Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Weighing Scales

I stand, the last in the short queue, coveted pink weighing scales heavy in my hands.

It's late in the evening, they're about to close the department store. Still bright outside, late summer. Only one or two aimless customers wander in the kitchen utensil section, browsing garlic crushers or expensive heavy saucepans.

The weighing scales was the last complete set and it's quite dirty, will need to be cleaned when I drive it home to its next home on my kitchen table.

It's my turn and I place it on the counter, for the price to be taken by the cashier and for the other woman to swathe it in layers of light, protective foam.

The cashier lifts it delicately, and I'm afraid that she'll comment on it's dirt, that she'll shame me into leaving it, even though it's the last one, and if a weighing scales were to be some tool to communicate who I like to see myself as, this is it.

She doesn't comment, she's listening to the other woman who says,

'I'll get you that water Mary now, and then I'll take over from you. It's becoming clear though, that the only way to go is private, and I don't like that Mary. It's costing a fortune, but going public, well it would take a few weeks for him to even see me, and I just can't wait Mary, I think it's serious, you know, I have a bad feeling about this'.

The cashier nods, and finding the barcode, attempts to scan in the price. The other woman hesitates, and doesn't move away, instead continues,

'But do you think I should wait, like, and go public? I feel just terrible Mary, just awful. He's going to have a look tomorrow, but maybe I should leave it and go public?'

The cashier turns and says,

'You can't not see him if it's arranged for tomorrow - it doesn't work like that, and your health is the most important thing, if you think something is wrong, then get it taken care of. I'd like that water, it would be great.'

And the other woman nods, saying,

'I'd have to wait weeks Mary, for them to see it, if I went public.'

The scanner can't pick up the code, so the cashier begins to scrunch her eyes to read it, and then carefully types it, digit by digit, checking each one, into the register,

'Last night Mary, it got so bad that I was in the toilet for an hour and Ciara was knocking on the door, saying 'are you alright in there Ma', it was terrible, I couldn't keep anything in me, all the food from the day passed right through me.'

The price pops on the screen and the cashier pauses, before the other woman says,

'I'll do this one, and then I'll get the water.'

The cashier nods, and hands the weighing scales to her before asking for my credit card, which I hand to her.

The other woman handles my weighing scales carefully, as though she's sizing it, before placing it on the thin sheets of foam.

The cashier places my credit card in the machine and asks me to put my pin number in the keypad.

Somebody stands behind me, and suddenly there's a queue again.

'I don't mean to you know upset you Mary, I know that you, and a couple of years ago and, you haven't had your break yet, what time is it, are we near closing?'

The cashier says

'The water will do me grand, it will be fine. If you're worried, have it seen to, that's my advice.'

The other lady nods.

'Well, Mary, I'll just wrap this up, and I'll get the water. But I'm very scared, really I am.'

She begins to roll a layer of foam on, securing it with sellotape before beginning the second layer.

'Was it awful Mary, was it?' she asks.

I wonder whether they even realise that I'm standing listening, I'd rather not, but I can't help hearing from where I am. And if I move, it will be too obvious.

The other person behind me, who I can't see, must be listening too. Or maybe they can't hear.

'After they took the ovary out, it was over, and I've had no trouble since. If you're worried, get it seen to, that's my advice.'

The cashier says.

I admit that I'm shocked.

I know that she would like her glass of water, and I'm feeling that she wants the conversation to end. If I could, I would get her the water, or better still, walk away, but I'm in the middle of this transaction.

The other lady looks at the cashier who is handing me back my card, and says

'That's where I've messed it up, Mary, by leaving it too long. I should have had it seen to when the problem started, instead of ignoring it for so long. I have a really bad feeling about this Mary, a really bad feeling. I'm scared.'

After saying this, and pausing for a few seconds, she slowly lifts the swathed weighing scales high in the air, and the cashier, understanding what she's doing, places under it a large paper bag bearing the department store logo. Between them, moving each object carefully, they place the inflated heavy scales securely in the bag.

The cashier hands the bag over, without looking at me.

I nod and say thanks, quickly moving away from the till.


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