Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Yes, we have no bananas...I mean...

As I live in smalltown Scotland I wouldn't think that this news story would have much effect on me. As it happens I feel like an innocent bystander caught in some terrible domestic argument that somehow ends up being all my fault.

My deli sells a selection of American imported products for our American population. This includes, for the months of October and November, Libby's Pumpkin in a tin. It's very difficult to get in the UK under normal circumstances, and it's almost impossible to get outside of these months. It's also reasonably expensive.

We sold out two days before Thanksgiving. Cue lots of last-minute Thanksgivers coming to our shop to find an empty space that had once been a pumpkin pyramid. Queries were met only with a shrug and a mention of a possible small consignment today.

It was ruthlessly windy and rainy today, typical for Scottish November. I was opening up the deli when I heard a knocking on the door and realised I had forgotten to unlock it on time. I headed to the front, panicking and praying that it wasn't the shop owner or I'd be in trouble.

A poor, pitiful, bedraggled figure was standing outside being battered by the wind. I remembered her from the previous day. She had bought some Aunt Jemima's products and had been disappointed to have missed the Libby's. I had told her about the pending mini-consignment of Libby's and I had also paid compliments to her cute purse.

"Is it here yet?" She asked.
"No," I replied, "I'm not sure when it will come in."
"Oh. No. Well, maybe I should just go to my class then."

In the next two hours I had a host of people ask me about the tinned stuff. When it did arrive, just twenty cans of the stuff, we kept it behind the counter and doled it out frantically like something illicit on the black market. A pimpkin. 'Ere mate, got any of the good stuff, yeah?

Within about 45 minutes it was gone. And I was back to having to console tardy Thanksgiving rookies.

At first I was quite sympathetic, but when it got to the 40th customer or so, my sympathy was becoming as depleted as our supplies of the tinned stuff. What should one expect in a small town in a country that doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving? We sell tinned haggis too, why not buy that and celebrate St.Andrews day instead?

As the afternoon wore on, customers became more desperate and pushy;

Customer: Do you have any tinned pumpkin left?
Me: No, we've sold out. Sorry.
Customer: Shit. But I heard you were getting more in today!
Me: We did at lunchtime, but it sold out.
Customer: (disbelievingly) Already?
Me: It sold out in less than an hour. We might get some more tomorrow, but not until after 4pm.
Customer: Well, what am I going to do then?
Me: You could try real pumpkin. Or butternut squash.

I said that with all the intent and purpose of being helpful, but the scowl I received in return was absolutely priceless. I may as well have suggested she grow the pumpkin herself. Obviously I just don't understand.

Maybe that's because I have never had a Thanksgiving dinner. I haven't grown up with the smell of Stove Top cornbread, I only tasted Candy Corn for the first time a few weeks ago, and to me, pumpkins are for carving into scary faces for Halloween, not for scooping out of a tin and making into pie.

I can only imagine that what I had said was something akin to this scenario: a situation where I had moved to Takayama in Japan, had been there for six months and was getting a little bit homesick. Christmas was coming soon, but isn't celebrated in Japan. Perhaps I knew there was one shop in the town that sold mincemeat and Jus'Roll pastry to make mince pies so that I could have that little taste of home, a small gesture of an old family tradition while thousands of miles away from the place I had spent my childhood Christmasses. I turned up to the little shop to find out that they had sold out of mincemeat that morning. My hopes of a single Christmas tradition would be ruined, until the cashier in the shop suggested...

"Why don't you just use grapes instead?"

Maybe that's how she felt. I'm not sure, but she certainly wasn't impressed.

One girl, after complaining that we had sold out, asked if my colleague had ever tried pumpkin pie. She hadn't. The girl had the audacity to add, "It's disgusting. But you're getting some more in tomorrow, right?"

Well, in that case, maybe I should try to compare it to looking for Brussels Sprouts. They really are disgusting, but essential for a family Christmas dinner. And maybe the Japanese cashier had suggested seaweed as a substitute...yeah. I don't know, I can only imagine.

A while later, the little bedraggled figure from the morning arrived back in the shop. She scanned the shelves and then saw me. Her face was filled with hope and her hair was filled with rainwater.

I reached through to the back and emerged with a solitary tin with a small paper note attached: for the girl with the cute purse.

I only did it because she hadn't asked for it to be kept aside and she wasn't pushy. Also, she had turned up first thing and caught me out with the door locked. I was definitely her favourite person today, but nobody else's.

So Happy Thanksgiving guys, although I feel a bit like a bemused bystander. You can be sure there won't be much thanks-given to me as I do the whole pumpkin shortage routine again tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. That's cheered me right up. You're my favourite person today too.