- Wrong-Way Aisle
By Didi Gorman
** This piece was written during the COVID-19 lockdown **
to get used to the new procedure in stores now, where you have to follow arrows
on the floor, looping in and out of aisles in a quest to find a desired merchandise.
The first time I was introduced to this method, I needed to wrap my head around several points, such as why I’d been assigned a cart if I only needed to get a chewing gum, and whether having an assistant at the entrance, greeting customers, explaining the procedure to them and squirting their hands with disinfectant was not, in fact, defeating the whole point of physical distancing; but I’ve learned not to ask too many questions; just grab the designated cart and get on with it.
Anyway, this story is not about that. It’s about the pitfalls of this new order.
The other day, I journeyed through many aisles all the way to the far end of the store.
I passed through aisle #1 (where I didn’t need anything), wandered across aisle #2 (where I didn’t need anything either), patrolled aisle #3 (nothing), trekked along aisle #4 (still nothing), meandered into aisle #5 (nope), traversed aisle #6 (empty-handed), cruised down aisle #7 (still empty-handed but beginning to feel thirsty), roamed aisle #8 (no purchases, but certainly thirstier), to finally reach my destination in aisle #9, where I picked a toothbrush and was ready to head to checkout.
Only that by then I was quite dehydrated from all that physical activity (and my glasses were fogging up too – probably because I was wearing a bandana over my nose, rather than a regular facemask).
In which aisle were the drinks again?
Mmm, in aisle #3. But how to get there? I couldn’t simply go there; not without infringing on law and order. Imagine the chaos if folks just decided to walk in a clockwise direction in counter-clockwise aisles!
I needed to carefully strategize my trip back.
A genius idea occurred to me. I’d stealthily tippy-toe along the sidewall all the way back to aisle #3, but since I’d be arriving from the opposite direction, I would REVERSE into the aisle!
I executed my plan to perfection, returning to aisle #3, turning my back and walking backwards, dragging the cart with me. The drinks were only a few steps away.
I’m so sly! I’m so sneaky! I’m so clev–
The collision left my head spinning (and my glasses crooked). I slowly turned around. I was face to face with another lady. She too had been sly and sneaky. She too had been reversing into the aisle, only from the other direction. She was holding a bottle of shampoo which had almost dropped out of her hands when we crashed.
She mumbled something incomprehensible at me through her facemask.
I mumbled something equally incomprehensible at her, through mine.
I couldn’t read her expression since my lopsided glasses had been steaming up. But even so, I was pretty sure she had just narrowed her eyes at me. She was now motioning at me, raising her voice slightly. It still sounded muffled but it seemed she was ordering me out of her way.
Oh, really? How impolite!
Neither of us budged.
She raised her voice higher, pointing at me.
There was a standoff.
Now I could clearly hear her utter the word ‘duel’.
Has it really come to that? Wouldn’t it have been so much easier if she had simply said sorry and let me pass? Some people’s egos are way too inflated for their own good, let me tell you that, but fine! We shall settle this with a duel!
I snorted loudly, turned my back to her and counted ten steps, then I quickly spun back, stretched my right arm forward, waving my toothbrush about, ready for a fencing match. Too bad I couldn’t see much, now that the thick mist on my glasses clouded my vision entirely.
My spectacular maneuver left her in utter shock. “What in the name of the Lord are you doing?” she cried. “It’s me, cousin Sheila!”
I took my glasses off, wiped them on my sleeve and placed them back as best I could.
Lo and behold, indeed, this was cousin Sheila!
“Cousin Sheila! What a surprise seeing you here of all places! But why in the world did you challenge me to a duel?”
“I didn’t challenge you to a DUEL,” she replied. “I asked, ‘How are you DOING?’”
Oh! How silly of me! And to think we were about to engage in a battle; me swinging a toothbrush in the air; her brandishing a shampoo!
After we laughed it off, we picked two water bottles, followed the arrows all the way to checkout, waited politely in the line, and went outside to a nearby picnic table, where we sipped on our water and caught up on the latest family news. Turns out, she’d just been writing her master’s thesis in sociology, on how the penchant of easily-impressionable individuals for the romanticization of Wild West values was, in fact, jeopardizing the rule of law in our civilized society.
I smiled. I couldn’t agree more.
Luckily, I had never met any such troublemaker in real life, only seen them in the movies.