Check out my new career move at the supermarket

Soon, we won’t have to deal with any human beings at all when we go to the supermarket.

More and more of them now have self-service check-outs with no-one there to admire your shopping.

“Oh, are you having a party?” asks the cashier as I usher 12 wine bottles along the conveyor belt.

“Yes,” I lie outrageously.

She holds up the first bottle to her supervisor.


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“It’s ok,” I joke, “I’m over 18.”

The 17-year-old smiles briefly. I am the 100th middle-aged woman to say that today… and it’s only 11am.

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But at least you are having a bit of social intercourse.

Over to the self-service check-outs where the only topic of discussion between me and the disembodied voice is whether I’m using my own bag. At my local Sainsbury the voice of the check-out shouts.

It is a woman, of course, they are all women. I don’t know what the psychology is but I would rather have a man.

“Remove item from the bagging area,” she commands. This is definitely a woman in black leather, brandishing a whip.

She is so demanding. It feels as if the whole supermarket is watching me, wondering what item I have in my bagging area that has caused this woman to admonish me.

“No need to shout,” I mutter but she takes no notice.

The last time she had a go at me about my bagging area it was because the customer at the next till along had put her vast handbag on my side.

“Excuse me, would you mind awfully removing your item from my bagging area,” I asked apologetically.

“She,” I nod towards the touch screen, “won’t let me start until it’s gone.”

The woman gave me a bit of a “tut” as she heaved her bag away. “See what you’ve done now,” I hiss at my domineering shopmeister.

When, after forgetting to remember to swipe my Nectar card [“HAVE YOU SWIPED YOUR NECTAR CARD?”] and putting my debit card in the slot too soon and not telling she-who-must-be-obeyed how many of my own bags I used and having to seek assistance because I was buying alcohol (again), I finally make my escape, I am left wondering if it is any quicker than the more conventional people-person check-out.

My first close encounter with these machines – I wrote about it at the time – was in Marks and Spencer and now I tend to use them in all supermarkets. In fact I have become rather blas�, imagining myself (wrongly) to be a bit of a wizard on the old barcode reader.

But it was only this week that I realised it could mean a whole new career for me.

The first portent was when a young man in Sainsbury’s asked if I knew where the breakfast cereals were. Rather than point, I took him directly to the correct aisle. “There you are,” I said flinging out my arm in a theatrical gesture. “You should work here,” he said. I thought nothing more of it.

But then came a second sign, a sign that meant apply now; Lynne Mortimer, your future is here.

Marks and Spencer job application:

Name: Lynne Mortimer

Age: 55

Sex: Only on private application. Please complete attached form in triplicate.

Address: If I’m not in food department, you’ll probably find me in Ladies Knickers.

Mission statement: (I’ve seen this on job application forms and don’t really know what it means so I’ve improvised) In the event that I do not return from my mission within 48 hours, please contact Missing Persons.

Education: Yes.

Previous retail experience: Annual garage sale; everything 50p (2008 – continues)

– Behind the confectionery counter at the Ipswich Gaumont (now the Regent) (1971-73)

– Working after school and Saturdays at the general stores over the road from my mum (1968-70)

Why do you want to work at M&S?

1. Because I currently spend a great deal of my leisure time there so it would save on travel.

2. I would love to meet Twiggy.

3. I have a natural affinity for the work as I realised last week when, as per normal on a Saturday morning, I was using the do-it-yourself checkout.

Having scanned about half the items in my trolley, I became aware of an older gentleman standing the other side of the self-service till.

Without saying a word, he passed me a packet of four croissants. “I’m not a check-out.” I said and pointed him towards the five items and under queue.

Undeterred he once again proffered the croissants.

I shook my head and he gave me a last look of doubt – as if I might have been concealing my M&S identity badge under my old T-shirt – and wandered off without having uttered a single word.

My husband finally stopped laughing on Thursday.

Keep your shirt on

There is a percentage of the British male population that seems incapable of keeping its shirt on hot weather.

I have just run the gauntlet of the 200 yard lunchtime dash to buy a sandwich and encountered:

• A slender, very pale-skinned man walking along with his shirt off. You could virtually see right through his navel to the back and if a pigeon had been looking for nesting materials he would have been in grave peril.

• A large tummied, middle-aged man walking along in socks, sandals and shorts with his shirt off. His only protection from the noonday sun was a liberal covering of hair on his shoulders.

• A nice looking man with his shirt off, the effect rather spoiled by his eye-watering body odour, lethal over a 40-yard radius.

• A fair haired chap with his shirt off, displaying sunburn you could fry eggs on.

Men, I accept, do not always suffer the agonies of vanity that afflict women. But surely they catch sight of themselves reflected in shop windows? Surely they notice that people are crossing the road rather than pass close by?

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