Guilt

… or my Stilton shame…

Guilt is a strange thing. On the one hand, we seem to be able to successfully bury the most heinous of transgressions deep inside us with no qualms at all, while on the other, the most trivial of events can sometimes fill us with a sense of remorse and self-loathing so intense that it would make a seasoned murderer blush.

Just a few days ago I had a hankering for cheese. Really good, stinky Stilton cheese. The sort of cheese that doesn’t just assault you with its overpowering odour, but physically punches you in the face when you bite into it. So, off I went to the local supermarket, a pleasant enough place if a little crowded on a damp and dreary Saturday afternoon, as was the case here. After a quick search of the shelves, I found what I was looking for, in the dairy section funnily enough: a lovely big hunk of blue-veined Stilton, complete with a warty brown rind. Just the sight of it made my mouth water, so I grabbed it and headed off towards the check-out.

As I left the dairy section, I spotted another row of Stilton. According to the sign below them, they were of the same brand and weight, but considerably cheaper. A quick inspection revealed that they were actually a fair bit smaller than the one I had picked up, but still, the sign said that they were the same. I double checked, suspecting that they had been mislabelled, but the fact remained that there were two signs advertising the same product at two different prices. Not wanting to miss out on a potential bargain, I took photos of the offending signs, grabbed another couple of blocks from the shelf and continued on my way to the check-out, with the intention of asking the till operator to do a ‘price check’ for me when I got there.

After waiting in the queue for what seemed like forever, I finally reached the till and asked about the cheeses. Sure enough, they had been mispriced. That should have been the end of the matter, but no. When I pointed out the issue with the conflicting signs, the very harassed looking check-out operator, gave me his best ‘Oh God’ expression, complete with rolling eyes and mumbled something about putting them all through at the price of the cheapest one, which was unbeknown to me, already heavily discounted. Now, I have to say in my defence that I did remonstrate, saying that I would be happy to pay full price for the others, but the check-out operator wasn’t having any of it. Almost dismissively, the now ridiculously low total was rung up and a pittance was what I ended up being charged.

As I walked away from the check-out, I glanced back at the operator, who was in the process of closing the check-out. The poor fellow looked like he was about to commit hari-kari. I don’t think that I’ve ever seen such despondency on a human face before. Suddenly, what should have been a minor triumph over the growing global dominance of supermarkets: getting away with three lovely lumps of Stilton for a fraction of their usual price, became the hollowest of victories.

I don’t know what came over me, but I suddenly felt absolutely rotten. Had my polite enquiry somehow pushed him over the edge? Was he going to be forced to pay what I had not? Was I going to be listed as the cause of his subsequent nervous breakdown or worse? I knew deep inside that I hadn’t done anything wrong, merely asked him for a price check, something which I am sure happens every day in the world of the professional supermarket operative, but it was the response that had shocked me. No matter how hard I tried to rationalise it, I ended up feeling as if I had spat in his face or spent the morning casually torturing his family, rather than simply asking about the price of cheese.

What made things worse was that the feeling persisted long after I’d left the shop and continued well into the evening. Needless to say, my hankering for Stilton abruptly vanished, with the offending cheese still sitting untouched in my fridge even now. It also ultimately made for a very difficult night’s sleep, which just goes to show how strange a beast is our good friend called guilt.

Maybe I’m just overreacting, I don’t know, but for whatever reason, that fleeting interaction with the man at the check-out on that rainy Saturday afternoon has affected me profoundly. I do know that I’ll get over it eventually, I always do, but I’ll probably have to give Stilton a miss for a while at least!

While you’re in a cheese-free state of mind, why not have a look at another of my food-related posts here, or if you really can’t tear yourself away from the stinky stuff, then check out this, the ultimate guide to caring for you Stilton (awww):

Making the most of your Stilton