Some­thing of a mixed bag at the su­per­mar­ket

Bangkok Post - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS - POSTSCRIPT Roger Crutch­ley Con­tact PostScript via email at old­[email protected]

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…

Bas­ket psy­chol­ogy

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.

Trol­ley folly

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.

PX blues

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.

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