There’s chaos in our supermarket. I don’t like shopping so I have a list, and a plan, and want to be in and out the shop as fast as possible. Now it’s having a dramatic makeover – shelves taken down and the goods left stacked in boxes in one place, aisles completely dismantled in another, some items stacked in one part of the shop and the same items stacked elsewhere. Parts of the shop are empty and other parts are under construction. Shopping is now a very lengthy process. It’s as if they’ve set up an elaborate treasure hunt, leaving us searching the aisles desperately for clues.
Feeling confused and insecure because I didn’t know where to find the frozen peas, I wondered if this is a practice run for the relocation of the town.
The new town centre is still a sketchy thing, with reindeer playing on the steps of the town hall and children making snowballs in the square in the architects’ imaginations, but not yet in any kind of reality. In the meantime we think businesses will probably move to the area where this supermarket is – a shopping centre currently on the edge of town, and the site of a very large car park. Or if they don’t move there they’ll stay put for as long as they can, daring the mine to evict them. Or they’ll move somewhere else temporarily, half way between the old and the new. Or they may just pull out of town altogether – who knows? When all this happens and we need an optician, or to find somewhere that sells, say, camping equipment, it might feel a bit like walking up and down the aisles of the supermarket, wondering which end of town they ended up in.
And that’s not the only similarity. Once you’ve found the right aisle for the item you’re looking for, the problem isn’t over. Take my search for red lentils. I thought I’d finally tracked them down, only to discover they’d been repackaged and re-priced and were hard even to recognise as red lentils. I wasn’t sure I wanted to pay more for a fancy packet, but I needed the lentils so I took them anyway. Later I found my favourite red lentils in a side aisle, in a familiar packet, much cheaper. So I did a swap, picking up the old favourites and leaving the new packet behind.
It’s not just red lentils that are in two places. The cereals are on shelves on both sides of the store, the cheese is spread out among different chill cabinets, the cleaning fluid is stacked both with the washing powder and elsewhere with the dishcloths. Don’t they know – we didn’t want the supermarket split into two shops!
The chaos continues. Like in the new town, it’s taking an age to get those aisles sorted. To stem the tide of impatience among its customers, the supermarket is inviting us to take part in choosing which Kiruna streets should appear as the names of the newly constructed aisles. We may not have been consulted about whether we wanted the reorganisation in the first place, but we do get to choose which street the biscuits section is named after.