Is there a stargate in my superstore?

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having considered the matter long and hard, having consulted the finest scientific minds and having taken all their conclusions into account, there’s no avoiding the unpalatable truth. You might find it intriguing, you might find it terrifying, but there can be no denying that there is a stargate in my local supermarket.

In fact, I will go further. It’s more likely than not that there is a stargate in every supermarket in the world, and it’s about time that something was done about it.

You may be wondering exactly what I mean by stargate, but it’s just a handy shorthand to describe a portal into another dimension – a revolving door through space and time that causes all sorts of confusion.

What evidence do I have for this alarming claim? Well, just think about it. You go into a supermarket with somebody else, perhaps somebody you know well, perhaps someone with whom you have been sharing sheet-folding duties and the odd disagreement about whose turn it is to drive home from a night out for the bulk of your adult life.

One of you takes charge of the trolley, the other mumbles something about nipping off to get a bag of rice, see you at the deli counter.

So far, so simple. But what happens when you get to the deli counter? Said partner is nowhere to be seen.

You wait for a while, then you begin to get impatient.

Now, just about every supermarket in the world, of whatever size, is a simple arrangement of up and down aisles with crossways at the far end near the meat and bakery counters, at the front along the checkouts and, depending on the size of the establishment, halfway up as well.

That would mean, to any rational being, that if you mounted a steady patrol along one of the crossways, the chances are that you would soon track down your errant other half and be able to proceed with your purchases.

But it doesn’t happen like that. You go from one side of the store to the other, peering up each aisle in turn, and they are nowhere to be seen.

And don’t tell me that they are up the other end, mounting a similar patrol from the opposite direction. That can’t be the explanation for why you keep on missing each other.

Even if you discount the aisles which there is no need to visit – nappies and pet food, in our case – and organise a full scale search party with sniffer dogs concentrating on the likely strike areas such as wines and spirits, chocolate and cakes, a loose partner in a supermarket just cannot be found.

You may have your arms full of bargains and be in desperate need of trolley relief, but still they will remain invisible.

So the only explanation is that, once you get separated, either you or they slip into another dimension where, worryingly, there is a similar supermarket selling very similar things – otherwise, when they turned up again, they would have a trolley full of rare delights like Vulcan bongberry juice and Venusian dinners for one.

Either that, or those sneaky sorts in charge of supermarkets have come up with a cunning arrangement of mirrors and other fairground tricks to keep you patrolling the aisles for longer, and spending more...