There are two other Women of a Certain Age waiting at the bus stop when I arrive. I just missed one bus so I have walked on to the next stop, as a way of making best use of time (and adding to the steps registered on my
Bossy Boots Fitbit.) I am getting extremely good at time management, though I say so myself as shouldn’t (as my dear mum would doubtless gently chide me.) I will explain as I go on and you can be the judge of this bold claim.
I ask my bus stop companions if they think we will be allowed to use our bus passes, it being three minutes short of 9.30 a.m.p. One says she isn’t sure but the other declares that she isn’t
even going to ask the question of the bus driver, she will simply present her card in the expectation that she won’t be challenged. I decide to let her board the bus before I do…
The bus driver is a friendly fella; we exchange greetings, ask after each other’s well-being and I tell him I am off to the dentist’s. “Good luck with that!” he says. I take my seat with a certain feeling of
satisfaction that I have already had meaningful conversations with three complete strangers.
A few seats behind me a couple are talking about the library
and the fact that it is now open after refurbishment. They are wondering what changes have been made over the preceding months. I rehearse in my head what I would tell them, based on my extensive experience over the past seven weeks volunteering on the Summer
Reading Challenge, were it not for the fact that then I would have to admit to eavesdropping. The bus driver wishes me well as I alight at the town centre bus stop.
a fruit and vegetable stall at the entrance to the arcade, the stall holder is engaged in a ferocious argument with a young woman who has been checking the ripeness of his avocados. Could she please desist, he says (though a little less politely) from feeling
the avocados. Every time she presses them, she is bruising them - which means the next customer will buy bruised fruit without ever knowing about it. The customer looks at him, expressionless, and goes on feeling the fruit. The stall holder grows ever more
apoplectic in his protestations. Because I am watching my time, I have to reluctantly move on without knowing what happens next. Will the customer buy an avocado or three? Or not? Will the stall holder re-arrange all the avocados so that nobody could possibly
tell which ones have been felt / prodded / bruised? Is an avocado a fruit or a vegetable?
My appointment is at 10 a.m. which leaves me twenty minutes to
fill with productive activity. I take my carrier bag full of blister packs into Superdrug where, to their credit, they have a receptacle collecting these in aid of Marie Curie. I start counting the blister packs as I post them into the box. A friendly shop
assistant approaches me to suggest wouldn’t it be easier simply to take the top of the box and tip all the blister packs in? I have to admit, a little shame-facedly, that I quite like counting how many I have collected as this gives me a warm glow of
accomplishment. On the way out I tell him my tally: 86 bister packs. He gives me a thumbs up and goes back to stacking the shelves. I just have time to whisk into Marks and Spencers to pick up some breaded fish and sugar snap peas before presenting myself
at the door of the dentist’s surgery, to have my temperature taken and my hands sanitised by a new receptionist who knows my name, even before I tell her.
In the dentist’s waiting room we have to sit on chairs with our dentist’s name on the back. I am Julie. I strike up a conversation with a woman sitting on the chair labelled Paul though it is short and sweet as I don’t have to wait
very long to be called into the surgery. I don’t have a great deal of conversation with the dentist either because most of the time I have my mouth wide open, trying to move my tongue from side to side, up and down as requested which means I have to
communicate in sign language.
My teeth having received a clean bill of health, I find time to call in at the library to return the book I borrowed and at The Fabric
Shop (my favourite shop, Mr B’s least favourite shop) to buy wool for my latest knitting project. To my delight, the shop is already well-stocked with Christmassy material and ribbons, crafty kits and All Things Seasonal. I discuss with the sales assistant
the fact that this is the one kind of shop that needs to stock early for Christmas.
The electronic sign at the bus stop suggests that my bus will arrive
in three minutes. Five minutes later, it changes to indicate arrival in eight minutes. I explain this waywardness to a Cypriot woman who joins me at the bus stop. She laughs and says she expects the driver has stopped off quickly to buy himself some lunch.
We wonder together whether he has treated himself to a sandwich or a sausage roll…
I should have been a trifle miffed that the tardy arrival of the bus
has rather spoilt my otherwise excellent time management - but I can’t be cross because the driver happens to be the self same fella who drove me into town. “How did you get on?” he asked me - and I am ridiculously gratified that he recognises
me out of all the hundreds of passengers he must welcome aboard. Was it something I said? I wonder.
Brief encounters with total strangers. They make my day…