Corner shop eccentricities

My local bakery seems to employ only two types of people:

Extremely nubile (and firm I tell ya…firm !) students for whom wearing very much more than a belly ring seems inordinate trouble, and

Daft old ladies. There’s one in particular who really must have a few pages stuck together.

Examples: This morning I asked for a warm sausage roll. She totters over to the microwave, puts in the roll and stands back. Then, after a minute, she takes it out, puts it in a bag and hands it over. Unheated. I smile and thank her.

About a week ago I asked for the last cream scone on the tray. She takes it off the tray and hands me the tray. I look confused, she looks confused. Eventually she rediscovers the scone and we’re all happy.

I love the old girl ! Anyone else have similar experiences ?

My local Co-op is staffed almost entirely by Malaysian immigrants with virtually no English language skills. (Some of them are pretty damn cute, though…)

And you can tell it’s in a student-y sort of area. You can find organic fair-traded ground coffee in a range of strengths and flavours, but you can’t get soap for love nor money.

Having met you in person, I can see why you leave them flustered. :wink:

Hunter’s Bar bakery, Sheffield, c1984; three o’clock on a Sunday (shop closes at four). Middle-aged woman and elderly woman serving. A pair of young female customers in the shop - being served by the m.a.w. while the e.w. engages her in conversation by the till. Enter everton who waits patiently for their conversation to subside. Eight minutes go by, ten, twelve. Eventually…

E.W.: Are you being served?
Ev (eyes skyward): Er, well you aren’t serving me are you? So no, not yet. I’ll have four breadcakes please (breadcakes = soft rolls in S. Yorkshire speak).
E.W. looks around the shop vainly, then asks co-worker’s advice.
E.W. We haven’t got any.
Polythene bags were arrayed along the counter behind her, containing approx seven dozen breadcakes
Ev (pointing): What about them?
E.W. They’re twelves.
Ev: Yeah, and I want four.
blank stares; suppressed laughter from other customers who’ve stayed to enjoy the cabaret
E.W. We can’t open them, they’re twelves.
Ev: You’re not going to sell all that lot today are you? Why don’t you open one of those bags and give me four of them?
hesitant confusion
Ev: Go on, sell me four of those breadcakes right behind you there.
E.W. opens one of the bags. How many?
Ev: Four.
takes four breadcakes out, bags them up and totters tillwards like Julie Walters in that “two soups” sketch
E.W. How many was it?
Ev (suppressing exasperation in voice I hope): Four breadcakes. It’s thirty-six pence.
E.W. Er. Thirt-six pee.
hands her a five-pound note - big mistake - I’d spent the last of my change at the newsagent’s. During the next geological period I receive change for a pound coin
Ev: I gave you a fiver.
E.W. Eh?
Ev: Why don’t you knock some cotton wool out of your ears and pay attention. I gave you a five pound note to pay thirty-six pence - it should be four sixty-four change.
She: another long pause; back to the till; eventually gets the right change.
Ev: Thanks. Goodbye.

It changed hands soon after.

Steve – I’m sure immigrants can be equally as eccentric. The only experience I’ve had, and I suppose it’s not really on-topic, was when I lived in Putney. Our local fish and chip shop was run by Chinese. The best English speaker in the family did the serving and always shouted very loudly to everyone else as if to emphasise the urgency and importance of the transaction.

I think everyone in Putney must have known I liked a Snake and Liddly Pie !!! with my chips.

You see everton, that’s the kind of thing I like – clueless as regards customer service but kind of gentle, sweet …and daft.

Diane- Aww shucks, cup cake. Yous still got tha’ sweet talkin’ vo-cab-a-u-lar-i-ly, aintcha ? And with you bien mighty purdy, i’s a blushin’ here – have a nice day an’ keep the wagon out them ruts. Thank you, Ma’m.

About two blocks down from my last apartment was a corner lunch counter called “The Lido”. Exterior decor early 60’s turquoise tile and script logo. From the outside the place looked all beat to hell. NEver had the courage to go inside, but what I could see through the (filthy) windows was dark faux panelling, an electric clock, a beer cooler, a rack of potato chips and a rack of chewing gum.

There would generally be a half dozen rough looking folks sitting around drinking bottled beer, smoking cigarettes and eating chips (and possibly chewing gum too although I did not stand around long enough to evaluate this possibility fully). I never saw any other food served, nor any other service people, deliveries etc (other than the beer truck). Bearing in mind that Ontario has a law where even beer joints need a functional kitchen that can serve burgers etc this is extra-suspicious…

So it seems evident that the place was some sort of front for certain underhanded dealings. I have heard rumors but nothing concrete. It has since been closed down and remodelled into (yet another) coffee bar, quite upscale now really.

The counterman was a grizzled old Greek guy, more or less ball shaped and stooped over a cane. He would sit by the till up at the front window all day long. I never saw him move from that spot. Ever. One day as I was walking past he opened the till drawer, reached into one of the compartments therein, pulled out a set of false teeth, and popped 'em in! :eek:

Yeah, the old neighborhood has cleaned up quite a bit since then…

Ooh ooh ooh!

I know where you mean everton, I’m now studying at Sheffield and buy bread from that exact baker’s shop. Still run by wacky people even if it has changed hands but I haven’t been in for a while. Too busy trying on vintage clothes in Sharrow Vale road and flouncing around imagining I’m in a BBC period drama with Colin Firth.

Aww, none of that compares to the infamous (and now dearly departed) Shrimp and Crack.

I used to live only a few houses away from our corner store. The first time I went in there, I was a little nervous. My then-roomie said he had been in there, and it was just fine. So, off I went to buy a pack of cigarettes and a Pepsi.
You had to walk in through two iron doors, covered with iron mesh. The wooden door behind it hadn’t been painted in 20 years. The floor was uneven concrete, and painted in some spots. The Pepsi refrigerator had to have been 20 years old. There was a beer cooler, but the glass in the doors was so scratched and funky that you had to open the door to see the selection. The register was on an old jewelry counter with the glass top and shelves inside. The shelves held all the candy, because neighborhood kids would steal it if it wasn’t tied down. To the left of the register was a 50 gallon fish tank that was ALWAYS half empty and full of algae. The filter was still functioning and running, although useless since it was well above the water level. Behind the counter, there were just stacks of newspaper and random crap piled from the floor to the ceiling. This covered the entire back wall of the place. There were a couple of free-standing shelves that held day-old bread and chips, but everything else was junk that the owners had just started piling up. There was a crew of older black guys that used to sit on chairs and crates and drink beer and watch the tv they had on top of the beer cooler.

The two people that owned the place were just the nicest people. They always called me the “crazy white girl and her weirdo friend” because my roommate was a guy with earrings and tattoos. The guy that owned it told us he was just trying to save up enough money to buy a fishing boat, so he could take people out deep sea fishing. The place always smelled of fish and cigarettes and stale beer. Everyone called it the Shrimp and Crack, because no one really knew the name of the store; it looked shady and smelled even funnier.
Apparently the owner saved up enough money, because at the beginning of April, they started cleaning out the building. It took 4 of those huge dumpsters that fit on flatbed trucks to empty out all the crap that was in that place. It may have been a dirty, smelly place, but they always had my cigarettes and my Pepsi, and that was all that mattered.

Unfortunately, none of you will be able to visit Betty Brown’s, which was located at the corner of Sophia Street and William Street in the Fredericksburg of my youth (mid- to late-sixties). Mrs. Brown is dead and the place has been taken over by an antique store. But, oh, the memories…

Mrs. Brown had lead a life that would have tried the patience of Job. Her husband had died during a family picnic (the Rapphannock River runs through F’urg), her twins (girl/boy) had been hit and killed by a drunk driver after they got off the school bus, and her oldest daughter had run off to find herself, thinking that the best place to look was in South America and Africa (more on this latter). Mrs. Brown was also a hunchback, about 4’6" tall at the top of her shoulder (which was damn near higher than her head).

My grandmother lived around the corner from BettyBrown’s (you had to say it fast - it was practically all one word) and went there to get Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and Pall Mall cigarettes. Mrs. Brown also sold newspapers, sodas, some groceries, fresh seafood (she cooked crabs in the summer and I’ve eaten many, many bushells that she’s pulled right off the cooker), and, word was, Mrs. Brown made book some and you could play the numbers if you were so inclined. The best thing about the place, though, was the stuff that wasn’t for sale.

Ms. Brown’s daughter had disappeared, only to show up ever now and then again after having been to some strange part of the globe or another. She always brought stuff back with her, and Mrs. Brown’s store was full of tribal art, spears, bow and arrow sets, drums, furntiure, etc. from South American and Africa. I distinctly remember a portrait of JFK that looked exactly like what JFK would have looked like had he been black and dressed like a Masai herdsman. The best things, though, were the shrunken heads and shrunken bodies that had come from Ecuador.

In a little glass case, near the back, were 5 shrunken heads and two mumified, little shrunken bodies. They were leathery looking, with straight black hair, and I remember that their mouths were sewn shut. I can still hear Mrs. Brown telling people the directions to the bathroom - “Go toward the back, turn left at the shrunken heads, an go in the first door on the left.”