AKA: The Shop Hop Shuffle
James Bond is sometimes considered to be a bit of a problem drinker. This will be no surprise to my fellow problem drinkers. We would probably do well in Her Majesty’s Secret Service, having developed great talents for subterfuge, disguise, misdirection and – let’s face it – for quaffing martinis.
An amateur espionage game that encompasses all the above and is essential for the modern delusional drinker, is one I call: The Shop Hop Shuffle.
If you aren’t personally acquainted with the Shuffle, then I envy you. Feeling able to do your shopping wherever you want to is a perk you don’t appreciate until it is gone.
I first started the Shuffle about ten years ago. Here’s how you play:
- Buy a bottle of wine on the way home from work from regular corner shop ‘A’.
- Crack it open as soon as you walk through the door.
- Pour a very large glass. It has been a stressful day. Drink liberally.
- Realise an hour later that there’s only one glass remaining and it’s not even 7.30pm.
- Panic a little. Inspect the bottle to see how deep the hollow bit on the underside is.
- Go out for more wine. But wait! You can’t go to regular corner shop ‘A’ again. They’ll know.
- Head for semi-regular corner shop ‘B’. Remember that’s where you bought a bottle of wine last night. Can’t go there two days in a row. They’ll know.
- Double back and check whilst passing regular corner shop ‘A’ in case there’s now someone else on the till. There isn’t.
- Trek all the way to the supermarket, pick up a basket, and wander around as though you’re there for groceries and a bottle of wine is just an afterthought.
- Put random groceries you don’t need, want, and can ill afford into the basket to make the wine purchase feel more socially acceptable.
- Be briefly joyful about using the self-check out, then remember that you need to have the alcohol authorised. Try not to appear wasted during this interaction.
- Walk home worrying about alcohol breath at the supermarket in case it means they know.
- Feel ashamed. Repeat daily.
I worried a lot more about being judged or found out for my drinking once I was out of my twenties and into my thirties. At a time when one is supposed to be growing older, wiser, and less phased by outside opinions I began to be very conscious about what total strangers might think. This, in hindsight, is typical alcoholic, self obsessed, narcissistic thinking. I am sure that none of them really gave a flying f*ck.
Here’s the tea. The Shop Hop Shuffle isn’t fooling anyone. It’s entirely for our own benefit.
For your amusement I present some of the best bits of shade that have been thrown my way by local shop staff during the Shuffle Years:
- ‘Don’t you think it’s a bit early for that?’ [4pm]
- [On asking to see my ID] ‘When was that taken? A year ago? You look so young!’ [Looks at wine, then back at me]. ‘You don’t look like that now.’
- [Shopkeeper clutches chest in fake heart attack] ‘What, no wine today?’
- ‘I’m giving all my regulars a Christmas present as a thank you. You were the easiest to choose for!’ [Wine. Of course.]
- ‘I’ve been adding up how much you spend every week on alcohol and cigarettes. Do you even realise how much that is?’ [The horror. I never went back.]
And my personal favourite…
- [Shopkeeper points at a newspaper on the counter]. ‘I’ve just realised who you look like! Nigella Lawson!’ [I am momentarily profoundly flattered, then see the article. It is the height of her drugs scandal and she looks bloody rough].
Joking aside, the Shop Hop Shuffle is an expression of, as well as a source of, profound shame. We do it because deep down We Know Better Than This, and we can’t believe that we’re doing it regardless.
The punch line is that the whole time I was doing it there really was someone important watching, counting, and judging. It was me.
Alcohol is one of the most manipulative substances there is, and it will persuade intelligent and sensible people to go to absurd lengths – to do stupid and even dangerous things – in the service of getting a fix whilst fooling themselves into thinking they are maintaining an illusion of respectability.
This is something I am deeply ashamed of.
- In 2012 I lived in a place that had just one local shop. The next nearest shop was a short drive away. I would often DRIVE MY CAR to that second shop after having already consumed an entire bottle of wine, just to get myself a second bottle of wine which I often would only have a glass of that night anyway.
Let that sink in. I risked not only my own life but – far worse – the lives of everyone else on the road, not to mention prison, because I was anxious about reaching the end of a bottle and too vain to go to the same shop twice. It’s more despicable than I can ever express. In hindsight, I could have driven to the second shop for the first bottle, and just walked to the local shop later without risking anyone’s life at all. Why didn’t I?
I was in denial. It is no excuse.
I am grateful every day that nobody ever got hurt. They say you are only as sick as your secrets.
It’s the first time I have ever admitted this one.
~The Sober Curator~