Cheeky monkey! Found his comment under my Facebook status this morning. I’ve got this new friend online, you see. Jack Hoodie Honeytrapp. Not his real name. Obviously. He looks in his early twenties from his profile photo. I added him when he requested because I thought he must be Phyllis’s grandson. He has about nine hundred Facebook friends; makes my thirty-five look a bit threadbare, doesn’t it? I’d say “ROTFLMFAO” but apparently that’s a bit saucy for silver surfers like me! A bit like admitting to watching “Shameless” or listening to “Slipknot”! That caused a bit of a ripple. I usually settle for doing a bit of this “LOL-ling” business instead. They can’t touch you for it!
This morning I’m doing one of my “sweeps” down the supermarket. Usual place, different time, because you don’t want to get too predictable for the CCTV. Not that they staff the cameras, really. Just dummies – staff and cameras! Last Tuesday I came away with a whole bag of kumquats in my big plaid shopper. Don’t even know how you’re supposed to use them! They didn’t seem to go with my boil-in-the-bag cod in parsley sauce. I ended up throwing them away.
I always religiously take a snap of the “sweepings”, as I call them, before I get rid, to post on my Facebook. I love how you can set your privacy so only certain friends can see certain photos. I post all my “sweepings” so the other lasses-“Silver Sweepers” we like to tag ourselves- can compare, compete, and pick up tips from each other. Bit like a knitting circle, but with purloined goods instead of purled ones. “Nick one, purloin one,” that’s what I put under one of my photos, and I got loads of thumbs up on Facebook for that one.
“Watch and learn, sisters, watch and learn!” I put on as a little title under the snap of those kumquats. The other Sweepers were green with envy! Phyllis had only managed to post a really blurry photo of the packet of desiccated coconut she’d just pinched. Desiccated coconut? I ask you! That’s not even imaginative! She even nicked a pot of glace cherries last month. Lois texted me this short video of her in the magazine section shoving “Viz” magazine down her skirt (elasticated, naturally, with “inserts”).
“Put it on the website,” I texted back. No good just showing it to me. We all want to see what the others are up to, or where’s the fun? Anyway it was out of focus and you couldn’t see whether the assistant was nearby or not, so where’s the challenge? Lois is a bit of an amateur, to be frank. Fancies herself as a bit of a Quentin Tarantino, I reckon. Style over substance, I say. Just my opinion, of course, but as I started the “Sisterhood of Sweepage”, I think I’ve a right to my two penn’orth.
These little tables in the supermarket restaurant are very handy. I can park my shopper trolley up against the table just where they have that little tray-rack thing attached and as soon as my cappuccino and my pensioners’ portion of liver and onions with peas and mash gets brought to me by the waitress, it’s in goes the tray, down the side of my plaid swag-bag, no bulge, no stretch, onlookers none the wiser. Today there’s already a tray actually waiting in there, in the rack with its rim stuck out! I had that as well, no messing! It’s a tight fit, but a wiggle and a bit of manoeuvring, and job’s a good ‘un.
I’m sitting here and I’m wondering now if I should maybe have gone for the textured featherlite condoms instead. What if the trays won’t impress the girls when I post the photos after I get home? I do a panning sort of shot on my mobile showing the girl on the till and the waitresses beetling up and down only a few tables away. Pretty daring, but even I feel a bit flat just bagging a couple of melamine trays to show for a day’s sweepage.
When I get up to go, I can tell nobody’s even looking in my direction. I’m in my seventies and I joined Invisibleville, society-wise, quite a few birthdays ago! Every cloud, and all that. Back on the bus, the driver actually shouts back to a young mother with a double pushchair and asks her to budge up for the old lady with the tartan print trolley, and a young man lifts the front over the step for me as the bus isn’t one of those with the let-down hydraulic super-low floors. Young people today! No backbone!
When I get back home I put the trays in a good light on my kitchen worktop, pop my bill for the meal on top as a little in-joke for the girls, (they all love the liver-and-onions), then I take some good full frontal shots of myself sort of hovering in the background, on automatic timer, and then I put them all online with the footage from the restaurant.
More notifications and updates on my homepage: Phyllis’s grandson Jack has just become a friend of half the Sweeper girls on my friends list, including Lois and most of the others. Lois has been busy uploading too, I see. There’s a new photo album on her profile showing her in the store, grinning and pointing at some support stockings still in the packet, poking out of her coat sleeve – not poking out very far, mind, so you can’t really tell one way or the other. Then there’s another couple of photos of her putting on some of that under-eye miracle roll-on stuff. Then some pictures showing how much they’ve ironed out her wrinkles and that “under-eye area” we used to call “bags”! Except they haven’t, of course; her mug looks just as saggy! All that gurning and grimacing for nothing!
Lois usually misses the point, bless her. Maybe the wrinkle stick is a step in the right direction for her. I keep telling her the rule is supposed to be that sweepings have to be things we couldn’t possible have any use for. That way, if anybody starts to suss out what we’re up to (allegedly!), we can put them straight, tell them we couldn’t possibly have taken these items for ourselves. What, me? Your cuddly old gran? Kumquats, condoms, lads’ mags, they fit the bill, but half of what Lois sneaks out is too like the stuff she has on her shopping list anyway! That’s not cricket. That’s common or garden shoplifting!
I decide to do the double today. A morning-and-afternooner, as I call it. I have my cuppa and a digestive around two, then I’m off down the little chemist on the precinct. I can’t get my plaid trolley into the chemist, so I just take my ordinary bag instead. It’s even more challenging, in here, as it’s more hands-on, face-to-face. There’s always an assistant around, doling out advice on which cough medicines you need for tickly, dry or phlegmy, or they’re offering to reach you down the incontinence pads from the top shelf. Why do they put them there, for goodness’ sake? You’re blinking well weeing from having to stretch up there! Too much information, as they say. Still, today, I’m here on a mission, so I’m on the look out for something more unlikely. I go up and down the aisles, very slowly.
“Just browsing, dear,” I mutter, “thank you very nicely, forgotten my list.”
The assistant goes back to shelf stacking and I shuffle round the other side, furthest away from the dispensing counter. That new pharmacist always comes out glaring over her half-rimmed specs, asking people their address as if they couldn’t make that up! Amateurs!
I look on the bottom shelves. Gift items, false eyelashes so you can look like Cheryl Cole, Kylie perfume, hair straighteners. Lots of potential, but they leave me a bit cold, this afternoon. I want a real biggie to impress and inspire the girls. Even Phyllis seems to be lowering her targets lately. Desiccated blooming coconut, indeed! You can’t get slack, or what’s the point?
I feel a bit creepy, like I’m being watched. There’s a young man who came in after I did and he’s still hanging around. I can’t get into my stride with him malingering there like a bad smell. I think I might go with the eyelashes after all, or maybe now is the hour of the textured featherlite? Suddenly I decide to go for both. The false flutterers slip into my side zip compartment. The security camera’s on the other side of the shop. They have one that looks out into the street, too. I move off in pursuit of the condoms, but they are right opposite the counter. The young man in the hoodie’s still dithering about just behind me. Has he seen me go for the lashes? She who hesitates is lost! I’m just about to reach out for man’s best friend, when he’s leaning over my shoulder. He grabs a packet of some very boring looking Mr Averages, and then he’s at the counter, blushing and coughing as he pays for them. Quit while you’re winning, Rene! Don’t push it. I leave the shop while the assistant’s dealing with reluctant Romeo.
My mobile battery’s running down to the red bit, but I didn’t get chance for any photo evidence on this job, anyway. I could stick on the eyelashes back at home and get some shots that way. I watch the young man come out of the shop. I know what you’ve been up to, but you don’t know what I’ve been up to! He looks vaguely familiar now I come to have a proper look, but I can’t place him. I watch him till he’s back in his car. There’s another bloke in the driving seat with a policeman’s uniform on. Is this why we pay our taxes?
When I get home, there’s a private message on my Facebook from Phyllis. She says no, Jack isn’t her grandson, where did I get that notion? She thought he must be Lois’s grandson. But Lois says not. Lois has been asking Phyllis, “What are privacy settings, anyway?”
“GR8 2 C U 2DAY.L8R G8R,” Jack’s posted on my wall again. Unintelligible but sweet, as ever. More pressing, I’d better check up on Lois and her privacy settings! Apparently, she’s showing her sweeper’s gallery to her whole friends list, or everybody, more likely.
I’ve been in for a while when my flat’s intercom doorbell buzzes. I ignore it for a minute while I glue on my phony eyelashes with the special non-toxic adhesive provided. Still time for an upload or two to get the girls giggling before suppertime. I have my camera at the ready and I’m just thinking up a snappy caption for it, like: “The cashier didn’t bat an eyelash,”or maybe “Granny’s Allowed,” when the doorbell buzzes again, a bit too insistent, for my liking. At this time of day! Don’t they know we’re all pensioners in here?
So I open the door with the eyelashes half on, semi-sighted cos I can’t get my specs back on in the rush. It’s two young men with a warrant to search my flat.
“Mrs Irene Garland?” one says, and I can see he’s the spitting image of young Jack off Facebook, and the other chap’s suspiciously like the policeman in the car this afternoon.
I don’t say much. What’s the point? They show me reams of printed out photos they’ve downloaded from Lois’s sad little collection. They’ve already got Phyllis’s particulars. I haven’t heard that word since I last listened to Gilbert and Sullivan on my iPod!
My case comes up before the magistrates in a couple of weeks. They give me time to unglue my Cheryls before they take me down to the station. They are very decent and a bit apologetic for duping me into a sense of false security. Jack Hoodie Honeytrapp. He didn’t fool a pro like me for a second! Sitting in the back of the unmarked police car, I have a bit of time to do some serious chillaxing.
“Leader of a criminal internet web ring” is a tad erring on the side of overkill, IMHO, but it’ll look good on my CV! The other sweepers will have to settle for supporting roles. The boys in blue don’t seem to notice the lumps in my Damart thermals, even when they go through my handbag for contraband goods. In fact I chillaxed all the way back to my flat with a regulation clipboard, a couple of pencils, a small roll of “Crime Scene-Do Not Enter” fluorescent tape and pair of standard issue handcuffs, no key, but who’s counting?
I think I might give all this social networking a miss tonight and have a night in with the soaps. Or maybe “C.S.I.”