Anyone who is as old as me will remember the 'Don't be an amber gambler' traffic safety campaign. It warned those cavalier drivers who risked racing through traffic lights on amber that they might be unlucky and come across a similar 'amber gambler' going in the other direction. Last weekend I encountered a supermarket-based version of this problem – luckily nowhere near as dangerous, but still a tad inconvenient. I normally like to take advantage of our 24-hour culture to do my supermarket shopping late at night when the aisles are empty of other shoppers and there's plenty of space for trolley assisted skids – I always wear my shiniest soled shoes. But shopping when the staff outnumber the customers can, I have discovered, develop unhelpful habits.
Now, for reasons we don't need to explore, I found myself pushing a trolley on a Saturday afternoon – a time, it appears, very popular with many other food gatherers. Wandering amongst the pickles and sauces, I realised I had forgotten the olive oil a few aisles back. As is my midnight habit, I left my trolley where it was and nipped back for the forgotten item and then returned to continue my shopping. It was about 10 minutes later that I noticed a bag of bananas in my trolley. 'That's a good idea,' I thought and wandered idly on filling the basket as I went. Tossing in a loaf of bread, I spotted a pack of Bakewell tarts in my trolley. 'Oh, yummy, Bakewell tarts,' I said to myself, 'I haven't had those for ages.' It was only then that it dawned on me (and, yes, I'm sure you're way ahead of me here) that most of the items in my basket were a surprise and that what had happened was that I had wandered down the wrong aisle and collected the trolley of another 'amber gambling' 'trolley abandoner'.
What was I to do? I hunted for my own trolley but couldn't find it anywhere and I spent the next 15 minutes wandering about looking for someone else attempting the tricky body language phrase of, 'I don't suppose you've lost a half-filled trolley and collected a strange one instead, have you?' And I was pretty sure that requesting Customer Services to put out a call asking for a trolley that's lost its owner to come to the front desk would be met with derision. So I did the only thing left to me: I replaced on the shelves all the things in the trolley I definitely didn't want (I can only assume that the presence of tender stalk broccoli was a mistake), kept the Bakewell tarts and a number of other choice morsels and carried on as if nothing had happened.
And what have I learnt? Well, three things: the person whose shopping I purloined has a far healthier diet than I do, sliced bananas go pretty well with Bakewell tarts, and midnight shoppers shouldn't be allowed in shops at normal times of day without adult supervision.