Last week in the comic shop, I wasn't quite sure if I'd already bought one of their issues of Naruto. The assistant offered to put it aside for me, so I could check, and then buy it later if need be.
I found later at home that I did have that issue, but hadn't got round to reading it yet. But I noticed something amiss. The issue in the shop had been wrapped in plastic. My copy wasn't wrapped. It could mean only one thing. Another 'missing stickers' scandal. I knew the issue in the shop had free stickers in it, but the one they sold me didn't have them.
I felt perturbed at this. I wondered if I should ask them to change it. But they wouldn't do that if I read it first. I'm not very good at reading anything and keeping it in good condition. So I left it unread for a whole week, which was quite frustrating.
The week went by and it was time or my next visit to my therapist, for agoraphobia, which is the only time I come close to the comic shop. I've been trying to make this journey on the bus recently, and have had some small success. These bus journeys have been a definite improvement, which is one reason to keep going, much as I dislike my therapist.
Anyway. I put the manga in my bag and set off. I'm always anxious on buses these days, though I never used to be. I got on the bus and it was quite crowded, which makes it worse. There was a small infant on a woman's lap, next to me. At the next stop, another mother struggled on with a pushchair containing another infant. Both small children looked at each other quite enthusiastically, and then embarked on a prolonged screaming competition. Between them, the two infants managed to make an extraordinary amount of noise.
Some way into the screaming competition, the bus ground to a halt at a temporary traffic-lights at some road works, and just sat there for ages. Feeling anxious from agoraphobia, and with children and babies all over the bus now screaming the place down, I didn't feel too great, all in all. (Though I try not to get too annoyed at screaming infants, out of sympathy with their harassed mothers. If it was me in charge of the infant, I'd be hopeless at it.) When I eventually reached my destination I lurched off the bus, more or less defeated by life.
If you arrive gloomy or anxious at my therapist's building it's not the sort of place to cheer you up. It's actually a small National Health Service mental institution; a grimy, run-down 19th century building which looks like it was built for incarcerating criminals. Behind locked doors there are some seriously disturbed people there, and you meet them sometimes, wandering the corridors. In the waiting room, it's not much better. People talking to the air, people standing facing the walls, people who've been shepherded there by some weary relative, and just sit there looking lost.
It's a really grim place. And I don't like my therapist at all. I'd like to ask for a different therapist but this would no doubt lead to me being put on a waiting list for several more years. We sat and talked for a while. I was bored, and still not recovered from the anxiety of the journey. Most of the time I was wondering if I should ask the comic shop to change my manga for the one with free stickers.
Points against - the shop assistants may think I'm an idiot.
Points for - I'll get the free stickers.
Points against - I am really too old to be worrying about free stickers.
Points for - I want the stickers.
Points against - They might refuse, leading to ugly scenes. May never be able to return after flouncing out in a bad mood.
I still want the stickers. Made up my mind to raise the issue. After all, I buy their comics every week. Entered shop, walked to the counter, and immediately raised the subject, in a polite manner. After some initial resistance - the assistant asking me if I have a receipt for the issue I've got, and me saying no but I'm in here every week and you probably recognise me - they were quite nice about it. Friendly, even. They exchanged my unread copy for the one wrapped in plastic, containing stickers. I was pleased. Slightly humiliated, but pleased.
I took the bus back home, stopping off at the supermarket where I bought a rhubarb crumble, also satisfactory, because there have been recent disappointments. Arrived home with comic feeling worn out. Stupid therapy. Maybe I should have discussed the 'free stickers' problem with her. But I don't think I tell my therapist anything that's really important to me.