Goodness. Another reminder of the passage of time in that most unpromising of venues, the recently-rebranded-as-Morrison's in Dunoon. With the re-opening of the larger of the town's supermarkets came the questionable advantage of a couple of self-service checkouts - good if you have a packet of coffee and a carton of milk, but rather slower if you have a big shop which you struggle to accommodate on the smallish bag area. And certainly not good if you have to queue to use the facility in the first place.
I found myself with only a couple of items the other day - just right for a quick swipe at the barcode reader and away. But there was a problem. It was just after midday and the local primary schools were out. A small boy - about nine, I'd guess - was hovering in front of the touch-screen. I asked if he was finished with it, whereupon he dabbed at it with his gloved hand, then hit it, then attempted to operate it with his nose. At this, I suggested he quit fooling around before I lost patience. There was an interesting moment, a fraction of a second, when I wondered if he was going to resist my charm, but no. He left, breenging past me to join his little friends, only to be seized by the checkout assistant who was hovering: he still had to pay for a bag of crisps.
I realised that this assistant was in fact a former pupil of mine, and asked what he had done to deserve the thankless task of guarding the self-service checkouts. It seemed to me that it was the equivalent of the naughty stool, though he assured me it was simply that as a part-timer (because of going to college) he had no status and got all the dirty jobs. "It's these kids, " he told me solemnly. "They're little bastards, all of them. Were we like that?"
I told him that there was a reason for my teaching secondary, and that no, his lot had been relatively civilised when I knew them. But I couldn't help reflecting that this too was a sign of the passing years, when before my very eyes I saw the adult weariness on the face of someone who had been sitting at a desk in front of me ... when? Not yesterday? Not last year?
*I feel there is a touch of Bacon's essays about this title. I rather like it. But how do you spell breenging?