The supermarket can be a boring and depressing place at the best of times, let alone if you're single.
Couples snogging in front of the very shelf you're trying to reach - lasagne for ONE - or, much more likely, arguing about being organic in front of the tenderstem broccoli. It's a nonstop misery-fest, from the very moment you pick up your basket - complete with someone else's scrunched up receipts in the bottom of it, the bastard - to the awkward hunt for your loyalty card as your cans of beer clang in straining carrier bags.
One way to brighten up your journey to the supermarket is, of course, to have a crush on almost everybody in there. You tell yourself you'll never do it again, after that guy with the rippling muscles and the faux-geeky specs caught you salivating over him by the cottage cheese, but you can't help yourself. Supermarkets are boring and hate you - you need something to look at.
And, oh look, there's one now. His hair is just the right side of imperfect, his skin shines beautifully under the stark "prisoner loose at Alcatraz" supermarket lighting and he is sashaying down the aisles with a heady mixture of grace and vigour. He is Gigi and these tin-stacked corridors are his Champs-Elysées.
Let's get one thing clear: following people around supermarkets checking out their arse is a bad idea, and you know this. But just this once won't hurt, you tell yourself. I'll keep a safe distance this time, you reason. It's only really stalking if they see you, you decide. You are wrong on all counts, but there's no stopping you now is there?
You do a quick glance up and down the aisle to see a) whether anybody has noticed your eyes are glued to the nape of this poor unsuspecting gentleman's delicious neck and b) whether there's a better option. There's nothing. On you go.
What's in his basket?
You sidle up to near where the object of your affection is standing. In your head, you do this nonchalantly, almost on casters. In reality, you loiter far too near to where he is, breathing heavily, and demonstrate the worst subtle side-eye since Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston last shared the red carpet.
You peer into the basket to see what he's got. Hmmm, plenty of vegetables. Kale, even. How modern. Broccoli. OK. Mange tout. Right. Spinach. OK, that's a lot of greenery. You picture, in the future when you live together, wandering into the bathroom after him - then backing away with your man-bag over your nose.
What else has he got? Fresh fish and chicken. No beef. You worry. Can you really feel a deep, sexual connection for a man who doesn't chow down on burgers? Oh well, you shrug, you can always go to Byron on date night.
Who's he with?
Hot people rarely go anywhere alone, because other people tend to want to be around hot people. You check for any flatmates, boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers - anybody who might spoil your dark, twisted fantasy by the deep freeze.
That he's got no trolley is a good sign he's flying solo - unless he's a tight-arse who shops with his other half/flatmate but doesn't split the bill.
Is he checking out anything other than his own basket?
Oh my God, you think, did he just look at me? The answer: yes, he did. The reason: he thinks it's weird how you have been on every aisle he's been on.
In your fantasy, he comes up to you and asks for your advice on the product he has in his hands (just pray it isn't tripe). In the real world, however, he frowns at you quizzically before scratching his head and scurrying off to the checkouts. You follow, even though your basket contains only a tin of chickpeas, an iceberg lettuce and, inexplicably, some haemorrhoid cream.
Will you be the unexpected item in his bagging area?
He has gone to the self-checkout. This can be a dealbreaker - so many fall at this final hurdle. You should never date a man who can't hold his own at a self-checkout.
If he gets more than one shrill "Please remove last item, unexplained item in bagging area", you should probably run for the hills. If he's that useless at a self-checkout when all you have to do is scan, imagine him fumbling his way round your very own bag for life.
You scan your items, trying to catch his eye. Now is the wrong time to be flirting, you need to concentrate on what you're doing. Uh-oh, those dreaded words. "Please place the item in the bag." While you're sorting out with the assistant why your haemorrhoid cream isn't going through properly, your crush shoots you a swift glance and sails on through, sauntering out to the car park. You shoo away the checkout guy and race after him, frantically searching the horizon before he disappears over it.
You can't see him anywhere. Dolefully you turn back into the store, only to find your crush there, his shopping bags in his hand and a smile on his face.
"How about a drink?" he asks, a glint in his sexy eyes.
You gulp. "Sure... I'd love to!"
"Great, come on then," he says, putting his arm round you. "Oh, and by the way," he whispers, "can we have medical assistance on aisle 3, please?"
You look at him, puzzled. "Sorry, what?"
"Medical assistance on aisle 3," he barks in startling monotone. "We have a customer emergency."
And suddenly your head hurts and the arm round your shoulder is an in-store cleaner asking you if you're OK - and all around you are tins of chickpeas. Further up the aisle, your crush peeks at the carnage before him, before he's joined by a hotter, taller, blonder guy who playfully squeezes his arse and pecks him on the cheek.
"Come on, babe," he says. "Let's leave them to it. I can sure they can help the poor old bugger."
Oh well, at least the haemorrhoid cream was a dream, eh?
Oh. Oh.Suggest a correction