On Saturday afternoon, I went back to Auchan to pick up some things for my flat that I had seen last week but not been able to carry at the same time as the TV. Never again.
At 10am last week, Auchan was busy, but not ridiculously so. At 4pm this week, it was pandemonium. In some parts of the shop, you couldn't walk down an aisle without having to queue just to get past. The busiest section was the stationery, which was filled with familles nombreuses (more about them later) trying to stock up on all the books and pencils that they had forgotten to buy for their 8 children before the start of school last week.
I almost turned around and left, but I had spent 6 euros on train tickets and had nothing better to do, and the homewares section was calmer than most of the others, so I got what I wanted, picked up some other bits and pieces in the food and toiletries sections and went to queue.
First I went to queue in the wrong place. I had transferred all my phone numbers to my French mobile by the time I realised that I was at the checkout for people with a special store card. Then I went to stand in a normal queue. They all had at least 20 people in them, but standing in the Foreign Foods aisle kept me entertained for a little while. (Apparently what Brits in Paris miss the most is high class museli, baked beans and sausages, 5 different types of marmalade and Walker's shortbread.)
Realising that that queue was going nowhere, I decided to try a new strategy. There were express checkouts for people with 5 items or fewer. The queues there were shorter and, because people had less stuff, presumably moving faster as well. So, feeling a little guilty, I dumped my basket near some olive oil that was spreading from a broken bottle in a large puddle on the floor (seeing someone else's crime made me feel better about committing my own), took my 5 essentials and went to stand at these checkouts.
However, it turned out that the queues there weren't really moving any faster, and I quickly figured out why. Hardly anybody was buying only 5 items. And they weren't just buying 6 or 7. People had whole baskets full of stuff, and there was nothing in the till technology to stop them putting it all through. The 2 supervisors in the area were doing nothing about it either. So I queued with my 5 things for a good half hour, then, checking that the people in the queue behind me were cheating scum as well as the people in front, grabbed a few extra things from the little stands near the checkouts and, feeling not at all guilty this time, put them through with my other things. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!