True gripes: Shoppers' paradise? No way

The oh-so-convenient supermarket is an aesthete's hell
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The Independent Culture
As soon as I step into a supermarket, I feel sick. First of all, as a non-meat eater, the pervasive aroma of the rtisserie makes me nauseous. Surely carnivores are not attracted by this loathsome odour? Only the other day I watched three little boys pointing at the skewered poultry, squealing, ``Urgh, dying chickens''. And really, is anyone convinced by that ersatz ``newly-baked'' scent that wafts around piles of rolls baked 40 miles away at least three days ago? Nor are these the only threats to one's nostrils. Is it me, or are all shelfstackers afflicted with BO? In my neo-fascist shopping Utopia, deodorant would be de rigueur for staff.

OK, so it's easy to do the week's shopping under one big, happy fluorescent roof (beauty tip: supermarket dating never works - the lighting does no one any favours). These temples to convenience are supposed to lay the consumer world before one, but how many times have you been given directions for the spaghetti hoops, only to find yourself driven dizzy by interminable turns around aisle A?

Then there are what my friend's Jewish granny from Brooklyn calls ``baad shawpas''. It is disconcerting when browsing through the dairy section to discover a blister-pink piece of pig, plump with injected water, dumped with careless abandon on the low-fat yogurts. The juxtapositions are so unlikely and yet so artful that I have become convinced there is an aesthetic terrorist movement determined to subvert consumerism, shocking the complacent shopper with such surreal arrangements.

My stomach knots as I near the dreaded check-out. Here is the final indignity. You are herded through a narrow channel like a veal calf to the slaughter: four-year-olds, tormented beyond endurance by the tantalising stack of chocolate bars, scream the place down; toppling wire basket towers conspire to trap your fingers; you frantically count your purchases, lest you have transgressed your nine-items-or-less-limit and will be told, publicly and shamefully, to join another queue.

There is no escape: should you wish only to buy a paper, the relevant stall is teeming with National Lottery punters. So you return to the Sisyphean line, while nonchalant cashiers chat among themselves and complain loudly about the customers. Last week I watched open-mouthed as one cleaned her talon-like fingernails with the corner of my Access card. Never again, I said. The next day I was back in the queue.

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