On my way home from an afternoon coffee at a friend’s house, I decided to pop into the supermarket to pick up some food for dinner.
Surveying the shelves with rather low energy levels, I decided I would make pasta puttanesca – an oldie, but a goodie (and a really bloody quickie). For this, I needed anchovies.
Surprisingly, this store had a large range of anchovies. I plucked a medium sized jar off the shelf, chucked a couple of other things in the basket as I zoomed through the aisles, and made my way to the checkout.
It was getting rather late, and knowing Mr Moi’s voracious appetite, I stood impatiently in line while I waited for the checkout-chick to finish with the people in front of me. While I was waiting, a young fella came and stood behind me with nothing in his hands.
“Hmm, I wonder what he’s buying,” I thought.
It’s times like this when my imagination goes wild. In the period of about five seconds, I first thought that he might pickpocket me (so I pulled my bag around to the front), then I thought he might be security and want to search my bag (so I shifted by back back around to my back), then I realised he looked like a cool cat, so he’s probably just lining up to by some cigarettes.
By this time, the checkout-chick had started scanning my items. She picked up the anchovies, looked at the jar and said something to me in Russian.
Of course I didn’t understand, and usually in this instance I will say, “I don’t understand”, in Russian. This, of course, leads people to believe that I do understand Russian, but didn’t understand what they just said, so they will persist in Russian, which leads to a prolonged and frustrating exchange, which achieves nothing.
In order to avoid this inevitability, I lazily said to her (in English), “Sorry, I didn’t understand what you said.”
She proceeds to pick up the bottle of anchovies, point to it, then point to a barcode on another product. Pointing back at the anchovies, she said, “Nyet, nyet.”
Fair enough. No barcode. I replied, “Da, harashoo,” to prove that I understood her sign language. She looks at me, shrugs her shoulders with a smile on her face, puts the anchovies aside and continues to scan.
No sign that she’s going to organise a replacement. No sign that she’s going to get a price check.
So I said, “WELL! I’ll just go and get another bottle shall I?” and stormed off, pushing past the cool-cat-security-guard-pickpocketer behind me, saying rather loudly, “F***ing couldn’t get someone to f***ing get a replacement for me, f***ing great customer service grrr.”
(It doesn’t matter that I said f*** out loud. Because in Ukrainian, it means ‘lovely and wonderful, smells like roses’).
I stalked down to the anchovy section, grabbed a bottle (with a barcode), stalked back up to the checkout and slammed it on the belt.
As I’m pulling out my wallet to pay, I notice the cool-cat-security-guard-pickpocketer behind me has started humming a tune.
“Do, do do do do do, do do do do do do do do, don’t worry. Do do do do do do do, be happy, do do do do do.”
Well, coming from a Ukrainian, who I know to be rather terse, humourless and unhelpful (only when you don’t know them), I just had to laugh. Just quietly, and just to myself (didn’t want to give anyone the satisfaction of seeing me happy; it’s not the Ukrainian way).
As I walked off, he started to sing the words. I wanted to grab him and hug him, as it’s the first time in five months that public interaction in a shop or the like has resulted in me breaking out in a grin. But again, it’s not the Ukrainain way.
Still, I walked home happy. If it’s good enough for a Ukrainain, it’s good enough for me. I have a new mantra.