My wife gets Thursdays off, and she spends those mornings chillin with friends and family having nice relaxing breakfasts out. I get Saturday off, when the only other people who have the day off are other bankers, i.e. people I see everyday at work. No D'arcy's Kitchen breakfasts for me on Saturdays- at least not yet. What do I do Saturday morning? Well, our maid seems to think that the banks of Oman collectively lobbied the government for three years to get this additional day-off only so that she can greet me every Saturday morning with a neat long list of items for me to get from the supermarket. Aaaaargh.
I am never going to be one of those people who are really efficient at getting their groceries. No matter what I do, I end up taking way too long in the supermarket and buying more items than what's on my list. I used to be ok with going out for groceries because it was more of an outing. I didn't have responsibilities, grocery shopping was just another form of shopping, i.e. buying stuff that I like. Or earlier on in our marriage, grocery shopping for my wife and I was more like snack shopping because we never ever cooked our own food in our first year of marriage. Now that I'm responsible for my own household, it's become a stressful task: I am buying these things because I have to. I have to go get these things because they have run out of them at home. Can't not have milk. Can't not have water. Can't be out of bread.... And if I leave aside the not-so-necessary things, I'd end up eventually having to go to supermarket and fill a shopping cart with all the things that I kept out of the previous short trips to the supermarket.
So there I was queueing at the check-out at Lulu Saturday morning with a shopping trolley so full that it can barely move straight. I used to get embarrassed when I have so much in my trolley, but it doesn't bother me anymore because all the others in all the queues have even more. Some even have multiple trolleys. I pass my time standing in queue catching up with blogs and RSS feeds on Google Reader on my phone. Best invention ever. (By the way I got the Nokia E71 last week, but I'll tell you all about that in another post).
As it gets to be my turn at the register, I looked at the person behind me and it turns out to be some poor soul with just a handful of items. How come it's always like this? Now I felt compelled to get through the check-out as fast as possible so this person behind me can get through. Like always, I luck out with the one check-out that doesn't have a bagger. No problem, I'll bag my own- less plastic bags wasted. But, it also means that I have to first wait till all the million items in my trolley have been unloaded onto the belt before I can move to the other end of the check out and start bagging.
The total comes up and I decided "maybe it's time I use my Basma points to pay". They just keep accumulating and whenever I want to use them to pay at Lulu the damn machine doesn't work. It keeps saying "Line busy". I don't understand what line is busy when Basma is supposed to be a so-called "smart" card with all the points stored in the chip that's embedded on the card. It's such a scam. I think ever since they came up with this Basma card scam I have only been able to use it to pay for stuff once. You can accumulate points all you want, but actually use those points? Never. This time, to compound my embarrassment, the cashier told me "it says you have no points on your card." No way. I get stubborn and insist that she has to accept the card. I'm not going to accumulate these points forever. She calls the supervisor who goes on to demonstrate to me how I have no points by taking me from one Basma machine to the other on other cashiers' stations, with all of them showing the same thing. What a scam, I have about 100 rials of point accumulated on my card. I reached my stress and public embarrassment quota for the day, so I gave her my debit card, "'7ala9, I'll pay from my account". She comes back and tells me, "it says insufficient balance." I feel like I've been holding up the queue for an hour and all the people are staring at me. I can see the the ATM machine not even 10 meters behind me. I tell the supervisor "Ok, I'm gonna go withdraw cash with this same card which you says there's no money in my account". I say it knowing I could be setting myself up for an even bigger embarrasment. The ATMs at Lulu supposedly have the worst uptime ratio of any other ATMs in Muscat. "Please please don't humiliate me. Please work..." And it works! I came back in less than a minute with cash to pay for the groceries. I walked away pushing my trolley and stopped at the customer service counter and asked the woman there to check for me if there's something wrong with my Basma card. She puts it in the POS machine and it quickly gives the balance of all the points I have accumulated on the card. Welcome to my grocery hell.
And the worst part, I'll probably be back there again next Saturday morning.