You know that feeling when you’re standing at a checkout and the person in front of you has just bought about three hundred and fifty seven items of grocery?
You’ve played this psychological game many times and you’ve won more often than you’ve lost. You’ll play it again because most people will glance at your single can of dog-food (Satanibbles) and say, Is that all you have? Ah go on ahead of me. You’re fine.
But every now and then, that doesn’t happen, and you have to suppress your resentment because this person is ahead of you after all, and you did take that gamble when you could have stood in line behind the four people who bought single packs of reasonably-priced Czech beer, even though the last of them has just sauntered out the door.
Never mind. You win a few, you lose a few and that’s all right until the time comes to pay.
Two hundred and eight seven euros and forty three cents, please.
Now, what does a rational person do in a case like that, when they still have fifty purchases left on the checkout table? The obvious thing, it seems to me, would be to have your card ready and stick it in the machine while you pack away all your groceries. That’s what a rational, considerate, aware person would do, but every now and again you come up against a complete swine who carefully puts each thing into a bag, and when the bag is full they search for another bag and fill it up and when that bag is full, they have a look around for another fucking bag until every last item is put away
And then, and only then, does it dawn on them that they have to actually pay for all this stuff. And then and only then do they go searching for their wallet and when they find it, go searching for their debit card, or their cash. And if they opt for cash, they will then count out every last penny while you and the twelve people who have lined up behind you, regard them with murder in your hearts.
I have a theory about these people. I think they’re part of a secret society of petty delay-ninjas, with a mission not to destroy the world, but to frazzle our nerves. They’re a shabby bunch of international terrorists, sent by the Prince of Insufficient Light who, unlike the Prince of Darkness, can’t damn you to Hell, but he can darn you to heck.
They’re everywhere, and they always have been.
They hide behind vans and jump in front of you as you approach the ATM. They have a card that doesn’t work even after three attempts. They have another card that does work, which they use to check their balance and then withdraw money. And they have a friend’s card, just when you thought they were finished.
They drive very slowly in the middle of the road so you can’t get past them. When they do this, they wear hats.. When they’re men, they wear broad-brimmed hats or peaked caps. When they’re women, there will always be four of them wearing tea cosies. Four ladies coming from bingo.
They line up at railway ticket offices with travel passes two minutes before the gates close.
The bring bags of coins into banks at lunch-time.
They get onto buses and search for the fare only after the driver tells them what they already know: you have to pay.
They crowd into doctors’ waiting rooms when they see you coming and they always have three crying toddlers who haven’t much wrong with them.
They ask questions long after lectures have ended. They deliberately annoy bar staff by waiting till the end to order Guinness.
Look, forget about Al Qaeda and ISIS. In my opinion, the first priority of governments everywhere should be to stamp out the Delayers.