I was standing at the checkout, minding my own business, waiting to pay for my few meagre provisions. In front of me, a fellow was loading his trolley as the operator swiped the items through, but he wasn’t flinging the stuff in like anyone else. No indeed. He was carefully selecting which shopping bag to place the things in, while his scanned purchases piled up beside the till. Finally, when the operator scanned the last thing and said That’s €52.38 please, he didn’t pause or look up. He just kept picking the groceries one by one and placing them carefully in their bags.
I’m staring at him, trying to project a useful suggestion.
Multitask, I frown. Give him the money and he can do his shit while you pack away yours.
No. He keeps filling his trolley, stealing vital seconds from me and from all those behind me. Seconds we could be using outside the shop seething with anger at something else.
Give him the money!!
When the trolley is full, and everything has been put away to his satisfaction, he does a little last-minute rearranging before finally starting to look for his money. This guy is one of those people who don’t realise you have to pay for things.
What? You want money? Where the fuck did I put my money?
He searches all his pockets and eventually finds a €50.
Jesus, I’m thinking, now he’s going to pull out a little purse and search for the change. But I’m wrong. Instead of a little purse, he pulls out one of those horrible coin-organisers and carefully thumbs out two single euros, three ten-cent coins, a five-cent, a two-cent and a one. Very slowly.
I’m not alone in wanting to murder him. Glancing back along the line, I see an elderly man, two young mothers and a disabled gentleman all leaning forward in an attack position, with canines bared and nostrils flared. The checkout operator is gently rubbing his knuckles.
What did we do instead? We seethed, because we’re Irish, and the Irish don’t complain, whether they’re getting screwed around by an idiot at a checkout or some banker robbing them of €40 billion.
I mentioned the story to Wrinkly Joe over a pint and he laughed at me. When you’re old, he said, you’ll do the same thing, just to piss people off.
This fucker wasn’t old. He was no more than 35 by my reckoning, but he had that smug little grin that annoying fuckers everywhere wear.
You should have taken his picture.
You could add it to a gallery of smugshots.
Great idea, I told him. These bastards are everywhere. They hide behind parked vans, and just as you’re approaching an ATM, they jump out with a card.
With two cards, said Wrinkly Joe.
Cards that don’t work, I agreed.
But they use them anyway, and when the machine spits them out, they put the cards back in anyway.
Or else they check their balance, eject the card and then put it back in. And then they take out their girlfriend’s card and check the balance and put it back in. And then they put in their own card again because they forgot something.
Bastards, said Wrinkly Joe. You know what else they do?
They put on knitted hats and drive Nissan Micras very slowly in the middle of the road.
That’s right, I told him. And they wait until the bus pulls up before they look for their money.
It’s the Annoying Society, said Joe.
The Annoying Society. Their top members are very old people who do extremely annoying things without even trying. The guys you’ve been meeting are only trainees. When they go for their final tests, one of the ancient judges will accidentally use their exam papers to light the fire, and they’ll have to start the exam all over. You should have a little sympathy for them.
I suppose you’re right, I said.
And of course, he added, we mustn’t forget the other terrible things they have to do.
Well, for a start, he said, how would you like to be a traffic warden?