May 5, 2008


There I was then. An elderly lady, shuffling forward in acute embarrassment in a supermarket queue, with a large box of condoms in my hands!
Try as I might to hide the object, there was no way it would fit into my handbag or coat pocket, so I pretended not to notice it.
Lord... why do things like this always happen to me? I only went in for a bus card!
There were just two people in front of me, a mother and her small fed up son.
'Wannago!' He yelled and kicked backwards, narrowly missing my shins.
Disapproving eyes were turned upon him and I was grateful for the distraction but his flustered parent soon yanked him away and it was suddenly my turn.
I try again. 'Err..errr'. This was no good.
It was happening again. Whenever I am nervous, I can't get the Dutch words into the right order - which is back-to-front to English. My brain was synapsing into overdrive, while the sixteen-year-old, gum-chewing cashier, stared through me in bored silence. I could read her thoughts.
'Goh, not another demented old lady searching for the lav'...'
Sighing deeply and with a quasi-nonchalant air, I put the huge box of condoms on the counter.
The girl swallowed her gum.
'Er, I was trying to buy a bus card from the vending machine by the doors and accidentally pressed the wrong code in,' I explained.
The girl's body language was wary and her gaze unblinking but she didn't answer and I fought off frustration.
Oh bother! Had I said it right? Was she confused by my English accent? I was about to start again when she suddenly gave voice:
'Hans! Bring the key!'
An instant lull in the supermarket buzz led to necks straining and heads bobbing, as other customers sought to locate the reason for the hold up. They looked at the girl; at me; at the box on the counter - which to my despairing eyes appeared to have doubled in size.
Teenage girls giggled and young boys smirked, while two middle-aged women observed my flushing face and grinned wryly.
'Heb je shance schat?' Asked one of them in the Dutch equivalent of: 'Got lucky 'ave yer luv?'
Meanwhile the girl was handing the box of condoms to the newly arrived Hans, a gangling youth, all of seventeen-years-old and whose jacket and tie indicated a position of authority.
Dithering after Hans in the direction of the vending machine, I felt the urgent need to convince him of my irreproachable character.
'I just wanted a bus card and pressed the four and the seven but the seven didn't take and so there was just the four, so then I pressed the six, because you can get bus cards with forty-six as well. But then something went wrong because the four disappeared and then there was the seven and six on the screen and apparently seventy-six is the code number for the er... the box of ...er... 'things', because they fell down into the drawer... And oh yes, I paid with a ten euro note which would have been enough for the bus card plus change - but the er... 'things' obviously cost more because I didn't get any change either.'
To give him credit, Hans did stay calm. He just ignored me. By now even more customers were noticing my plight and from their disdainful glances, I was sure that they were not convinced of my piety either. Not only was I a promiscuous old woman but judging from my stuttering word-waterfall, a promiscuous old English woman to boot! Ha!
Hans emerged at last from the depths of the vending machine with my bus card and change and looked briefly into my miserable eyes. A quick amused smile - perhaps I reminded him of his Gran - and he was gone.
Then suddenly out of the blue, a chorus of commiseration! It was all in Dutch but for once the guttural sounds were music to my red tipped ears.
'Always happens to me too,' grumbled an old man beside me.
'Yer either lose yer change or almost get yer fingers sliced off by that drawer flap thingy.'
'That's right!' A woman this time.
'Yeah, ought to be a law against them things.' Another man.
'It's always the same,' The first man again. 'Tried to get postage stamps out of that infernal contraption last week and ended up with bloody Fisherman's Friend!'
Then just as suddenly as they had appeared, these good people were gone, perhaps never to cross my path again - but leaving me feeling much better! I even felt ready to tackle the dreaded doors.
Oh those murderous, sliding doors... An electronic arrangement imbued with an errant computer system that causes the doors to snap shut on you while you are still only halfway through. Once they have extricated themselves, people often find that their bag, trolley or precious small child is still on the other side(!) Much energetic leaping up and down is then required to get the doors to open again but luckily for me, someone was already leaping. The air was blue with frustrated cries of: Joh! Hup hup! Rot deuren! (Rotten doors) and Potverdommer! (Uninterpretable). People outside were leaping too but nothing was happening and I wondered if the unsynchronized jumps were canceling each other out?
Hup! Hup! Men, women kids and a barking dog tied up near the door leaped for Holland.
'Hup Holland hup!'
Enter Hans with another key and after a bit of fiddling somewhere near the top of the doors, they slid stiffly apart, allowing the hoards to bang into each other in their efforts to get in and out without being sliced in two.
Unbelievably, I made it safely to the street and turned for home. A watery sun was smiling down and the thought of a pot of tea and a packet of chocy biccys brought renewed vigour to my step!
It was touch and go for a while there - and all very undignified - but tomorrow is another day and I am determined that it will take more than a bunch of vending machines and door gremlins to bring me down!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for making me feel so much better. It's good to know I'm not the only one getting into these situations!!


ps I always blamed everything on the fact that it was just me from a young age which saves me from blaming it on my old age now.

Geri Atric said...

Glad you feel better Anne. Don't forget to eat your ontiaccidents...er antioxidants.

Anonymous said...

Thankfully we do not have many of those machines in Northern Ireland.

Geri Atric said...

Glad to hear it grannymar!
Dreadful things that they are. I'm sure they're all out to get us.