I have managed to sort out a strategy for the self-service check-out after multiple incidents in the bagging area, usually the result of small people bouncing. They’ve recently added another potential hurdle which I have also managed to surmount – the bag charge. The machine which operates the self-service area does not seem to understand that people can bring their own bags and that their own bags may not be totally empty. If you place a non empty bag in the bagging area, all hell breaks out. I know this, but for some reason I never arrive prepared because even when I put an empty plastic bag in my bag someone takes it out or it develops a hole.
However, the self-service area is as nothing in terms of challenge compared to doing the weekly shop with four children and a scanner. Theoretically the scanner is about keeping track of your costs as you sail around the supermarket in an ocean of calm. To children, though, it is a great adventure, a kind of video game come to life. We attempted it the other day. Everyone wanted to scan, even the laid back, ironic, laconic teenager, but most particularly the five year old who went scan-crazy. He started pulling things off shelves just to scan them. Then you have to delete the scanned item and return it to its shelf by which time only son has said sorry a hundred times, thrown himself on top of you proclaiming undying love, and other children have dumped several unscanned items into the trolley, ignoring the carefully devised system of putting unscanned things in the bit where the babies sit.
Then we entered the vegetable section where all bets were off. Small people started loading carrots into bags and disappearing to weigh them. A scanner battle broke out between daughter two and only son, despite the take it turns rota that I had worked out. Only son wanted to scan everything. The good thing about only son is that he is fairly easy to divert. Daughter three got Heely’s for Christmas and was whizzing up and down the aisles. Daughter one was worrying about 2016, the year of GCSEs. I suggested daughter one and only son team up and go and look for some Neapolitan ice cream. It worked.
After what seemed like days, we got to the check-out. Did we want any bags, the machine asked. Yes, please, but where did we get them from? The machine kept threatening to time out as I searched for a harassed supermarket worker with bags. Being on self service or indeed scanner duty must be the short straw. Everyone appears slightly on edge.
Only son started doing his Just Dance moves. He had been learning them all on the phone. He knows Wake me up before you go go off by heart and has performed it in a range of locations, including the bath and Ikea food hall. “You put the boom boom into my heart,” he started singing fairly loudly while jiggling his hips and throwing both arms in the air. Fortunately, we were in London and no-one even batted an eyelid. “Do you want to time out and start again?” asked the machine. NOOOO. Daughter three Heely-ed to the rescue with a clutch of bags. We exited the supermarket feeling in need of a short holiday to recover.
My partner rang from Spain via Whatsapp. “What are you up to?” he asked, full of the joys of Spring. He had been visiting family and friends, but sleeping in a bed on his own and walking around by the sea and definitely not scanning. He had only been away for four days, but daughter three had been in the bed with me every night bar one due to her cold, which I will surely soon acquire, only son is in from around 4am and daughter two was in one night after Agatha Christie. Plus the cat appears to have got super-resistant fleas. “Just doing a bit of shopping,” I said.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.