I had a slightly odd experience shopping on New Years Eve 1999. I was visiting some friends for a new years party and needed supplies so I nipped round to the local superstore, at the time it was a Co-Op. It was pretty late in the day and the first thing I remember was that the car park was really empty. The store was the same. There were more staff than customers. Just going round ahead of me were a couple of groups of customers who have stuck in my mind ever since.
The first group of customers was a group of five nurses who must have come straight from work as they were all in uniform. From their (loud) conversation it was clear they shared a house and were getting supplies in for a party. They had a three trolleys and a system. Trolley one was for regular food. Trolley two was for snacks and party food. Trolley three was for drink.
The second group of customers were a pair of male students who each had a trolley. From their equally loud conversation it was pretty clear they’d been partying hard for a few days and they’d just realised they’d no food in the house and they’d heard something about all the world’s computers going wrong at midnight. Someone had told them it was going to happen and it was going to be like a bad 1970s disaster movie.
A few things rapidly became apparent…
First the students started filling their trolleys. They had a simple mantra. They wanted it cheap. They wanted it with a long use by date. They wanted lots of it. Since all the computers were going to fail though the cost of it wouldn’t really matter. I watched them take six cardboard pallets each of canned potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, corned beef and tuna from the shelf as I went past them.
Meanwhile the nurses had decided that the priority was trolley three, then trolley two and then trolley one. Trolley three had gained a twin trolley 3a. Trolley 3 was for beer while trolley 3a was for wine and spirits. Trolley one gained some mixers, soft drinks and a variety of fruit juice for drinking when they had a hangover on new years day. It also gained a few packs of aspirin and paracetamol.
I’d picked up some cheese that the price had been slashed on (I think it was brie) and needed some bread. The bakery had three staff on it. Two I’d seen on previous visits. The other had to be their manager. They wanted to leave early. He said they couldn’t go till all the speciality bread they kept behind a counter in a cabinet was sold. There was one loaf left. It had seeds on it. Really special. Special price (reduced to clear before the almost end of the millennial sell by date) £0.50. They offered to buy it – he refused as staff can’t buy stuff on sale while working. They offered to pay full price. He wouldn’t have any of it. I bought it.
Behind me some strife had broken out. The nurses had a problem. They needed a bottle opener and a cork screw. They were buying everything else from a shared kitty but the implements would last – who would get to keep them? These were there millenium cork screw. What if them had a special visitor and wanted to have a bottle in private. What would the others use to open a bottle. Two cork screws should be acquired but only one bottle opener was needed. I picked up something to drink and never heard the solution to the cork screw situation.
I had a choice of checkout. Like the bread counter management was enforcing a no one leaves till it’s all sold policy. Outside in the car park the students were emptying four trolley loads of canned goods; sacks of potatoes; loaves of the cheapest nastiest bread; tooth paste (civilization might have collapsed but they’d still have clean teeth) and other supplies into the boot of a beat up hatch back. All they needed was a chain saw and a shotgun to complete their outfitting for the apocalypse.
I expect they felt that way in the months to come as they lived on their supplies and paid off credit card the bill for it all.
It was all slightly odd and I always ment to turn it into a story but I’ve never found the right angle to take on it. One day I might.
Have a happy new year.