When the alarm went off, I began to suspect something was wrong. Queuing up at my local supermarket is something I’ve done many, many times before. Mostly without incident. The closest thing to an altercation I’ve ever experienced is when the person serving at the checkout informed me they were fresh out of ‘ooshies’ whilst standing in front of an extremely large pile of ‘ooshies’. I don’t really even know what an ‘ooshie’ is or whether you should treat it with a pill or an ointment; I only knew I had to secure the ooshies that were rightfully mine. But that squabble was merely a close shave. Now I was in deep.
As security staff formed a half circle, one of whom was holding a net, I started to panic. Scanning the exits for an escape route, I momentarily considered taking a lettuce hostage, in the vain hope that they might reconsider and lettuce go, but it quickly became obvious that I was a goner. I would be captured, I would be humiliated and I would be punished. I could feel their hands grabbing me as I tried to wriggle free. My crime was as unforgivable as it was obvious – I had foolishly attempted to buy a third box of tissues.
Do you ever feel as if you’ve missed a meeting? A really important meeting at which everyone else has been given vital information – probably through a PowerPoint presentation or similar? As a result, everybody else on the face of the planet knows something you don’t. In this case, I was blissfully unaware that there were limits on how many boxes of tissues you could purchase at any one time and that these limits were strictly enforced with any attempt to violate them inviting retribution of an almost Biblical variety.
I’m not sure how I missed this seemingly essential piece of information. Whether I’d blocked it out and had simply failed to pay attention I couldn’t say; but whilst ignorance may certainly be bliss, it does nothing to get you an extra box of tissues. Instead of a box of super soft two-ply facial tissues, I was now being offered a very large quantity of ignominy.
It had all been going so well until things turned well and truly sour. The person at the checkout was in the middle of scanning my groceries when a look of disgust took her face hostage and demanded a sizeable ransom. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said, whilst sounding anything but sorry, ‘you can only have two boxes of tissues at a time.’ Those forming a queue behind me all inhaled at once from shock. I could tell my fellow shoppers were angry. I began to fear for my safety when one of them was heard to ask a staff member which aisle they’d find ‘tar’ and ‘feathers’ in.
Caught unawares, I was forced to make a choice between defiance and acceptance. I could either demand to know by what earthly authority this seemingly arbitrary limit had been imposed or I could simply accept my fate and mumble an apology before departing the store accompanied by both my groceries and my shame. I considered the former. I chose the latter.
As I clutched at the handles of my shopping bags, I was informed that my picture would be kept on file as a reference, lest I should lose my senses and decide to try again. I would not, under any circumstances, be permitted to buy any more tissues. Possibly ever. My tissue privileges were to be revoked.
Having overlooked this apparently significant new limit with respect to Kleenex, I began to wonder what else I’d missed. It seems likely that every time I leave the house from this point, there’s a chance that I might violate some new rule and end up tearing a dirty big hole in the social fabric as a result. For shame! Nobody wants to be the one who ruins it for everyone else. I am now plagued with doubt. Normally, I only feel this uncertain on bin night (is it recycle week or garden waste week? I’m forever relying on my neighbours to get it right – I’ve no idea).
Just as when you break wind in an elevator, people are slow to forgive you when you attempt to buy an extra box of tissues. I should count myself lucky that they left me to store security and didn’t call the authorities. No one wants to be taken in for questioning by the officers of Tissue Squad. Who knows what the penalties would be in the event they felt that prosecution was warranted. It would be ironic, I feel, if I were sentenced to hard to time for a box of extra soft tissues. Doubtless, as the judge handed down my punishment and I would weep uncontrollably, only to be denied access to the tissues I so sorely needed. Oh the humanity.
I left the supermarket before things could get any worse. If that’s what they do for tissues, goodness knows what happens if you try and secure additional supplies of milk. It’s a funny, mixed up world. One that’s still recovering from a gigantic shock. For now, I’ll make do with the tissues I have and, should the worst happen and I should catch a cold and run out, make do with old newspapers and slow moving pets. But, for now, let me say to you – cherish your tissues. You never know when you might need them.