Something of a mixed bag at the supermarket
Inipped into the local supermarket last Tuesday to see if it was abiding by the promise not to use plastic bags in celebration of Thai Green Day. I was pleasantly surprised that the usual sea of plastic bags were not decorating the checkout counters. There was also a notice encouraging customers to use their own bags.
Getting into the spirit of things I dutifully forked out the grand sum of 20 baht for a large fabric bag which carried the message: ”Help protect the environment”. However, there was a suspicion the “Green Day” message had not entirely gotten through when I placed the aforesaid bag on the counter and the checkout girl asked politely whether I would like it wrapped.
I explained the purpose of the bag was that they could put my modest purchases in it rather than use the plastic variety. Even so, as she placed the first item in the bag she looked at me nervously as if she was committing a heinous crime against the sanctity of plastic bags. At least we shared a good laugh about my eccentricity. Upon leaving, there was even a hint of a spring in my step, rejuvenated by the refreshing experience of carrying an old-fashioned shopping bag.
Out of curiosity, I visited the same supermarket the following day. It will come as no surprise that it was back to business as usual with the place awash with plastic bags. I had the uncomfortable feeling I was one of very few shoppers using their own bag. The checkout girl looked at me with a mixture of amusement, bewilderment and perhaps sympathy, as if to say, “Do you really want to carry on with this ridiculous charade?”
Oh well, it was a good try. Meanwhile, at the 7-Eleven…
Something I am guilty of in supermarkets is occasionally sneaking a peep into other people’s baskets to see what goodies they have purchased. For some reason they always seem to have far more interesting items in their baskets than in mine. Or could they simply have better taste?
At the same time, I resent nosey parkers peering at what I have bought. Squeaky toys for the dog usually prompt some sneaky smirks. I also try to hide embarrassing foodstuffs. Those instant dinners that bear no resemblance to the enticing photos on the packet go to the bottom of the basket, as do forbidden chocolate bars, cleverly hidden under the muesli. Worst of all are the baked beans and meat pies. I mean, here I am living in Thailand with all that delicious food available and yet it is obvious my next meal is going to be pie and beans.
I also admit to inexplicably adopting a slightly aggressive temperament in supermarkets and on a couple of occasions have come close to being a perpetrator of trolley rage, even though I only use a basket. I tend to be a fast shopper, but on occasions have been slowed down by people who insist on spending ages examining labels on products, while blocking an entire aisle. And then there are those who at the checkout never seem to have their cash or credit card handy.
Mind you, following assorted health warnings, I too have joined the ranks of annoying label readers — or at least have tried. The microscopic lettering is another challenge I don’t really need at this stage in life. It usually says something like “nutrition facts” which are invariably distressing. Those dreaded words “cholesterol” and “saturated fat” always seem to loom large on anything I happen to like.
It’s almost like being a kid again — if it tastes nice, you can’t have it.
When I was first in Thailand there weren’t any real supermarkets , but plenty of small grocery stores.
At that time, everyone was envious of the Americans who had access to the PX (Post Exchange), a military store which seemed to have everything and was extremely cheap. Many personal Thai-US friendships blossomed as a result of the “Pee Ex” which soon became an integral part of the Thai language. Upon casual meetings with Thai people, it was never long before they asked about getting them something from the PX. When I explained that British people could not use the PX, faces would visibly drop.
Occasionally an American friend would buy me a bottle of my favourite condiment, HP Sauce, which was not available in Thai shops. I do recall once coming across a rare bottle of HP in a small Thai store on Sukhumvit and celebrated by having a big fry-up at home. I opened up the bottle and attempted to pour a dollop on the side of the plate. Alas, the sauce had been adulterated with water and the entire contents sloshed all over the plate, totally ruining the meal.
Time to reflect
Shortly after returning home from shopping on Wednesday, I had a very humbling experience. Khun Noi (husband of my late maid Ms Yasothon), who still looks after the house and garden, appeared with Nong Mot, his 12-year-old granddaughter. Mot knelt and presented me with a beautiful phuang malai flower garland and recited a small prayer wishing me happiness and good health. Of course it was Wan Por (Father’s Day) marking the late King Bhumibol’s birthday.