I was buying a broadband USB stick. The young female assistant talked me through the package – she seemed relaxed and approachable.
‘I’ll remove the filter controls,’ she said.
‘Some sites have restricted content.’
‘You mean pornography?’
I almost said: ‘are you calling me a wanker?’ but I instantly realised I’d misjudged the situation. I wasn’t joking with a friend; it was this girl’s job to be relaxed and approachable, part of her sales patter. I’d breeched the customer/supplier relationship.
There was an awkward silence and both of us blushed. Pornography hung in the air like a fat owl.
They were positioned at strategic points down the cobbled main street of the town centre – five of them, standing in the middle so they could reach the shoppers passing on either side. They were collecting for a children’s charity. I walked right by each one and none of them rattled their tin in my direction.
I loitered next to the last one, waiting for her to approach me. I was ignored. Why? I’m old enough to have children, I can feel sympathy, what part of my appearance meant I was excluded from their demographic? What was wrong with me?
The man in the shop at 8.30 this morning looked pretty smart. He was wearing designer jeans, a thin trendy jumper and black-rimmed glasses. I liked his style – he was sporting the same ‘Norwegian Fisherman’ beard that I have. I stood behind him in the queue; all he bought was a bottle of Listerine. Close up, I noticed that his jumper had several holes in the back and there was a strong musty smell coming off him. When I left the shop, I drove past him round the corner. He was hiding behind a phone box, gulping down the mouthwash.