Several times on my blog, I have written about glimpses we catch of other people's lives, in various circumstances. And today, while I was waiting at the checkout queue at Aldi's during my lunch break, I realized what a good occasion for such glimpses a visit to the supermarket or groceries store is.
While you wait your turn, you can't help but notice what the person in front of you is putting from their trolley on the conveyor. But have you actually ever stopped to think about the items others buy, having exactly the same choice of products as you have? And what their choice reveals about them?
Take the contents of my shopping trolley, for instance; most of the time, when I am on my own and do not expect anyone for dinner, mine is the typical middle-aged-single-woman-with-cat kind of mixture: cat food (always!), yoghurts, chocolate, bread, cheese, the odd shower gel or washing up liquid in between. Nothing exciting, nothing expensive, nothing that will take a long time to prepare.
When I have guests, it is a different matter entirely, not only in that there is more of everything, but also healthier stuff such as fresh vegetable and fruit, eggs and so on.
What would you think if you saw me putting a packet of finger bisquits, mascarpone, sugar, eggs and a bottle of amaretto on the conveyor? Or a packet of flour, yeast, tomato, mozzarella and a potted basil plant? You would rightly conclude that the woman buying these items is about to make a Tirami-Su or, in the second case, a pizza.
Sometimes there are whole families doing their shopping together, but sometimes you can tell from the sheer amount of things as well as the kind of products that the one person doing the shopping has a family in the background who will consume all this - at least that is what I assume. I could be wrong, of course, and the person buying a lot of food is just a hearty eater and stocking up the larder.
Today, the customer in front of me, a woman of more or less my age, very skinny, unremarkably dressed, put a packet of ham, two nets of clementines and two large parsnips on the conveyor, as well as a set of 50 envelopes that came from the special offer section of the super market. Nothing else.
My mind instantly started to spin out possible scenarios for her rather unusual mixture of products; was she just going to get the envelopes and then saw the clementines and the parsnips and the ham and thought, 'hmm... I haven't had any of this in a while, they look nice,' and taken them? Or did she have a particular dish in mind to prepare with the parsnips and the ham, and while she was there, saw the cheerful colour of the clementines and couldn't resist, and the envelopes were the kind of thing one can always use anyway?
There were more such mini-stories playing in my head, but then she paid and left and it was my turn.