Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tall Tales from a Small Shopper

OK folks, the picture may say Wednesday Whinge, but this is a Tuesday Tirade. So, let’s jump straight in. I am moaning because we are a heightist society. That’s right, you heard me, heightist. And if it’s not a word it jolly well should be. Now, I am the first to admit I am a little on the short side, but personally I don’t think five-foot-nothing is abnormal – so why do I find everything so difficult to reach?

I know I've whinged about this before, but my wrath was roused during a recent foray into a well-known clothing store to buy slippers for Elder Daughter. The pair in the size she needed was on the top row of a wall display, about six-feet high. Since there were no tall customers in the vicinity to ask for help, I tried jumping up and down whilst wielding a coat hanger (snatched from a lower rack) in the hopes that I could dislodge the required purchase. Not a chance. Then I played hunt the assistant, without success (I’d like to know why you can never find a shop assistant when you need one, but when you don’t they leap out at you trying to sell you things you don’t want when you've barely crossed the threshold).

Seeking help I stood in the queue and waited... and waited... and waited. Eventually it was my turn, I explained the problem, and the assistant abandoned the till (to the angry mutterings of the customers behind me), looked at the display, stood on tiptoe, stretched for the slippers, handed them to me and headed back to the till – leaving me to rejoin the back of the queue, which  by this stage was even longer than when I started. I felt like throwing the slippers at her!

The same shop (and it's not the only offender) has what seems like hundreds of clothes hanging from rails which are as inaccessible as a mountain  top, and most of them are made for women who are considerably taller than me. Having found someone willing to hand me down a garment so I can try it on, the problems really begin. Short dresses droop to mid-calf; long skirts and trousers trail along the ground; necklines plunge waistward; sleeves flap several inches below my fingertips. And don't think shortening things is an easy option, because it isn't. Chop six inches off a skirt or trouser legs and you usually ruin the hang of the garment.

It's not just clothes shops which present problems. What about book shops? How can you browse if you can't reach either of the top two shelves? And how can you replace a book someone has got down for you if you decide not to buy it after all?

But supermarkets are the worst. Aisles and aisles, all packed with items you need stacked on top shelves, above freezers and at the back or bottom of freezers. Should you ever see a woman balanced on the edge of a freezer, with arms outstretched and legs waving, it's probably me - one of these days I'm sure I'll topple inside! And, while I'm whinging about supermarkets, why don't they have more of the small trolleys? The big ones are awkward to push around if you are short, plus it is really difficult to reach items at the bottom.

Transport can be just as tricky. On one occasion I allowed a well-meaning passenger on a train to put my case on the luggage rack above my head, only to realise when I reached my destination that my fellow traveller had departed an earlier stop.

And I once worked in an office where the doors in corridors had dear little safety portholes in them, so people could see each other and there would be no accidents.  Unfortuately, however, the windows were above my head, so no-one could see me, and I was always getting knocked over as people opened doors on me, which was pretty disastrous if I had a tray of coffees in my hands.

Over the years I've thought of walking around on stilts (but I'd probably fall off), or carrying a collapsible stepladder around with me (but that's not really a practical solution), or a very long stick to topple  things from shelves (but I expect I'd break things). No, what's needed is equality for people who are vertically challenged, so I am planning a new campaign (along with my efforts to protect the apostrophe) to prevent heightism and stop discrimination against us shorties!

Meanwhile friends are suggesting remedies. A mother-of-four assures me that tall sons can help,  so maybe I could I borrow one of her offspring? Someone has volunteered to make stilts out of string and empty cans, and 'grabbers' have been mentioned (the kind of aid produced for disabled people, apparently). A hat with a long flower waving on the top would enable me to be seen through windows and, best of all, a young acquaintance assures me that he climbs like a monkey - but I'm much too old and clumsy to consider scrambling up supermarket shelves!

So, if you have any other (sensible!) ideas please leave a comment!

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