Friday, March 23, 2012

Alan versus Retail -- A New Hope

I've finished my shopping in Target, and I notice that my cart has only about ten items in it, ranging in size from a Kit-Kat bar to a big box for my goddaughter's third birthday. So I join the express lane.

Halfway through checking me out, the sales assistant says caustically -- at a level designed to be heard by the people waiting on line -- "I don't know if you can read, sir, but the notice says '10 items or less.'"

"I don't have more than ten items," I answer, slightly thrown by her rudeness.

She's not letting it go. She checks the register. "It's six already . . . " she says, and looks back at the belt, "and you have one, two, three . . . oh . . "

"Four more, which makes ten," I say, at a level designed to be heard by the people waiting on line. I crank up the English accent. "And I do know how to read, thank you for asking." The woman who's behind me suppresses a smile. I'm on a roll.

Ah, but how far can I take this? The famous Alan Bennett line, when reminded that the word "knickers" begins with a k, not an n: "Yes, I was at Oxford, it was one of the first things they taught me"?

Or even: "In fact, I can read well enough to know that sign should say '10 items or fewer.'"

But then the sales assistant mutters that she's sorry, so I guess there's an end to it. She even wishes me a pleasant day as I depart, so I don't even complain that her idea of bagging is to slide a packet of raw ground turkey into the same bag as some children's books. It's not as if I envy her job.

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