Rage Against the Free Sample Machine
‘How many free samples can I have?’
I inwardly sigh, and then reply, ‘Help yourself.’
‘OK thanks.’ The woman proceeds to scoop up the entire contents of the samples box, and pours it into her handbag. ‘I hope he likes them. He can be very fussy sometimes.’
‘You have a good day now,’ I add, through gritted teeth.
The woman turns and happily walks away from our stall, pleased about the bargain she’s just discovered.
A vein throbs furiously in my temple. If I was a cartoon character, I’d have little Hiroshima type mushroom clouds emerging from my ears. I turn to Kat, who is stood at my side, and watched the entire exchange play out.
‘You know, if they have to ask, then -.’ I begin.
‘I know,’ she replies calmly.
‘- and why did she have to take all of -.’
‘I know,’ she repeats again, in a more soothing voice this time.
I throw my hands in the air, frustrated that Kat isn’t sharing my frustration, and move my attention to staring at the back of the woman’s head. My beady eyes are narrowed and focused; my head twitches slightly to the rhythm of the pulsating vein.
Another customer approaches our market stall. She picks up a bag of dog biscuits, and is about to enquire on the cost, when she sees my face.
The biscuits are returned. The customer leaves.
‘Maybe you should sit down,’ Kat suggests.
For some reason, all I can think about is a time several years ago, when one of the temps in work asked how long her 5 minute cigarette break was? Through the haze of anger, I struggle to connect the memory to what just happened, but I’m sure there is something linking the two.
Another customer approaches. ‘Are these your dogs?’ he asks, gesturing to the photo we have on the table.
A myriad of sarcastic, unhelpful replies flash through my mind. Thankfully, Kat beats me to it, and engages in polite conversation with the friendly customer. Listening to Kat happily chatting away, I’m gradually lifted from my pit of fury. As if to provide a physical demonstration of this, I rise from my seat, and nod along to the conversation about dogs, and how wacky they all are.
These markets aren’t all bad, I think to myself.
I chuckle along to an anecdote, and then even throw in one of my own – something about how much Oshy barks. We all laugh along. The clouds, metaphorical and actual, part. A bright sun warms my face.
Everything is great again.
‘If only you had some samples I could try on my Labrador,’ the customer adds.
I sit back down.
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