A loose social bond buckled under the strain of conversation this week after casual acquaintances Sam Robson and Chris Armstrong bumped into each other at a supermarket in Hyde Park, Leeds.
Both men have spoken candidly to the No Quarter about their ordeal in the pasta aisle of Maumoniat’s International Supermarket, which Armstrong claimed “really messed up my shopping” and Robson described as “not what I needed on a Monday”.
The pair briefly shared the same social orbit at the end of last year when Robson’s friend started dating Armstrong’s flatmate, but when the fling ended in January the two men quickly scaled their relationship down to a nod in the street.
Their chance meeting in the supermarket therefore left them desperately floundering for suitable topics of conversation.
“He’s a nice enough bloke,” said Robson, “but we’ve just got nothing to say to each other. I think we both knew there was no point in talking about what we’d been up to, so we ended up talking about how we’d both bought some Weetabix.
“If that’s the level we’re on then I think we’re both better off out of it,” he added.
Armstrong is particularly annoyed that his careful planning in the shop was not enough to avoid the meeting. “I clocked him as soon as I walked in, but I spent long enough by the cheese for him to get round into the pasta aisle,” he explained.
“I figured with that lag time in place he’d have moved on by the time I got there, but he must have had trouble finding something because when I rounded the corner there he was.”
Having negotiated the awkward encounter, both men began to alter their routes around the shop in order to avoid a further round of platitudes.
“I started knocking items off my shopping list,” said Robson. “He was milling about by the frozen section for ages, so I thought I’d make do without peas, and I skipped the rice section altogether as he’d stopped to chat to someone and I could have been involved in a three-way conversation.”
He paused a moment to consider this. “That could have been a disaster.”
More interpersonal tension was to come though, as Robson and Armstrong had both left the fruit and vegetable section until last. “I knew he was still there, but I’d been hiding in the spice aisle for a couple of minutes and I really needed to get home, so I had to bite the bullet and go for it.”
The meeting has led to fears that the two men’s social obligations may now have been reinstated.
“We’d got to the stage of casually crossing the road to avoid each other – another month of that and we could have started blanking each other completely. But this has taken us right back to stopping in the street for a chat,” said Armstrong. “That’s going to be a right pain.”
Outside the shop, Robson paused for reflection. “You’d think you’d get over these things when you become an adult, but actually they just get worse.” He then picked up his bags and quickly departed down a side street, explaining that he needed to avoid some guy he was in halls with.