Nothing says raging alcoholic quite like the clink, clink, clink of empties rattling together in your shopping bag, does it?
And thanks to the Finnish obsession with recycling and the fact that our wheely bin only gets emptied once a month, hauling a couple of carrier bags full of empties through the village is a monthly* ritual humiliation I get to partake in. One, as you can no doubt guess, that I look forward to with glee.
In Finland we have little machines in supermarkets in which to deposit your empty wine and beer bottles and cans. The idea is that they put a little extra on the price of the beer and wine that you buy and then, when you return your bottles, you get that money back. I may have written about them before, I may even have extolled their virtue in keeping the planet clean and forcing people to recycle. I was clearly going through a non-drinking phase. I may well have been pregnant. It’s the only reason I can think of for such outrageous behaviour.
Naturally, they don’t keep these machines around the back of the shop out of the way, oh no. In the large supermarkets they are in the foyer, where everybody entering and leaving can see you posting bottle after bottle into the big red machine whilst all the bells and whistles go off and a large neon sign flashes the words ‘raging alcoholic’ above your head.
In our tiny village shop they don’t need the bells, whistles and flashing neon lights. The cunning positioning of the machine and subsequent jungle drums do a much better job.
The machine is in the aisle next to the till, visible from the door but only accessible by clinking your empties through the entire shop, wafting that appealing aroma of stale beer behind you just in case any people hard of hearing didn’t notice you come in.
But dragging the clinging bags past so many accusative stares is only half the fun. Next you get to feed the bottles into the machine, delving your hand further and further into the sticky, stinking bag whilst trying and failing to not let any of your clothing touch the inside of it.
The machine of course will periodically spit one of your bottles back out at you for reasons known only to itself whilst beeping loudly and flashing some warning at you that probably says ‘please stop drinking, you beer soaked slattern’. Which allows the old dears pushing their shopping past you to tut some more and give you a disapproving stare.
Finally, you get all the bottles and cans posted into the machine, chuck the stinking carrier bags in the rubbish and wipe at your sticky hands with a paper towel. It’s time to collect your hard earned reward.
Receipt in stale-beer soaked hand you join the queue at the till whilst everyone else gasps and holds their breath against the stench, shaking their heads at someone smelling so strongly of alcohol at this time of the morning. Shooting you a knowing look, the lady behind the till hands over your money, all 5€ of it, and you hurry out of the door, tripping and stumbling in your haste, looking and smelling for all the world like the drunkard the entire village will no doubt soon hear that you are.
It’s enough to drive you to drink.
*yes I could do it more often but I can’t work out which would make me look less like the lush I am: going frequently or hauling a full load monthly. That and I’m lazy.