Sunday, 20 March 2011

Saturday's Strange Shopping - Social Networking

For no particular, foreseeable reason, yesterday's shopping was full of unusual events.

For the first time ever, Babcia thought what she would like me to buy for her meals in the week ahead and asked for some things that I wouldn't buy normally: sour cabbage, pigeonettes -I just made that up, but it's a reasonable translation of the Polish 'gołąbki' (pork mince wrapped in cabbage) and potato dumplings - Kluski Śląski, although Pyzy are pretty much the same thing.

The shock of this - actually it was more a matter of last-minute distraction - resulted in my leaving without my wallet. I realised in the car-park in Tesco, Piastów that I would have to go through the chore of getting money from the bank machine, then getting change to put a coin in the trolley. However, there in the trolley bay near the car: a loose trolley - unusual in this Tesco.

I have a fairly standard routine going round all the shelves: I pretty much know where everything is. Unusual requests can get me going around several times. I found the potato dumplings without any problem. I bought them stuffed with meat, but they could have been plain. There was even a choice of Kluski Śląski and Pyzy. However, finding neither the sour cabbage nor the pigeonettes, I was wandering to and fro revisiting possible sets of shelves, finally concluding that they didn't have any. How much shopping in Poland has evolved since the days when barrels of sour cabbage, sold by weight, were a routine sight in every shop?

At the alcohol paying desk, the man before me couldn't separate the plastic bags. I gave him one. He then had difficulty putting his bottle of, I don't know what, into it. I did this for him as well. My initial thought had been that he had something wrong with his hands. It eventually dawned on me that he might be drunk. However, drunks aren't normal in Tesco and, more importantly, he didn't smell of alcohol. Anyway, it was my good deed for the day.

I realised that I didn't have my loyalty card. No problem, but it gives a good amount of money back and I now found myself in the confused state of 'Do I want this?'; 'Can it wait until I have my card?'; followed by 'What are you wasting your money on anyway?'. This came to a head in the garden plant area. Once, they've been in the warmth of the supermarket for a time, leaves sprout and immediate death awaits them outside at this time of year. 'Yes I want them'. 'I can wait, but they could be unusable by the time I get back.' Then came protracted dallying on likelihood of survival, likelihood of decent growth and 'where will I put them anyway'. The outcome itself isn't even important.

Then to the checkout. I don't mind waiting a bit and the staff are quick. I normally buy slightly more than will fit on the moving belt, but the cashiers and I manage it, engendering little extra delay for people behind. However, having half-filled the belt with the non-crushable items for the bottom of the trolley, the lady in front of me started moving her things forward so the cashier could reach them. Instead of the belt moving forward, my shopping was stuck halfway along. Not wanting to start moving the whole lot by hand - that's what the belt is for, and not wanting to put crushable first, I waited until her shopping was cleared. She was trying to be helpful, but it delayed everything. Little of my shopping was on the belt when the cashier started.

An angel was there to help me, though. The young lady behind me offered to help put out the shopping. My Polish was not good enough to explain about delicate goods, separating chemical from food, etc. She spoke to me in English and said she understood. When everything was taken out of the trolley, she helped me put the shopping in the bags. Since, with my experience with scouts and youth group members packing in the supermarkets has not been very good - 'please don't do anything, but here's the money for your willingness to help', I felt reluctant about the whole process, but she was very sweet. If I'd been alone in Poland I would have asked her (and what looked like her Mum) for a cup of coffee (outside the supermarket). Instead, I gave her the points for her loyalty card, which she was happy to have.

Actually, I was so impressed with her kindness, that it was only whilst writing this that I thought she may have assumed that men were incapable of dealing with such shopping by themselves. Whilst this is an ungracious thought, I have had expressions of surprise in Polish supermarkets in the past about doing the family weekly shopping without female company - 'Are you on your own?'.

I wonder how many people will be sufficiently interested in the trivia I've written above to read through it all. I was going to say that I must be one such person, having managed to sit through half an hour or so of the film, 'The Social Network'. However, looking at Wikipedia, maybe I'm not: people seem to like it. The film starts out by brilliantly setting out the personality of the main character - the creator of Facebook. It's brilliant, because he has a fundamentally boring personality, which must be almost impossible to depict in an interesting way; yet it does. However, after half an hour or so feeling that was all the film offered, I'd had enough and gave up. Definitely not worth the 30zl it costs with Gala or whatever magazine it is.

Pretty obviously, I don't care about Facebook itself and the squabbles like those in the film about copyright theft and breach of trust are ancient business history. There have been numerous music industry cases, for example. I particularly recall a comment by Dave Batholomew about Chuck Berry's only Number 1 US hit, 'My Ding-a-Ling' from 1972: "I don't care if he [Chuck Berry] got the credit, I got the money" - not without a fight, obviously.

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