I’m meeting my friend at five. I’ve reached Bank too early – I’ve recently started taking the bus instead of the tube and made too much allowance this time (the night before the roof top saxophonist had caused traffic blocks all the way back home so it was impossible to gauge the journey time or the normal rate of progression). I walk out of the station and look around for a Tesco’s.
After about fifteen minutes of seeing nothing but bars (do you think they drink a little around here?!) I give up on the adventure and ask an elderly gentleman if he knows of any about. He looks at me like he’s never seen a human being before. His face creases up and his eyes revolve aimlessly in their sockets. He’s dumbstruck. Fortunately, a damsel comes to rescue us both from our distress.
She’s on the way there, actually, to get her boss a sandwich. The rain clears up as soon as she appears – it’s one of those sudden banal miracles which make up London living. She starts asking me if I’m more of a West End person (funny thing to ask, but she is indeed sort of right – this was where my first university was). She’s middle-aged and blonde (everyone is blonde now?) with a sleek black suit (another office armour aficionado). I ask her if she’s a PA (since she’s on sandwich duty and everything). Is this offensive? She used to be one. We walk through an arch and then we’re there. She wants a ciggie first, so we part company.
I grab the sandwiches and then make for Bank Station. I’m planning on hiding out from the rain and waiting around aimlessly like everyone else, gazing out of the Greek temple entrance to the Royal Exchange bar expecting something out of life, unconsciously praying for someone. However, I pass Superdrug and suddenly recall that I’m all out of my daily cod liver oil capsules (which nobody with an intellectual pursuit should really be without, of course).
I go in the store. It’s dead (everywhere I go to is a Ghost Town – I’m out of sync with the whole fucking world). I ask the lady there to tell me where the pills are to save myself the hassle of looking for them myself. She obliges. I pick out the own brand pills on two for one offer. I notice the fragrance rack behind, where a girl in a headband is playing around with some boxes and a hand-held machine. I walk over to have a look.
The girl places herself before me. Can I help you? No, I’m cool. I’m just browsing. But I’m here now, says the girl. I look at her suspiciously for a moment. It is a Ghost Town. OK. Since you’re here. Where’s the men’s fragrances, please? They’re right here. She waves her hand expansively, like a salesgirl. Do you know if they’re all sprays or not? Sprays? She looks at me. What do you mean? You know… I’m lost for words for a moment… Can you just press a button or do you have to pour the bottle out? She doesn’t get it. She does get it. Oh, right. It’ll probably say. OK. Thanks. She loses interest and goes back to what she was doing.
I look around. I’m looking for whatever’s most reduced. It’s the CK – less than half price. It seems to be sold out, though – only the demonstrator bottle left. I ask the girl if it is. The manager – a beautiful blonde European girl (everyone is really blonde) comes over too. She asks me what’s up (service at Superdrug – what’s going on?) I explain again. The manager sends the girl off to check the availability and we stand around talking a little while. The manager strolls off and the girl comes back. They’re out. But I should really come back tomorrow as they’re going to have a delivery in. I say I’ll look at another Superdrug. No, no, says the girl. They may not have this one. Or this offer. Come back here (wow – they’re hot for custom). I make my thank yous and then walk to the pay counter.
The manager’s there. Did she help you out, she asks? Yes, it’s sold out unfortunately, I say. The girl that directed me to the pills (every single worker has helped me out now – usually you can’t get anyone to help you) processes my order. The manager tells me to come back tomorrow. There’s a delivery. I say I’ll check out another Superdrug. No, no, says the manager. They might not have it…
It seems like the Bank Superdrug is the only store that stocks Contradiction at a reduced rate…