Sometimes you just have to laugh…

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.


18 thoughts on “Sometimes you just have to laugh…

  1. It certainly sounds like something “fishy” was going on…

    I can’t believe you’d swear out loud like that, but then again, given my potty mouth, I’d believe anything when you’re frustrated.

    God Bless Bobby McFerrin!

  2. Dear beccy. I was afraid if I joined in, he might run away. I think i’ve previously mentioned that my singing sounds like fingernails on a blackboard..?

  3. Dear wes. Well, I’ve never been much of a bad swearer (just a good swearer he he) (kidding. I’d use ‘bloody’ and ‘shi*t’ but that’s about it) until I got here. And realised that like the tree falling in the forest, swear words mean nothing if no one can understand them. So now I swear all the time. And will probably get arrested when I return back to Oz. Or run over, from looking to the left for traffic, not to the right.

  4. I probably have ranted and raved and then left it on the counter (cutting off my nose etc) I don’t tend to swear, but my friend from Finland keeps trying to teach me a lovely little phrase to use in such situations it’s a shame I can never remember it when I need it

  5. if a Ukrainian hoodlum knows one word in English, that would be f***. I have it spelled all over my hallway – in most wonderful different ways..

  6. Dear chrisb. Yes, I would have done that too, except… I really wanted the anchovies! I usually go to the other supermarket, where they don’t seem to have any, so I wasn’t about to leave without them in my hot little hands.

    Dear olechko. Yes I have f*** all over my walls too, and, stragely… ‘Metallica’. But nothing recent, as they put a lock-door in late last year.

  7. I’m glad you were able to find a reason to laugh! Interactions like that can definitely be frustrating. I tend to get annoyed pretty easily. 🙂

  8. that’s great!! I would be so ostracized there…I regularly just start talking to random strangers and if I have the urge to smile, I let it out!! hehe
    however, I can’t help but wonder why the hell are they selling something without a bar code if they won’t even bother to guess a price or do something about it???

  9. I must remember to use the F word more next time I go to the Ukraine (if I ever go to the Ukraine again). I learnt Italian for a while and the first thing the young teacher taught me to say was f-k off. She said you might as well start with the most useful phrase if you’re going to be driving in Italy.

  10. Everyone knows that you really MUST have anchovies in Puttanesca. do you think he might have spoken English?? or was he definitely Ukrainian. See ya in 2 weeks!!!

  11. Perhaps you can teach me some Ukrainian versions of f*** off, I have a meeting with my boss later today and he doesn’t like it much when I say the english version of it.

  12. Dear zandria. I get very frustrated too, especially in shops. In fact, usually Mr Moi has to send me away while he deals with problems in shops, as I’m too cranky.

    Dear sabrina. Here here. Back to your problem of not being able to get everything you want in your one stop shop. That’s why I wasn’t leaving without the anchovies – who knows when I could have been bothered to go to this shop next.

    Dear claudia. Yes I never realised how much of a natural chatterbox I am in public places, until this happened yesterday. Now I’ll really start to miss it!

    Dear Karmyn. You’re probably right, I never thought of it like that. We could all experiment, humming that song next time we’re in the shops and see how people react.

    Dear tony. I agree with your italian teacher. But the swear words don’t really work over here, as a shouting match is the modus operandi for anyone in customer service. My mum has mastered driving in Italy and her driving’s never been safe.. er I mean, the same, again.

    Dear mum. Too right. And tuna.

    Dear theotherbear. I don’t know the Russian for f***. But I do know that the english word saucer is the same as the Russian word whore….? That might help?

  13. great story. you seem to be finding lots of happy ukrainians, are you in a lucky streak? and how was the pasta in the end ? (enid’s very hungry today.)

    found your new blog, by the way! enid’s looking forward to some reading…

  14. Dear enid. Hmmm.. you’re right. Perhaps I am finding a lot of happy ukrainians. But being a raging Ukie beer alco certainly helps me see the lighter side of life (OK. that was a joke. But I didn’t want to say it was all the drugs I’d been smoking in case the police find my blog and thought I was serious).

    Ooohhh early morning paranoia

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