Today I went shopping. Nothing marvelous about that, I know. But usually when I go shopping, it’s last thing on a Sunday night, or 7pm some evening after work. The routine goes something like this: Race into Coles (I know, I hate them too, but they’re everywhere and open all the time), grab a basket (try to find a clean one), throw in bread, milk, meat and a few veges, work snacks, use the self-checkout and race out again. It’s a dull chore
Today there was no such rush, since I quit work last week. I love doing my own scanning, and my own bagging, so I headed over to the self-checkout. I like to take my time organising things into appropriate categories, and bagging them accordingly. Today, for the first time in decades, I had all the time in the world.
We still get free plastic bags in Australia. Go to Europe and Tesco just flicks your goodies through the scanner and leaves them piled up on the counter.
First time that happened to me, I was in Freiburg, Germany. I didn’t have a lot, but it was certainly more than I could fit in my pockets. I paid the checkout chick, and she gave me a receipt. Then I stood and looked at the pile of groceries, as she just started flicking the next person’s stuff through after mine.
I gave her a quizzical look. She responded with “Gehts und spacken sie unter inten” … or words to that effect.
“What? Where’s the bags? I have to do this myself??”
She was not amused and raised her voice. “Spacken hoonten shmeeren vassen!!”
I was staying in Freiburg with a Tunisian guy, whom I was tutoring through his exams/assignments for his degree in Tourism and Event management. I had met him some years before at a hostel in Freiburg where I had gone to boycott Christmas.
The hostel had put on a German movie in the common room and I sat in the second back row of the makeshift theatre. I had been learning German for over a year before I first traveled there, and was keen to see if I could keep up with the movie. I couldn’t. It was crap.
Just as I was about to give up and go to bed, a rich, Arabic voice whispered into my ear “Want to get out of here?”
I turned to see if the picture fit the voice. In the dim light, I was met by a seven-foot, attractive young man with olive skin, dark hair, and brown eyes that sparkled with the changing light of the screen. “Hell, yes!” I whispered back. It was one of many expressions I had to explain to him for years after.
We snuck out of a side door, and went down to the local pub to partake of the local brew. I found out this amazing Tunisian spoke seven languages fluently. It was the first of many lessons in humility I learned travelling the globe.
Now, three years later, we were shopping in that same city. The German-seasoned Arab and me. Just as he had saved me from the dull movie, he stepped up again, tutting and shaking his head, produced a back pack, and loaded up the groceries.
We left with the German checkout chick scowling at my stupidity, me muttering about bloody scabby Germans not even providing grocery bags, and the Tunisian telling me off for being a spoilt Australian.
“How are you goin’ there?”
I looked to my side and there was a Coles service lady looking at me like I was handicapped and required assistance.
“I’m fine, thanks”
“Oh, ok. I just thought you required some assistance to finish up.”
I realised I had been staring at the scanner, reminiscing about Freiburg, and the stunning Tunisian.
“No, I was just distracted a second. But thanks for the bags.”
She looked at me like I was not all there.
For a few seconds, I wasn’t.