Phoebe Weller of Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow discovers that WH Smith still has a genuine point of difference: it has found a way of ruining one of the easiest and most fool-proof of lunchtime staples
My dad got taken into hospital. The cancer has sneaked into his marvellous and poetic brain and this is not a good thing. Neither is the state of the NHS, which is alarming, sickening, wrong. Four hours in an ambulance to get into A&E. The queue of ambulances waited outside all day every day for the week that he was in. He was one of many broken people being shunted about corridors, making room for more broken people with nowhere for them to go. Don’t get old or sick for the foreseeable future.
Also don’t get a Chicken Caesar wrap from WH Smith.
In Scotland we used to call it John Menzies, one of those Scottish words that we pronounce completely differently from how they’re spelled/spelt. You know, like Milngavie, or the vocative of Màiri.
Ah, WH Smith. I think it was Wordsworth who said the only reason WH Smith still exists is because they operate where there is no other option. Train stations. Airports. Hospitals. As Fleet Admiral of Off Licence of the Year (South West Scotland) 2017 I have some thoughts about how shops should be: full of great stuff at the correct price, (wo)manned with fantastic, knowledgeable people with the freedom to drink lots of tea, have an Amazing Lunch or two and talk to other humans about the state of being human while occasionally selling some wine – a solid business model. This is not the business model of WH Smith, which radiates bad energy like (more cat than kitten, now) Pepina’s most recent dirty protest on the hall carpet.
I bought a Chicken Caesar wrap, my favourite of the premade sandwiches and pretty unfuckupable. Some kind of white meat-like substance. Some kind of garlicky mayonnaisey goo. Bit of lettuce. Parmesan waved over it. That is unless you’re WH Smith and have failed to fill the wrap with anything at all. Strung out, tired, sad, I ate half a wrap and bit into the other half to find nothing. I thought perhaps it had all been trapped in the bottom but there was nothing there. Enough of this, I murmured to myself. Enough of this, I said loud enough for a table of doctors to turn around.
This wrap has nothing in it, I said to the woman behind the WH Smith counter when she realised me braying “I would like to be served by a human” was not some glitch in the matrix.
But you’ve eaten it, she said.
No, I have taken a bite from it, I said, just to see if it was empty, and indeed it is. We stared at each other.
This is a wrong thing to do, I said. A wrong thing to do to people at their lowest ebb, to give them a Chicken Caesar wrap with no Chicken Caesar in it.
But you’ve eaten it, she said.
There is nothing in here, I said, unfolding the tortilla over the Galaxies for a pound.
What do you want me to do about it? she said.
Stop selling people Chicken Caesar wraps without Chicken Caesar in them, I said. It wasn’t me that filled it, she said, it was the machine. Do you want another wrap?
No, I said, I would like to hide under a table with a bottle of Pomerol.
We looked at each other but sadly did not connect as humans.
The replacement wrap stayed in my bag for several days before bursting and emptying itself over my laptop. Thankfully, being a WH Smith wrap, the clear-up was pretty minimal.