In the last year or two I have started doing some of my grocery shopping at a particular supermarket chain. You know, the "good different" one. The one gifted to us by a bunch of clever Germans.
I'm a bit old fashioned in that I still like to buy my meat from a free range butcher and my fruit and veg from the markets or the local green grocer, but for the stuff in packages that you have to buy, I like the idea that I can get something good quality and Australian made at a much cheaper price. Plus they have damn good organic coffee and cheese... and I like that I can give my hard earned dollars to someone other than the two monoliths that control most of our grocery market.
Now, I do have to admit that the first time you go into one of these places it all feels a bit weird... but I soon started to work things out. And before too long I had found how to fulfill my 3 golden rules of shopping:
1. Know what I like
2. Know where stuff is
3. Know how to get it and get out quickly.
In fact, I had got my visit down to about 10 minutes I knew exactly where to grab what I wanted, how to tactfully avoid the menagerie of fascinating but largely useless items in the middle aisles, and how to quickly and painlessly be back at home in no time... smugly sipping on a cheeky red and nibbling on my $3.49 Washed Rind Brie.
Yes, things were going along quite splendidly, until a recent trip to this little haven of goodies. I arrived to find it all closed up, with a polite note on the door explaining that they were, "renovating to enhance your shopping experience". Oh well, I thought, a coat of paint, some new tiles and a couple of fancy new fridges probably won't go astray.
But nothing prepared me for the shock when I returned a few days later. I walked in to find that everything had been moved. Absolutely everything. No exceptions. Where I would normally walk in and start my express tour by grabbing a few bags of organic coffee there was fruit and vegetables! I froze, I broke into a cold sweat and my head started spinning. Noooooooooooo!
But I needed stuff, so I gritted my teeth and took a step forward.... Beginning one of my 3 complete journeys around the store. Journeys which instead of my normal 10 minutes lasted about 45. On the first round I found about half my stuff, on the second round I found a few more items.... and on the third round a couple more. There were some things that I never found.... Things obviously consigned to some mystical corner which was beyond the range of my limited male perceptions. My "shopping experience" was anything but bloody well "enhanced".
I stomped around cranky, cursing, disoriented and and sad. My world was shattered. And then somewhere in the middle of it all I stopped. I stood still, took a deep breath and looked around me....
And I saw that the store was entirely filled with women. Calm, organized, proficient women, breezily going about their shopping as if absolutely nothing had changed. Women who at the same time probably had 5 children doing 5 different activities and were totally on top of them all, while also planning tonight's dinner, the rest of the week's lunches and thinking about how they would fix the stuff ups at work that their male colleagues had made. Bless their souls!
And at this moment I had a profound realization. One of those realizations that changes the way you see the world and nothing is ever quite the same again. I realized that supermarkets are totally, utterly and completely designed for women. WOMEN. Not men.
Now, I do like to think of myself as kind of an altruistic bloke... and there is a part of me that wants to celebrate the fact that women have gone one up, when in so many situations they don't. But altruistic thoughts aren't always much comfort in a moment of crisis. And my much louder and more immediate thoughts were something like this: "Well, bully for you, but not all men have a woman to do their shopping for them. And furthermore, not all men should expect a woman to do their shopping for them even if they do have one who is prepared to. So we are destined to wade through this chaos and confusion unaided and utterly alone!"
Which then made me then think about the people who design these places - the supermarket executives. So hey there guys, a shout out to you... about something you seem to have overlooked. You seem to have overlooked the fact that some of your customers have a penis. And the fact is that because we have a penis our brains also work differently. Yes, I know what you're thinking... but besides that, we like logical order, we like to know where stuff is, and we don't see detail.
Remember, we were the hunter gatherers. The guys who would get their food from very obvious places. By plucking it from a tree, pulling it from the ground, or spearing it as it ran across the Prairie. Not by going on some crazy kind of Where's Wally detective tour to find it hiding behind the pickles in aisle 13!
But sadly, despite my ranting, I'm not expecting much to change. As the cow in the Babe movie so profoundly said, "The way things are is the way things are." So I guess that I must accept this all and move on. I must put this all in the same shopping basket as mosquitoes, carbuncles and Pauline Hanson - stuff you don't like but you just can't seem to get rid of. But I can already see what's going to happen and I am trying to prepare myself as best I can. I will just get used to the new layout and they will probably change the whole bloody thing around again!
So ... Hans, Klaus, Fritz... or whoever you guys are that run that place... I have just one thing to say to you:
"Veränderung ist nicht immel gut!"
Different is not always good!