The innocent food shop can seem like the most normal thing you can do, and well, it is. But the truth is, it’s rife with opportunities to feel socially weird... in a completely non-social situation. I've already been over the potentially traumatic situation of what it's like to see someone you know in the supermarket here.
Entrance can sometimes be tricky, especially during daytime, because there’s a possibility of being accosted by a charity worker – no, I am not a charity hater, but I DO hate being forced into a Direct Debit 6-month commitment on the spot when I am trying to buy sausages. So it’s important to walk very quickly, suddenly receive a pretend phone call or simply pretend to be so engrossed in music that you are in a semi-trance.
Then, the vegetable aisle. What could be weird about a vegetable, you cry? Well, for starters, the competiveness of it all – one punnet of raspberries back, the speeded-up walking and grabbing, followed by a dirty look from a woman in Hunters and a gilet... Then, when you’re picking up loose fruit, how long is too long when squeezing an avocado, and how many can one pick up and put down without feeling like some weird vegetable squeezer? And if there is a way of picking up a cucumber without looking around furtively and feeling like you’re doing something wrong? No? Just me?
Don’t even get me started on trolley etiquette. Which seems to be non-existent, let’s face it. Yes, man, please do stand in front of the tiny fish display with your massive trolley for five minutes whilst a small queue of fellow shoppers too embarrassed to cough ‘excuse me’ forms. And of course, the little old ladies who leave theirs smack-bang in the middle of the aisle to get that pint of milk they forgot, but then they get talking to Doris from number 4 and everyone else trying to get past has to either do a complete U-turn or stand awkwardly, raising their eyebrows and shaking their heads faux good-naturedly until she comes back.
If it so happens I come across and make eye-contact with an attractive man, it doesn’t often go well. There are so many opportunities to knock objects off shelves, fall over trollies and generally be an idiot. And of course, the inevitable jumbo box of tampons and toilet roll in my basket. It’s just safer to pretend they don’t exist and try not to burp audibly.
Then, of course, the checkout. Sometimes I get weird/annoyed looks because I like to play Tetris with my purchases (it’s oddly satisfying) but that’s by the by. It does mean that it does look very obvious when I am trying to hide something embarrassing, or if I have odd combinations in my basket (once I bought only Marmite and toilet roll without thinking what it looked like. I definitely got a funny look from the cashier). Then when your turn finally comes around, they might not even want to say hi to you – totally crushing, by the way. It’s their JOB. Sometimes, they’ll ask you about your day, which is nice, but sometimes, it’s just an extended silence in which you have to look everywhere else but their eyes, especially during the inexplicably long time that the card machine takes to process when you have nothing to say.
So if you’re not convinced about the supermarket being a minefield for social awkwardness, you’re doing it wrong.