For normal folk, running out of milk and bread isn't really that big a deal. They can hop in the car or pop up to the nearest dairy and, to be honest it wasn't that much of a problem for me either, even though my wife Pam was away for a few days. My friendly local store was just a five-minute walk away but, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to go to the supermarket.
It may have been a rabid flash of independence, a yearning for adventure or just plain stupidity, but cane in hand, off I set to tackle the 20-minute walk to the local Countdown. On reflection, the name itself should have served as a warning of things to come.
I set off at the merriest clip a 70-plus body, shoving a four-foot cane could muster. I tackled the climb uphill without disaster, pausing briefly at the intersection to avoid an invasion of 'hoverers'. I then meandered gently down the hill with a distinct feeling that this independence stuff was a piece of the proverbial.
Outside the supermarket, I paused to formulate a plan of action. I could just stroll up to the checkout and ask someone to get the stuff, but what the hell, this was my Independence Day, so why take the easy route! Next challenge was whether to use a trolley or not? Taking a trolley to collect a litre of milk and a loaf of bread seemed a bit much, but the alternative was to tap up and down the aisles, thanking hordes of 'hoverers' anxious to render my newly-founded independence redundant. The cane, I decided, should be discreetly folded in the trolley to indicate an ability to cope rather than a subtle plea for help.
Not being sure where exactly in the store the necessities were kept, I decided that an elimination strategy was the way to go. If I went up one aisle and down the next I was bound to find the stuff. I soon discovered that other shoppers were keen to give me a wide berth which seemed to suit us all fine, but the main problem was the specials. For ‘blindies’, specials are the supermarkets answer to landmines. They create artistic little piles and pyramids of all sorts of overstocked or unsold goodies and plonk them in the middle of the highest traffic areas.
In all modesty, I felt I made good progress up and down those aisles, passing all sorts of interesting gear; stuff that I might have been tempted to buy if I could read the labels. As time passes, I have adopted the attitude that if I can't see it, it’s not going to be that important to me, unless it’s an approaching vehicle of course.
I reached the dairy section without incident or injury only to find that the act of buying milk had become a lot more complicated since my last visit. There were literally acres of plastic bottles on display, some with different coloured tops that obviously meant something to trained shoppers, but not to me. Light, trim, low-fat or standard? Independence Day was starting to lose its appeal and my hesitancy caused a bit of a trolley jam. Unable to decide, I grabbed the nearest bottle caring not if it contained calci-trim or weed killer.
At the bakery section I found that bread makers had joined the dairy folk in making life complicated. I was faced with a bewildering array of wholegrain, farmhouse, gluten-free, sourdough and far too many mystical offerings to make any sort of choice. Obviously, it was time to quit this independence nonsense and leave Countdown to its own devices. I toddled home in a less adventurous frame of mind, stopping at my friendly local dairy where trolleys and specials don't exist, and you can buy stuff without too many ulcerous deliberations.
Born in the UK, our “white caner” columnist, Trevor Plumbly, a retired arts and antiques dealer and former owner of Plumbly’s Auction House in Dunedin, was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa 15 years ago. In 2008, when sight loss put a stop to the antiques dealing, Trevor and his wife Pam relocated to Auckland to be closer to family.