It has come to my attention that I might be a bit competitive.
I have two children, and I never let them win at games, because: character building. In fact the eldest just got his first pair of contact lenses, and we may be having competitions to see who can pop them in first. I have the very slight advantage of wearing contacts every day for the last twenty nine years. (But if you want to know, I am whipping that kid.)
Tonight I went to Coles, and I was doing that thing with a nubile young thing in tiny exercise shorts and taut brown skin. You know, when you pass each other in the middle of each aisle as you approach from opposite directions, because you are shopping at the same pace.
So I picked up my pace a little. “In your face, young thing”, I thought, as I prepared to intersect, not in the middle, but more up her end, near the salsa.
But she had mysteriously sped up too.
As soon as I got out of her eye-shot I hot-footed it around the bend only to find she was also moving quite swiftly. “I’ll show you, youthful one,” I sneered to myself, “I’ve been shopping a lot longer than you, and I already know which brands contain the dodgy numbers and which ones are the best value, I’ll sort you out once you have to stop and check where Greenseas catch their tuna. Or something.”
The thing was, as I picked up more and more speed, so did she. My old legs were beginning to tire. Hers were showing no signs of letting up. In fact, I think she was just coming into her stride. Faster and faster I went, grabbing any old stuff on the fly, filling the trolley with honey (I think we need some), toilet paper (we’re sure to need it someday) and eggs (we always need those little chicken menstruations to feed the ferals).
Finally, we had a little sprint at the end and arrived at the registers at the same time. I looked at her, she looked at me. I made the controversial decision: Self Scanning.
And you better believe I scanned those goodies like an Aldi checkout chick on cola. My biceps were bulging with the effort, my brachioradialis was burning with the speed. People were turning their heads, and staring in awe and disbelief. Or they were just looking around to see what all the grunting was about.
Finally, I escaped out of the refrigerated muzak box that is our local Coles, and into the freedom of the humid evening, basking, basking at my success. Shopping Superstar, 2014: Beating fit young chicks at the shops since 1991
I waltzed along in the afterglow of elation, secure in the knowledge that I may be ancient, but I can still pip the next generation at the post.
When suddenly, from behind me, there was a clash and a clatter of a trolley. And not any kind of trolley. I could tell by the cadence of the casters it was one of those svelte new mid-week shop specials, you know the ones with the wheels that actually turn and the smaller baskets? I turned my head as if in slow motion: my nemesis. She had a swift trolley, muscular legs and the eye of the tiger. I stepped up the pace as she caught up and passed me, racing to her car, which happened to be parked next to mine.
I pushed and pulled my dinosaur trolley as fast as my creaking articulations would allow, sweating now with the effort and keening internally at the anguish of being stripped of my prize.
We opened our car boots, me with an automatic push button thing, her with an old school key. We unpacked our trolleys bag for bag, hearts racing towards the goal. (Well mine was racing like I was about to have a coronary- her’s was probably beating at an even 68.)
Finally we were done, at almost the precise same moment. The moment of truth was upon us. To return the trolleys, or not?
I eyed off the distance. I questioned my ethics. And as I always do in these moments, I asked myself: What would my Dad* do? There really was nothing else for it. Trolley Return. I ran with the spirit of my deceased father spurring me on, I ran for all old ladies everywhere, I ran to prove that we are NOT old and irrelevant. I ran even though my shrivelled menopausal uterus was threatening to prolapse onto the asphalt. I ran for freedom. (Well, maybe not freedom. I may have been getting carried away. But I AM pretty sure Chariots of Fire was playing softly somewhere.)
I chanced a glance over my shoulder, only to see my competitor safely ensconced in her vehicle, trolley pushed haphazardly over near the planter boxes. SHE CHOSE NOT TO RETURN IT. As she slowly reversed her 1992 Fiesta into the traffic, she wound down her window (manually of course), and our eyes locked. Hers: bright and twinkling with victory, mine: rheumy and faded with defeat. She turned up her radio and the sound of some doof-doof-doof tune of success filled the night air.
I hung my head, with the shame of defeat and the heaviness of ethics bearing down on me. I shuffled back to my car, glancing at her abandoned trolley as I passed. In it, was a bag. I went over to inspect it, and, lo, she had neglected to unpack her final bag. It contained a few boring things, and then, the bounty:
Dairy Milk Bubbly, on special today for $2.
So I have some final words for you P-Plate-Princess, some pearls of wisdom from the older generation, something perhaps to enhance your life and make you a better person:
Suck Shit. (To the victor goes the spoils.)
*AKA the most ethical man in the Universe.
Do you return your trolley?
…From The Ashers
*AKA the most ethical man in the Universe.