Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trying to buy a watch on Oxford Street

I am in London for meetings. The meetings are fine, everything else is confusing and upsetting.

First of all I trip up on Oxford Street, which is no fun when you are in your early to mid-forties, as one's entire life flashes before one's eyes. Then, a moment later, I trip up again, with the same result, only this time I got more of the subtler background jokes, which was nice.

My watch is broken (an earlier incident), so I go into Muji on Oxford Street to buy a new one. If this was a film, a large 'A SIMPLE TASK' title card would flash up ironically, in a special font designed by Wes Anderson.

There are many watches on a display thing in front of the till. I reach out to a reasonable-looking example, only to be confounded by some sort of invisible forcefield I realise too late is clear perspex, rendered invisible by the strong overhead lighting. No worries, I think, I shall simply try again, this time extracting a watch from 'above'. I do so, only for my hand to crumple against the exact same barrier. I refuse to look round, because now a queue has built up behind me, every one of whom must be convinced I am the drunkest man in London (I've had two coffees, which is admittedly two too many).

Giving up, I ask the lady behind the till, who, I'll be honest, has been staring at me throughout, if I can have one of the watches.
'We don't have any watches', she says.
'Erm', I say, pointing at the watches. My hand accidentally hits the perspex again. I can hear a worried sigh from the queue behind me, but refuse to turn round.
'We have some watches here,' says the lady in the exact same tone, somehow not admitting this is the exact opposite of what she said just seconds ago, and lifts a battered margerine tub of slightly knocked-about watches onto the counter. For a Muji store, this feels like the least on-brand move she could have made, to be honest, but I let it slide.
'That one please', I say, pointing to the simplest possible looking watch, but my pointing doesn't seem to have worked and the lady looks confused. 'Three in from that side, and three in from that side', I say. 'The one in the middle'.

The lady looks at the watch. 'We don't have that one', she says.
'But it's right there!' I say. We are both becoming tearful now.
'I will look downstairs' says the lady, and flees.

The queue is making rumbling noises behind me now, but I refuse to turn round. After an hour or the lady returns with a small cardboard box.

'I have a watch', she says, and shows it to me. It isn't the one I wanted, but it could conceivably be a man's watch, and it has hands, which fit almost all my requirements.

'Yes!' I nearly shout. I buy it and leave the shop, refusing to look anyone in the vast queue in the eye on the way out.

(This is the watch I ended up buying, which I quite like, although it verges on fussy for my tastes)


Outside, even though I am on the different side of Oxford Street (on the south side heading east to west, rather than the north side heading west to east, compass fans), I trip twice more. The first time I notice that a lady who played an assembly line work at the small electronics factory I worked at in the early nineties now plays a South African dental technician at my current dentists. The second (or fourth, to be technically accurate), time, I become annoyed by the intrusive background music.

BUT THAT'S NOT ALL.

At Paddington Station, I go to pick up my small suitcase thing from left luggage.
'That will be FORTY POUNDS', chuckles the man in left luggage. His co-worker is giggling alongside him, and they are both waiting for me to get the joke.
'Forty pounds?' I ask, confused. They instantly stop laughing.
'No', says the first one, offended. 'Fourteen pounds'.
'It says twelve pounds here', I say, pointing at a thing.
'Yes,' says the first one. 'Really it is only twelve pounds'. The co-worker sighs deflatedly in a manner that suggests they had a whole routine going and I RUINED IT.
'Because fourteen pounds isn't that much more than twelve pounds', I start to say, confusedly, but the first man is holding up my suitcase.
'Or we could KEEP YOUR BAG FOREVER!' shouts the man, laughing again.
'No', I say firmly, pay the money and take the bag.

A small queue has built up behind me. I do not look any of them in the eyes on the way out.

Today I have to go into London once more. I am not entirely looking forward to it.