So, today I walk into Boots where all I had to do was repeat nine words: ‘Do you sell replacement pads for a tens machine?’ The reply would be either ‘yes’ or (more likely) ‘no’ and I’d either buy some or (more likely) walk out.
Except there was a young woman in the queue ahead of me with just one guy ahead of her being served.
So I waited and in due course the man took his bag of medicine and left. The woman looked at me and nervously walked to the counter. I read the signs. I knew what to do.
I immediately took a couple of steps back and started to look vaguely at the nearest shelf so the woman could retain some degree of dignity in what was clearly a private moment. She clearly wanted to discuss something personal and those two steps back was the least I could do to make that possible. So, as the woman whispered with the pharmacist, I continued to stand there gazing through a display of something I only later realised was super lubricated and ribbed, as I scratched my nose and tried to look ignorant of the private medical drama playing out in front of me. After the whispered conversation was finished, a small bag was handed to the woman and money exchanged.
All was good. Here we go: nine little words…
In the gap I’d left in order for the woman to be discreet about her problems, another woman was now standing. She was a little old woman holding a box of Kalms. Because I’d done the decent thing, this woman had exploited what I now refer to as the 'they're-talking-about-itching gap' in order to jump the queue. I wanted to say something but the little old lady was only holding a box of Kalms, the natural remedy for nerves, and how on earth could you say anything about queue jumping to a nervous little old lady holding a box of Kalms?
So the pharmacist takes the box, rings it up, money is exchanged and the little old lady is about turn around and leave and I’m about to repeat my nine little words: ‘Do you sell replacement pads for a tens machine?’
But the pharmacist has second thoughts… She floats a question towards the nervous little old lady.
‘You’re not taking any medication are you?’
‘No,’ says the nervous little old lady.
‘Oh, that’s good. I just thought I better check.’
‘But I am diabetic…’
‘Oh,’ says the pharmacist.
‘Shit,’ I mutter, getting agitated. This queue jump was turning into serious downtime in Boots.
‘I better check,’ said the pharmacist, opening the box of Kalms.
A minute later she’s finished reading the leaflet/densely printed brochure. ‘I’ll just be a moment,’ she smiles.
Remember: nine words were all I wanted to ask and this little old lady had jumped into the queue because I was being a gentleman like I was also trying to be a gentleman by not mentioning queue jumping this in case the nervous queue jumping little old lady started to cry.
The pharmacist when to the back of the shop where she adopted the special pharmacist sorting hat or whatever it is that these people consult. About five minutes later, she’s back and my silent muttering is beginning to get audible.
‘Oh, the covering of Kalms is sucrose,’ she said.
‘I’ll give her bloody Kalms,’ I mutter.
‘You just need to be careful,’ explained the pharmacist but this has now triggered the nuclear response that’s always likely when dealing with nervous little old ladies in Boots. The little old lady starts to describe her entire medical history, complete with full list of prescription medicines, the opinion of consultants, and something interesting she once heard in a waiting room.
I’d had enough.
‘Bugger this,’ I said audibly and walked out.
But my point is: never again will I do the gentlemanly thing when a woman wants to talk privately in Boots. ‘You’ve got a rash,’ I’ll shout, hovering over her shoulder. ‘Deal with it!’ I won’t take prisoners. ‘You’re not the first person with a fungal infection,’ I’ll cry, defending my spot in the queue.
And this is why the world is cruel and savage and there’s so little kindness left to go around. It’s the fault of nervous little old ladies everywhere. You have been warned.