“What’s this?”, shrieked something behind Aviva Brackman.
“I was here first!”, it rasped, poking Miss Brackman’s back so hard, she almost keeled over..
Aviva Brackman and her foe, Mira Donner were pre-Sabbath shoppers at the Megazol Supermarket in Ashkelon. Both were at the check-out and desperate to get home.
“The basket you’ve just pushed away is mine - and this is my banana,” added Mrs Donner, still screaming. “I left it here to mark my place in the queue.”
“Excuse me! Behave yourself!” she shouted back, unused to being thus challenged.
“I was invited to move my goods from the adjacent check-out by the cashier. If you wish to complain, go to the manager. I’ve shopped in towns throughout Israel for more than 30 years and I have long refused to defer to other people’s oafish behaviour.
“You Israelis are shameless. First you stake-out your place in a queue like IDF men on manoeuvres. Then you amble around a store picking and pecking at food before you’ve paid. In the U.K., where I was born, that would be considered theft. So Madam, should we meet again, with me you will employ nimusim anglit – good English manners.”
Then, to the astonishment of the crowd growing around her, Miss Brackman threw back her coat and unbuttoned the blouse beneath, revealing an ornamental fruit nestling inside her capacious bra.
“This is not a viper I nourish in my bosom,” she announced. “It is a banana I carry always to sustain me during the vicissitudes of Israeli life.”
But as she spoke, store security arrived and propelled her into the branch manager’s office.
Minutes later, which seemed an eternity to Jake Wortenheim, Miss Brackman’s wrath was still in flood.
“For a lady of your er, maturity and demeanour your behaviour has been nothing short of extraordinary,” he told her. “Why didn’t you put your improvised customer place marker in your handbag? Even better, we do a good line in outsize shopping bags, which would contain your belongings very well.”
“Handbag? Products lines?”, thundered Miss Brackman, “The lines are immaterial! To make one mistake in business is a misfortune. But to cause havoc between two customers looks like carelessness.
“If I were you, I’d ask your employers to examine the British model. The late Jack Cohen of TESCO, for example, used the slogan ‘Pile ‘Em High! Sell ‘Em Cheap!’ His successors preferred ‘Every Little Helps’.
“Your company seems to understand only half of the original equation and has not yet grasped the basic idea of customer service.
“Even using something to separate different customers’ purchases at the check-out, would indeed be a little help.
“There is a growing fashion among the religious in this country to use screens to segregate the genders, even when at home. Quite ridiculous, of course! But why, in the name of heaven, can’t supermarkets divide the ‘holy’ items of one customer from the ‘temporal’ purchases of another?”
“Miss Brackman, that’s a great idea,” enthused Jake, now anxious to end the interview. “I’ll relay your thoughts to head office and I’ll inform you of their decision. But I beg you, please – no more scenes.”
Several weeks later, Miss Brackman received an invitation to visit Megazol’s Tel Aviv H.Q. for lunch.
“My dear Miss Brackman, what a pleasure to meet you,” said Yael Aaronson, head of marketing. “We’ve tested your idea at our Ma’alot branch and it’s been an outstanding success. My colleagues and I look forward to discussing our plans with you and the chief executive wishes to offer you a token of Megazol’s esteem.
Later that afternoon, the galleon fairly blew back to Ashkelon bearing a magnificent silver decoration on its prow.
“Do you like my new brooch?”, Miss Brackman asked her neighbour, Naftali Yarden when they met in the hallway of their apartment block.
“To Aviva Brackman. A lady who gives it to us straight.”
(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 24 May 2012)