty shopping baskets, hoping to score the cooked chicken for a quid. They all know each other I'm sure, but are afraid to acknowledge that in case it jeopardises their chances at the counter. And they just might miss out on that 99p Sunday treat bargain.
One chicken did the job for our Sunday dinner, and the second one became a Thai green chicken curry the next day. And a bargain at that.