That's to an actual shop which wasn't a supermarket, newsagent or chemist. I last did this seven months ago when I bought a paperback from Waterstones. It was quite the adventure.
If you're not interested in the minutiae of my shopping trip and the perverse inner workings of my mind, best skip the intermediate paragraphs.
I needed a new set of headphones.
I've needed a new set of headphones for months. My old pair did that inevitable thing where one of the earbuds went quiet so I was basically listening through one ear only, and even that was a bit ropey.
The malfunctioning connection also meant I needed the volume turned up higher than normal to compensate, which might have been OK except my phone started to get passive aggressive about it. First it started flashing up warning messages telling me I risked damaging my hearing, convinced I was hitting 100db daily even though I wasn't. Then it started turning the volume down automatically after about 90 minutes with no way of turning it back up, so listening to two-hour radio shows became somewhat problematic. My so-called smartphone thought it was protecting me because it assumed all my equipment was working properly, but this was a very bad assumption and this is why we should be careful about letting machines rule our lives.
Normally I'd have gone out and bought a new pair immediately but non-essential shops have been shut since the New Year.
You might well have had new headphones delivered to your home instead. Why diminish your listening pleasure for months when you could have a new set in 24 hours flat and get on with enjoying life. But I wasn't keen on increasing the price of the headphones by 50%, and I'm not really a home delivery person, and perhaps you need to come to terms with the fact that I am not like you and often do things you wouldn't for not entirely rational reasons.
Alternatively I could have used click and collect at any time during the last few months, obviously, but I decided not to do that either. I just wanted to buy some headphones, I didn't want to set up an account and add a password and jump through additional online faff. I'm aware this Luddite approach merely caused me to endure sub-optimal listening for months, but again remember it's not your job to judge my life and I for one am very grateful for that.
I also needed a new phone case.
I've needed a new phone case ever since I bought a new phone in January. My new phone was the same size as my old phone so my old case should have fitted, but annoyingly the hole for the camera was in the wrong place. I could either protect my phone and not take photos or risk using a naked phone and try very very hard not to drop it. I chose risk, and all because the usual places that sell phone cases were officially closed.
I wasn't prepared for quite how slippery unprotected smartphones can be. Mine often found itself slipping out of a pocket, although thankfully only onto carpet. On one occasion someone messaged me and my phone vibrated and promptly fell off the table, though again without major incident. I thought I was doing really well. Then while I was cautiously watering the plants on my balcony I thoughtlessly picked up a twig from a rosebush and pricked myself, yeeouch, and the subsequent jolt sent my phone sliding onto the metalwork in a very ominous manner. I was extremely fortunate only to get a tiny scar, not a smashed screen, but hell yes I should have bought a protective case long ago.
I waited until the second week of non-essential shopping before venturing out. Argos would have what I needed.
I knew Argos had what I needed because I checked first online. The problem was finding a store that had both items rather than just one. I could turn up at branch X to get my headphones but they wouldn't have the phone case in stock before Friday. Or I could go to branch Y to get my phone case but they wouldn't have the headphones I wanted, only something less good on either function or price.
I now understand why people get things delivered. But getting things delivered costs extra and, more importantly, takes time. I wanted my items now rather than waiting for later, because I am used to the instant gratification that physical shops provide. I'm aware that after three months I ought to have been able to wait an extra day or two, but again I draw your attention to the fact my purchasing behaviour is often irrational. If this is not what you'd have done, I genuinely don't care.
First I went to the Argos in East Ham for my headphones. That was a nice walk.
East Ham High Street is one of the busiest places I've been for some time. Shops are very much the big daytime attraction of late, it seems. Thankfully it was a bit quieter inside Argos, or at least better spaced. A helpful member of staff directed me to a terminal and I got on with ordering my headphones. It was odd being expected to touch something lots of other people had been touching, but I remembered we all used to touch things repeatedly as a matter of course and got stuck in. Yes, I'm aware I could have avoided the touching thing if only I'd pre-bought my item, but remember it's my prerogative to be illogical.
Payment was quick, and properly shielded, and within a minute I was walking out of Argos clutching my brand new headphones. Unfortunately these were securely encased in plastic which normally I'd attack with scissors except I hadn't brought any with me. I had to pick away at the top of the packet in an attempt to rip the plastic as I walked up the high street, dodging umpteen shoppers along the way. It took a good ten minutes before I finally managed to extract the headphones through a small hole and successfully unwrapped them. At one point the spare earphone protectors fell out of the bottom of the packet onto the pavement but thankfully I noticed just in time.
Then I went to the Argos in Leytonstone for my phone case. That was an even nicer walk.
In normal times I wouldn't have walked from Manor Park to Leytonstone, I'd have caught the W19 bus to speed things up and then got on with my day. But walking three miles proved a perfectly decent option given the proper spring weather, plus I got to cross the long diagonal of Wanstead Flats with the sun on my back and it was glorious. I passed the sand hills by the lake, threaded through the central copse, diverted round the skylark breeding area, weaved between flowering gorse bushes and crossed the bone-dry recreation ground to the far corner I never normally need to visit.
The Argos in Leytonstone was much bigger but also busier and not so well marshalled. It took a while to find a terminal that worked, then it took three goes to convince the software that the item I wanted genuinely existed. The internal wi-fi connection was giving off wheezy 2005 vibes. I still don't think I followed the right route through the store even though there were arrows and tape all over the floor, and even when I reached the collection point I had to wait ages for a member of staff not to be busy and to hand over my package. Given the choice I'd go back to East Ham over Leytonstone every time. But at least I now had my new phone case.
And then I walked home.
Having fully functioning headphones on the walk home was bliss. At long last I could properly hear what I was listening to, and with the volume turned back down to where it ought to be. Filling my ears with 70db rather than 100db is going to make my phone's operating system a lot happier.
Bohemian Rhapsody sounded a lot better too. On my earlier walk I'd been listening to the episode of Sounds of the 70s cancelled because of the death of the Duke of Edinburgh, in which Bohemian Rhapsody was the 400th record placed into Johnnie's Jukebox, and it had sounded really weedy. Now on my walk home I was listening to the current episode, in which Johnnie had to put Bohemian Rhapsody into his jukebox again for continuity reasons, and it sounded properly dynamic. I really shouldn't have left it this long.
My shopping trip had been an unqualified success.
I gave my phone a good clean and slipped it into its new case. At last I had a non-slidy phone, properly protected, and everything felt a lot safer. Annoyingly the case opens on the opposite side to the case I used to have previously, so every time I open it up the phone is the wrong way up, but I'm sure I'll get used to this eventually.
And yes, an eleven mile walk to go on a shopping trip to buy two small items is a bit ridiculous, especially when I have Westfield just up the road, but given I like to go on an eleven mile walk daily at least this time it proved productive.
I could also do with some new walking socks and a bread bin.