Sunday 26 April 2015


“I’m off to the shop lads. Want anything?”

“What’re you getting?”

“Tea, milk and something to munch on.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll have something hot. One of those chicken baguettes.”

“Sound, see you in a bit.”

As I wander around the corner to the shop I wonder why what I was going to buy in the shop made any difference to my mate. If I’d said I was going to buy chocolate biscuits or half a giraffe, would he have felt like eating something other than a chicken baguette?

The human mind is truly a wondrous thing, designed and primed to help us live long, prosper and ideally reproduce. Over millennia our minds evolved to deal with choices that some time way back in our history would have meant the difference between life and death.

While there can be some ugly and aggressive beasts prowling the aisles of the corner store, I’m pretty unlikely to encounter a hungry sabre-toothed tiger at the deli counter. Given that we no longer live in fear of our lives every day, you’d think maybe our brains would have eased up on the decision-making. 

Sadly rather than grasping the chance to simplify things by disposing of pointless options, we’ve been beguiled by commercialism into unnecessarily complicating everything, by creating as many different choices as possible.

What first appears as too many choices can later make perfect sense. To virgin European ears, the endless options offered when ordering something to eat in America become, after practice, a simple and efficient way to eat exactly what you want. Proud of their product and aiming to please, Americans really care, so you just learn to say “I’ll have the Hunter S. Andwich, with mayo, no butter, radicchio and rocket, no dressing, tomato, wild turkey, cranberry sauce not jelly, mustard and olives, on cracked wheat bread.”

Not so difficult really, but it’s so much simpler in Ireland; or is it?

“Hello!” says the smiley woman at the hot food counter. ‘“What can I get for you?” “I’ll have a spicy chicken baguette please, with mayo and lettuce. That’s all thanks!”

As she toddles off to prepare the roll, I turn around to stare idly at muffins and take an unusual interest in the crisp selection, as I don’t want make her feel uncomfortable by staring at her.

“Do you want white or brown?”

Dammit. Forgot that. “White please.” 
“And do you want butter or mayo?”

Told you that, though. I clearly remember saying mayo. Ah well. What price politeness? She’s the one stuck working while I’m spending the afternoon drinking tea with the lads, so why would I get grumpy with her over such a stupid little thing?

“Mayo please!” I reply, still smiling.

“Is it the spicy or the plain chicken that you’re after?”

What part of spicy didn’t you get the first time? “Erm the spicy please!”

“And what salads would you like?”

Argghhh. Why did I bother to prepare in my mind what to ask for in the first place? What was the point in me ordering anything at all? This all would have turned out just as successful and a whole heap less stressful if I’d just wandered up to the counter and asked her straight out to ask me a series of questions, gradually deducing from my collective answers the ingredients I wanted her to stick between two slices of as yet indeterminate bread-like product.

“Just lettuce please!” I mutter through clenched teeth, producing what must look to the outside world like an unsettlingly scary smile.

Okay Adley, calm down. That’s the lot now. There’s nothing more to this sandwich. There can’t be. We’ve just had an interesting exchange of ideas concerning every single aspect of what was potentially a very simple roll.

Stay kind. Be happy. For God’s sake man, you’re only buying a sandwich. There are some things in this world to become stressed about and many others that are not worth a raised pulse.

Pull yourself together. Stop referring to yourself in the Third Person. You know that’s a thoroughly unpleasant fascistic characteristic.

Increasing our choices does not make the world a more wonderful place, but the freedom to choose is a precious thing. While we impose pointless options on ourselves, we choose to deny ourselves variety elsewhere. It’s ridiculous that we drink tea or coffee every day, yet for some reason everyone is meant to have ‘a way’ they like their drink, each and every time.

I’m not sure how I’m going to want my tea. Never weak, but do I take sugar? Maybe today yes, but tomorrow no. Call me crazy, call me troublesome, but call me.

Aha! She’s looking over at me again, so she must have the baguette bagged and ready to buy.

“Do you want it cut in half?”

Oh, my fault. I entirely forgot that old chestnut.

“Yes please.Thanks.”

Now please please please give me the bloody roll or we’re both going to make it onto the six o’clock news and not in a good way. I don’t want to be this petty het-up person.

I‘m in a lovely mood, la la laaah  ... having a fun day with my lovely friends ... doo bee dooh...

I have worked in jobs like hers and know how pathetic customers like me can appear to be, when displaying impatient and unreasonable behaviour.

Maybe she didn’t understand my accent. Maybe she’s just a little hard of hearing. Maybe she deliberately ignored everything I asked for just to wind me up. Maybe I should get a grip and recover my sense of perspective.

“Hello, Sir! Your baguette is ready. Would you like a bottle of coke or water with that €4.50?”

No thank you. I just want to pay for the roll, please, and get out. You see, although you had not the slightest suspicion, I very nearly killed you over the making of it.

Just kidding. Or am I? You choose.

©Charlie Adley

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