Bagpacking. You’re bound to find yourself doing it at some point in your life as I was the other day. Raising money for a trip to Roses in Spain. However, I had never quite analyzed the people around me as I did that day. So who to start with? Theres plenty to muse about here. The rich and pompous, the poor and humble, the foreigners (who will no doubt send me off on another tangent about immigration) and, of course, the poor saps working at the tills around me.
The till workers were actually a mixture of these factors. Some foreigners, some obviously poor and humble. The majority were Ghurka wives, with hard chiseled features on the older ones but somewhat friendlier looking younger ones. When I say, chiseled features, I mean you could half expect them to be dressed up in a Nazi uniform with black high heels and tiny glasses to cover their beady little eyes. The kind who (if they wanted to punish you or make you suffer in any way) had only to look at you to turn you into a quivering mass of fear in the corner. This woman was indeed quite a scary Ghurka. Lucky for me, though I wasn’t on her till, so I didn’t have to duck and dive out the way of her deadly gaze. Quite difficult when you’re trying to pack people’s bags for them. No, I went for the latter option. The friendlier looking younger one. She turned out to be quite a pleasure to speak to, although I had to listen very carefully as she sounded like she was trying to speak with a whole orange in her mouth! So far I seem to be putting across the impression that only Ghurka women work in Morrisons. There’s plenty of Polish women too. “You have special offer Morrison card” they ask in what sounds to me like “I hate this job” in Polish lingo, judging from the outright downtrodden look on her face. By now I expect you’ll be yelling at the book, saying “what about the bloody Brits that work in Morrisons?!”. Yes, believe it or not, they do exist. I only managed to find one, right on the far end of the tills about four empty ones away from the Ghurkas as if they were saying “we don’t like your kind”. Segregated like a runt in a litter of puppies. This may be a bit of an oversight on my part. Perhaps, like me, he’s getting a bit fed up of all this foreign influence and wishes to be a conscientious objector by being an anti-social git and staying well away from them. Upon seeing this man’s robot-like arm motion, beeping commercialism through on repeat, and the look upon his face; it was quite a poignant moment for me. He was at least sixty five years of age and he was spending part (of what was bound to be, from the look of him) of the last two decades of his life beeping confectionary and loaves through a machine. What could possibly drive a man of such age, to such a desperate form of work? And this was the part that tugged on my heartstrings. You guessed it! The answer is money. Seeing this man symbolizes, for me, a burning hole of a problem in our society. It’s possible this elderly man could have been anything in the past. He could have been really hard working and deserving of a pension. He may have even gone away and fought for queen and country. Then again, he may have been a big-time criminal, just let out after serving time. But, in my opinion, anyone of that age shouldn’t have to be reduced to such a menial job.
“Here come the people that are really going to annoy me”, I think as I see a husband and wife wittering away to each other about whether or not to put the kids through boarding school or something! I detected in them, an aura of sheer pomposity and I was soon proved right when the wife figure came to where the bags were being packed and looked down her nose and through her half-moons at me. After asking politely if she would like me to help her pack, she hesitated for a moment and glanced at the husband figure for assurance to let a peasant do something for them. After about five seconds of careful deliberation, her glance returned to me “Go on then” she sneered. Immediately she was in my bad books. Most of the time it was easy to make a bit of small talk with the customers of Morrisons but I got the impression that talking with this woman would have been like talking to a sheer imbecile, ironically. Both would not talk to you, just for different reasons. So I recognized the lost cause and kept mouth shut, packing away. Mind you, who’s to say she wasn’t just a rich imbecile? She broke the layer of silence with her piercing voice of supposed superiority. “What are you collecting for then”, she said with a slightly nasal tone. “Children in Need is it?” asked the husband. I rather sheepishly said “Well it is for children in need in a sense”. Neither were amused so I went onto the details. “Well we’re off to Roses in Spain to do work experience”. Before I could even move on the wife chirped out “oh, I wish I could go to Spain and do work experience” in a sarcastic tone. Then I decided to put my foot down with the insufferable woman. “You see, as soon as I mention Spain, everyone thinks of sunny beaches and having a nice time. It’s a presumption on your part. We’ll be going to a Spanish school for the first half of the day. Then in the evenings we’ll be doing work experience to practice our speaking skills in a restaurant. For a week!”. She certainly wasn’t expecting that. A mere pleb stood up to her. Oh the shock! The nerve! Well it certainly seemed to put her in her place as by now all the packing was done and other shoppers had to wait while I got my point across! She half grinned half sneered and tossed fifty pence in the bucket. Without saying goodbye she walked off, with her silly dangly scarf swinging behind her back. You’ll find that with the rich ones they usually tend to show objection to what you’re doing and give very little donation. But with the poorer, like the farmers or the builders or the slightly rough council house tenants, you’ll generally receive a two pound coin and they’ll wish you luck with your endeavors.
You can usually tell the rich from the poor just by seeing what they’re buying. Poor people will generally buy own-brand everything. Like “Morrisons simply delicious mince pies” or “the Morrisons toaster. Does ‘yer toast!” Everything that slides down the shiny metal slope will have the little yellow circle with the M in it somewhere. However the rich people stick out like a sore thumb, even before you’ve seen them. Coca Cola3.5LX5 Fabreeze Ansley Harriot’s delicouse assortment etc…item after item of sheer opulence cascades down the shiny slope as all these pop up on the little price screen. Odds are, if each and every one of these items’ equivalent in own brand was bought, the buyer would probably save lots and lots of cash! With these kinds of people the total price always tops at least the one hundred pound mark. Nevertheless, the world is full of surprises and one fell into my bucket with one of these opulent buyers. This one was a little harder to figure out. He was a tall, bald man, wearing the kind of jumper grandma makes you at Christmas with several holes in it. He was around middle-aged and had a trolley load of branded things to buy. After going like the clappers, packing in overdrive, watching him stand there, not helping at all, simply grinning, he finally put a ten pound note in my bucket! He didn’t say anything the whole time. There was no small talk or banter to show other people in the queue I was actually a nice person who wouldn’t break their eggs. None of that. It floated into the bucket and I heard no thud of a coin, only the slight sound of paper. I looked in the bucket with sheer disbelief and went after the man. “Sir!” I said sternly to get his attention “Thank you. It’s very kind of you. Are you sure?” I asked. Again he said nothing, smiled and carried on out into the car park. It was slightly unreal. It was like he was sent by God to remind me that, after all the winging and satirical complaint I’ve made against society, perhaps there are actually still some good people left in the world.
Perhaps it's these little encounters we all need to restore our faith in humanity.
© Copyright 2016 Nick Banks. All rights reserved.
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