Like we all do, every week I put the laptop away for a while and go to the local supermarket to do the food shopping. Boring maybe, for some, but I quite enjoy strolling round the aisles, looking for things that I haven’t tried before and browsing in the ‘pet’ aisle, for something nice for the dog, who is waiting patiently at home for me to return.
It’s not all fun and games though – choosing which till to go to is always a gamble, and picking one with a reasonably short queue is no guarantee that you’ll soon be in the car, winging your way home to your furry friend, with a packet of pet treats on the seat beside you. There’s often a customer at the front of the queue who decides, just as they’re about to pay, that they have to nip back for something else.
‘It’ll only take me a second to grab one more thing!’ they say in a bright, reassuring voice, only to disappear into the crowds of shoppers for ten minutes or more, while the rest of us shuffle about in irritation. Finally they’ll reappear, avoiding eye contact as they huff and puff their ways through the crowds, their arms laden down with what is definitely a lot more than just “one more thing”!
I always think that these situations must be very stressful for the person on the till, as they watch the rest of us get more and more impatient, and they can only cross their fingers that we won’t start blaming them for the delay. But when I went to the supermarket last week, it was, luckily, not too busy, and the young chap on the till appeared quite relaxed. As he seemed chatty, I asked him whether he preferred it to be busy or quiet, and his answer really made me think.
‘Well,’ he said, ‘I like it to be in the middle – not so quiet that time drags, but not too busy either. In fact,’ he said as he expertly flicked the dog treats into a bag-for-life, ‘ideally, I like just a little gap between customers, so that I can hear my thoughts.’
As I climbed back into the car a few minutes later, this line kept running through my head. I really liked the idea of having a little gap to ‘hear my thoughts’, and it struck me, how important this is. It’s nice to have a little gap between tasks, whether you’re writing a story, doing some homework, compiling a complicated report or – indeed – running round the garden chasing a dog toy. In future, I’m going to try to always take a few second’s gap between tasks to hear my thoughts – I’m hoping that it might even lead me to a new story idea!