Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Big C and Me

A few weeks ago we suffered from poor groceries planning so I had to head to Big C hypermarket for foodstuff on a weekend. Not exactly a recommended activity one finds in a Lonely Planet for ex-pats, if there were such a thing (NewHanoian sorta comes close though).

For most of the people in Big C, the shopping experience is more like a fun weekend activity rather than a chore. People languidly stroll the aisles hand in hand with three of their friends. Entire extended families peruse the wares while leaving their little ones in shopping carts-cum-baby strollers. Instead of typically ambling about interlocked, young women share the duty of carrying the plastic shopping baskets, each responsible for one of the handles. It doesn't really matter that the basket only contains a 12 oz baguette - it's more about maintaining physical intimacy than shouldering the load.

Were these activities taking place in a local park, I would quietly muse about the low key nature of this society. But I'm shopping, so you people are cutting into my weekend time. Buy something or get out of my way, pretty please.

Before finally leaving the bedlam, I score a small moral victory in maintaining order in the checkout queue.

Big C management makes a mistake in not manning their checkout lines more efficiently - they skimp on one of the cheapest inputs for business around here, unskilled labor. They should have baggers, but they don't - penny wise, pound foolish and all that. Because of this, the lines are pretty long. Invariably this leads to folks trying to jump in line.

In such occasions, I remember what my high school track coach taught us - run with wide, sharp elbows. So I strike a pose not unlike Captain Morgan and thereby thwart all but the most fool hardy. An attempt is made by a twentysomething male. I shoot him a dirty look and ask, in English, what the heck it is he is doing. A feeble reply, in Vietnamese, of 'oh, you are waiting on line?' is made before he slinks away. Of course I am on line, and so are the four people behind me. Two young women slowly creep up, pretending to examine the chewing gum packages offered on the endcaps to the checkout lane before sliding into the queue. I was about to yell at them, but the 50ish man behind me beats me to the punch.

Expat or local, the people in line are not suffering any fools this morning. Even though all the bump and grind of this morning resulted in broken sunglasses - I made a mistake of not leaving them on my head but rather placing them in my front pockets - this little victory leaves me partially happy, as I squint into the equatorial sun on the way home with the spoils of the effort.

1 comment:

Preya said...

Hilarious post! I think grocery stores are still a novelty and thus a great way to spend a lazy afternoon for many Hanoians. The only grocery store I like is Wild Oats--I spend a lot more time than necessary in there:)