14 February 2007
It was an ordinary grocery excursion at our friendly neighborhood ASDA; till muzak was interrupted by a smooth, alluring voice announcing a Valentines contest for “the most romantic couple.” Ha-ha, I thought, not us. I hurried home, wrote a few paragraphs, added some clip art, and on our next trip for milk and honey, secretly ushered it to the customer service desk, parking Ben in books and magazines where time stands still.
Serving the person before me, the clerk was certain the cash register was making mistakes and started doing math by hand. After several attempts on scraps of curly register paper, sighing and scribbling with faulty pen as the queue behind me grew, she gave the customer an acceptable (though not exact) refund. Up next, I waited a moment till she recovered from subtraction trauma and handed in my entry (no math required, I thought, put it in with the others). She stared blankly through her smart designer eyewear. She didn’t know what to do; she called another employee who didn’t know what to do; she paged someone who would know who didn’t know what to do. Finally she slid it under a pile of returned merchandise behind her desk and assured me someone would know what to do. My most romantic entry was buried under a moist bag of returned lettuce with a wad of hair or other foreign object pending investigation.
The next day I got a phone call: You’ve won! Unsuspecting Ben asked why ASDA was calling our house. We have to go pick something up at 11 am Wednesday, I said. Pick what up? He asked. (I didn’t hear.)
Wednesday. Valentine’s Day. Front entrance, ASDA. The grinning green-fleecy-topped greeter was expecting us. The fluorescent-yellow-vested assistant was expecting us. She said, the SpennyNews photographer is here, and the Northern Echo will arrive shortly. Thrust into publicity, we were handed a dozen red roses and a bouquet of carnations; total strangers congratulated us, the manager came to greet us. The prize was dinner, bed-and-breakfast at the Honest Lawyer (honest), worth £85. Ben, who had only slept 3 hours the night before, began putting two-and-two together in a befuddled daze.
Photos were taken by the volunteer middle-aged, long-haired, midget-sans-teeth photographer for SpennyNews, sporting a massive laminated “Press” card clipped proudly to his chest. Then by the young blonde ponytailed let’s be creative and shoot through a cut-out heart with my multi-tiered camera equipment I know what I’m doing Northern Echo photographer.
Heads spinning, before we left I asked how many had entered the contest. The fluorescent-yellow-vested lady said it was well advertised, including an ad in the paper. There were five entries. We won by sheer lack of interest.