The shop is rather full of customers. A catchy new song happily springs from the in-store stereo, and music lovers are leisurely flipping through the empty cases. The bargain bin, freshly repacked only a minute ago, is already a chaotic maelstrom of yesterday’s hits. I’m in a queue, clutching a CD, and inching closer to the pay point. I am nervous. A part of me is hoping that it will never reach the end of this queue. I already know the outcome. I try to think of of happier things, try to bully my mind away from mulling on the inevitable. My fingers leave damp prints on the crystal box, my gaze morbidly fleeting over its red clearance sale price of R99.99. Nine nine nine nine - symmetrical, palindromic, impossible.
It is my turn now. I receive a smile and a request for a club card. I offer neither. The poor girl seems totally oblivious off the dangerous, oxymoronic waters that we are about to enter. When did I become such a grouch? My purchase is now rung up. Pleasantly I am asked for ninety-nine, ninety-nine. I have no way of offering the requested amount. I tender a R 100 note. She has no way of offering change. I receive my CD, now neatly packed in a small bag, and a slip back. I check the slip, it says: Change R0.01. A cent that I will never own. Because such a coin doesn’t exist.
As always, I am overcome with the urge of insisting on my change. As always I don't. As always I am miserable and disgusted about it for hours afterwards. It will be a while before I can enjoy this CD. It has been tainted.
Back home, the story of my anguish meets with a lot of eye-rolling from my unsympathetic loved ones. I am basically advised to “get a life” and that I am extremely fortunate if “that is the worst of" my problems. So, the standard set of answers, then. It's all so hopeless! Can I possibly be the only person in the world who thinks this is horribly wrong! How can the price of any item be such that there is no way of paying for it, or offer change for it. Outrageous.
However, I flatter myself that my little neurosis is at least vaguely sensible when compared to that of my buddy, lets call him JC. He is just about the most level headed person you can meet, thoroughly enjoying the South African hallmarks of braaivleis, rugby, sunshine , M-net, brandy and deep sea fishing.
Now, I was not even aware, until JC pointed it out, that a roll of toilet paper may be inserted into its dispenser in one of two ways. But you can check this for yourself if you are skeptical
: it can either be placed in a way that allows the roll to unwind away from the wall, or towards the wall. Most people either don’t know this, or don’t care, but JC flatly refuses to use toilet paper that has been loaded in such a fashion that it is running down next to the wall. He will neither simply flip the roll around, nor even touch that roll again, ever!
Welcome to the world of pet hates.
I think these quirks are by far the strangest and most interesting feature of our minds, and will probably be the last thing about human nature to be explained satisfactorily.