green beans & other crises

The checkout guy has only just sat down at the till. I nod as I pass by to check if he’s open; he grimaces as he hangs his fleece on the back of the chair, which isn’t a definitive no, so I start unloading.
‘I can’t believe my luck,’ I tell him. ‘This never happens to me.’
‘Yeah?’ he says. ‘Well it always happens to me. Is it six yet?’
‘No. I think it’s only about half past four.’
The nightmare continues.’
I finish unloading the trolley.
‘So! How’s your day been?’ I say, setting out the divider and moving on with my bags ready.
‘Long’ he says. ‘Very long. And I just had a very unsatisfactory meeting with my manager. I say meeting,’ he says, holding a packet of green beans in front of him, staring down at them as if they’re implicated but he can’t figure out how. ‘It was more a conversation at the bottom of a stairwell, really.’
He passes me the beans. I pack them.
‘Sorry to hear that,’ I say.
‘Do you ever get those conversations where you walk away at the end and think
what the hell was that all about?’
He swipes a few more things through.
‘What do you do, then?’ he asks.
‘I work in community health.’
‘Ah! So you’ve seen it, then.’
‘I suppose so.’
Community health’ he says, trying out the words for size. ‘Like it, d’you?’
‘It’s alright. Keeps me in beans. To be honest, I’m looking around.’
He snorts.
‘Well don’t look around here. That’ll be twenty six pounds and ninety eight pence.’
Just at that moment a woman at the neighbouring till reaches over and taps me on the arm. It’s Jenna, a parent I used to know when the girls were at primary school. I haven’t seen her for a while, and to be honest it’s a miracle I remember her name – I think because I just say it quickly and don’t have time to panic. I offer to pack for her but she says no, she’s got a system. We swap quick summary stories about what the kids are up to, and then say goodbye – to the checkout guy, too. I walk away feeling pretty smug. I bet he’s thinking there goes the community health guy, chatting to everyone, buying green beans and everything. But then again – probably not. I bet he’s just thinking how the hell he’ll get through the next hour and twenty five minutes before he can be walking out the door, too.


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