The Parallel Shopping Experience


The Parallel Shopping Experience is that awkwardness that occurs when you arrive at the supermarket at exactly the same time as someone else. It could be a stranger who attracts your attention for a number of reasons – those details are known only by you – or it could be someone you know already. Although, strangely, if it is the latter, you probably don’t know them super well. Not like a besty, or your mum, you know? And then the uncomfortable experience begins. You arrive at the same time, you shop at the same pace, you continually cross paths at Indian curry pastes, the wall of lettuce, free range eggs, exotic bio-dynamic, organic, gluten free dips (still looking the discerning and sophisticated shopper), then tampons, super strength antibacterial deodorants, and toilet paper (cover blown). As you pass each other, time and time again, there is the initial eye contact, the half way smile, the slight aknowledgement of eyebrows lifted or, if you know them, the “How’re things?”. And then, in the same spirit, you arrive at the exact same time at the cash registers. At this point the whole experience has become so uncomfortable and traumatic that a silent agreement is reached and you line up at opposite ends of the vast zone of payment points, sometimes even resorting to self service, to avoid any further contact. Worst case scenario? They parked real close to you in the supermarket carpark.

I would like to share with you the story of one such Parallel Shopping Experience.

It was his hand knit sweater, which attracted my attention. For a youngish man, with sunbleached wispy hair, the jumper was a slightly warring fashion choice. And I guess it was a bit about the wheelchair too. Youngish man. Wispy sun-bleached out-doorsy hair. Chunky brown hand knit. Wheel chair. Safely inside my head I’m thinking, “What’s your story?”. Then the awkwardness began. Same pace! We headed around the aisles and we were neck and neck, passing tinned foods, carbs, baby products, wizzing around the bend at personal hygeine, down the first straight past frozen foods, fresh foods, dairy and bakery and then the home straight, heading towards the finishing line and the, thank you God, two lanes of cash registers. I’m exhausted just reliving this. But he was a gun in that wheelchair. His lap was laden with shopping as he, yes, that’s right, beat me out the automatic doors.

I began across the carpark, watching as he headed towards the beat up station wagon which was parked (I know, right?) directly next to my car.

Well. Now.

He was super quick having the advantage of the wheels on his chair, and he spun across that tar sealing with the finesse of a champion ice skater. Once at his car, he got out of the chair, stood up straight and strong, opened the back passenger door, and threw his heavy bag of shopping in the back seat. Then he folded up his wheelchair, picking it up with one hand, walked with the chair to the back, and he opened the boot with his other hand. Not even a limp.

I blinked a few times and my jaw did drop somewhat. Then I got into my car, mindful the Kanga Pops might melt, and drove directly home.

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