Originally posted on 04.07.11
For a change in style I’m going to write a few short stories, though you will undoubtedly see a lot of what I usually do within the story-telling. First up is a romance story of sorts, apologies to anyone who has had no choice but to work in a Supermarket.
Lucas sighed. He felt demeaned. “How could one such as myself now be working in a supermarket?” he thought to himself as he scanned a Bag O’ Bagels©. Lucas often thought things in his head as if he was a character in a Jane Austen novel, with plenty of ‘one such as myself’s and ‘most irregular’s. He didn’t speak like this, that would require him to carefully plan every sentence, which he did but that was usually to prevent himself from sounding too pompous, rather than to do the opposite. As he watched the man in the suit place his ‘Brannigan’s Finest’© Coq Au Vin on the conveyor belt he thought “I’m 20 years old. I should be at university right now, rather than working on a checkout in Brannigan’s.* How did it come to this?” He knew how. Despite doing very well in both his GCSEs and A-Levels Lucas’s teenage mind had let him down. Not every teenager will go through a rebellious phase but Lucas did, and at the worst possible time, when independence was on the horizon. When he finished his A-Levels Lucas was given the money his parents and grandparents had saved up for him over his life, but instead of doing what the rational Lucas of a few months before would have done and putting it towards going to university he decided to buy a three-thousand pound car and rent a modern flat. He regretted his decision a few months later once the liberating feeling of independence had left him, he regretted it when his other friends told him stories of the fascinating things they’d learnt doing History and Science Degrees and he really regretted it when he failed to find any work that made use of his skills and he had to work at a Supermarket. The only thing he could say to make him feel better was that at least he didn’t work in McDonald’s. Ironically that probably pays more. Lucas was probably too cynical about his job, many people have to start their working lives in a shop so it was hardly shameful, the main reason it annoyed him was because he knew he could instead be at University enjoying himself. **
“Do you have a honey card?” He asked the suited man. The words burned his mouth. The man didn’t have a Honey Card of course, people rarely do. He was young and successful, as if he would be seen doing such cheap things as saving money. No-one could blame him of course, it takes about five-thousand bags of Bag O’ Bagels© to earn enough honey points to buy one grape.
Lucas’s job was incredibly dull. He used to do what everyone fears the checkout people do, he would make assumptions about people based on the items they were buying. Every time someone bought something from the ‘free-from’ range he wondered if they actually had an allergy or if there was just a new fad that claimed wheat or nuts were bad for you. When he saw a woman buy The Sun ‘newspaper’ he scowled, firstly because he was helping the distribution of garbage but secondly because this woman was buying it. The poor mother of two did not deserve this, she was merely buying it to make use of the holiday vouchers, she was just as embarrassed about having to buy it as Lucas was about having to sell it. After a month at the shop Lucas stopped doing this as he realised it was filling him with contempt for everyone. He then tried to use maths to make his shift more entertaining. He didn’t use the till for calculations but did them in his head instead. He stopped doing this after he realised he had short-changed a small, kind old lady for ten pounds who had put five in the Save the Children charity pot and then offered him a tip of seven. He refused the tip, as he was required to do, though he felt evil every time he remembered the event, so from then on he always used the till for adding up the money. While waiting for someone to come to his till, extremely bored, Lucas’s eye fell upon one of his co-workers. She had in her hand a John Bellamy novel. *** Lucas thought Bellamy was brilliant, however most people his age had never heard of him, he was a comedian in the late-80s and early-90s, but he later became a novelist. His witty satire and his clever understanding of the flaws in humanity meant that Lucas held a very high opinion of him. Lucas didn’t interact with his co-workers much, he had just assumed any young person working at a supermarket must be unintelligent or happy to not succeed in life. This view was probably fueled by the anger he had with himself. It did not occur to him that they may be in just the same position as him. He assumed his co-workers were dolts and yet here was one of them, a woman of the same age as him reading something by the person he viewed as the greatest writer of the 21st Century. He then looked at the woman herself. She probably wouldn’t stand out in a crowd but she was not unattractive, at least to Lucas. Lucas’s eyes scanned her appearance, she was in her Brannigan’s uniform but she wasn’t wearing any of the optional accessories that Lucas saw on so many of his other co-workers. She had no visible tattoos, she had no visible piercings, she wasn’t wearing any make-up and her underwear was not visible. These things all appealed to Lucas. He supposed that she was not what most people would call particularly ’sexy’. She had a very nice face he thought, a very, very nice face. Her shift started, she put her book into her shoulder bag and went to the till, where a pregnant teenager was waiting with a copy of Heat Magazine, a bottle of vodka and a fake I.D. The woman saw this and sighed. Lucas’s eyes lit up, this mystery girl had just sighed in distaste at the site of Heat magazine. At this moment Lucas determined that he might be in love.
Lucas found out, by looking at the shift list, that her name was Joanna. For the next few weeks he had something new to do to in his dull shifts. He watched her, and noticed every time she subtly scowled at someone buying The Daily Star or smiled at someone buying the Guardian. He saw her embarrassment as she scanned an ‘Adult’ magazine. He too felt embarrassed every time he had to do this. Entering his login number to allow the purchasing of mature items made him feel like he approved of this man who was presumably a sick bastard buying something containing pictures of presumably demeaned women. Lucas also knew that it is very easy to find that kind of thing on the internet for free. One need only search for a woman’s name on Google Images with the Safe Search turned off to find nudity. Not that he approved of this of course. He discovered this all too late when he was trying to show his grandmother how to use Google. He demonstrated by searching for her first name. Poor Muriel…
In his weeks of observing Joanna, Lucas had talked to her very few times and none of these times were what one could call chatting. The closest thing to a proper conversation they had was when they were waiting for beverages at the drinks machine. He had said to her “I noticed you were reading a Bellamy book there. What did you think of him?” She told him that she thought it was very good, that was it. His drink was ready and he left. He was elated. He had spoken to her, she now knew he liked Bellamy’s work. He went home satisfied that day, though he knew he could have said a lot more. As he walked away Joanna smiled.
Joanna Scowled at the mirror. She was in her house wearing her Brannigan’s uniform. The cotton t-shirt that was supposed to be her size was a rather close fit. It hugged her bosom in a way that always made her feel awkward. The trousers were the same. Much like Lucas, outside of work Joanna would wear relatively baggy clothes. Though both were strongly against the modern views of fashion they were both self-conscious about their curves. Lucas because he was slightly chubby around his belly and Joanna because she was unsure whether her waist to rear to chest ratio was normal. Joanna had nothing to fear, it was to her advantage that she didn’t stand out, and, though she didn’t realise it, Lucas found her perfectly beautiful. She looked at the Brannigan’s logo near her left shoulder and was hit with a pang of embarrassment. She was more fortunate than some of her friends at least, some of the shops they worked at gave out uniforms with the logo emblazoned right across the chest. This meant that customers were actively encouraged to admire the endowments of the staff. If for example, you found yourself lying on the floor after being knocked unconscious by some tinned sweetcorn you need only look at the bosoms of one of the helpful staff to remind yourself of where you are. Joanna thought about this every morning she had work, though today she was in a good mood. The day before she had Googled Lucas and was delighted to discover that he had a blog. For most people Lucas’s blog seemed like mere ranting from a young man complaining for the sake of complaining, but for Joanna they were like the words of a prophet. She agreed with everything he said and this made him all the more attractive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and when Joanna’s eyes looked at Lucas they saw an Adonis. Joanna was oblivious to the fact that Lucas had the same feelings for her, she had not noticed that he watched her, and he had not noticed that she watched him. Her attraction started when she noticed him listening to a podcast on his Ipod. She also enjoyed this particular podcast and her interest in him was piqued. Unfortunately it seemed as if they were both just doomed to dream, as they rarely approached one another.
A bald man with a pot belly and a wife-beater vest was at Lucas’s till. When Lucas asked the question of whether the man had a honey card he replied with “Nah. I could care less about them.”
Lucas muttered under his breath “Couldn’t care less”. The man erupted, as bald men in wife-beater vests so often do, and proceeded to shout profanity at Lucas. “What the fook did you just say about me!?”
Lucas was taken aback. Here he was, correcting people as he so often did, and this scary man had picked up on it, violently.
He realised there was no point in lying so he timidly told the man that he was merely correcting him. The man didn’t believe him. He felt that, as arseholes so often do, that this person was insulting him. He lifted his meaty fist. ‘The boss’ who was standing nearby rushed over. Years of working in retail had taught him that following the ancient rule of ‘the customer is always right’ is always the best thing to do, even if it does make you a conniving, greedy snake.
“I’m terribly sorry, Sir.” He said to the man who no-one would ever consider knighting. “I can see that my employee has done something to upset you. Please accept my condolences and this £10 Brannigan’s Voucher.” Despite the current state of affairs Lucas still found time to realise how inappropriate a choice of words ‘condolences’ was for this occasion. So did Joanna, who was watching from a nearby till, a look of fear in her eyes for Lucas and his lovely face. The man gruffly lowered his fist, snatched the voucher and walked away with an eight-pack of lager under his arm. His five year old son for whom hair was also absent put his middle finger up at Lucas before walking away with his father giggling. Before the Boss could say anything to Lucas he took off his baggy Brannigan’s shirt**** and placed it in the Boss’s hands, he walked away. The automatic doors opened as if they were bowing to him. Of course one can not just resign by hanging up their uniform and walking out, he would be back in five minutes to complete a resignation form and to give back the trousers but nevertheless it was an inspiring image, the oppressed worker ‘sticking it to the man’ and walking off into the horizon. He looked at Joanna and smiled, she smiled back. He made a mental note to finally Facebook her later…
*In this story ‘Brannigan’s’ is a supermarket much like Sainsbury’s.
**By which I mean enjoying learning about the literary greats, rather than enjoying getting drunk every weekend.
***Not a real novelist.
****The men that aren’t overly fit get baggy clothes since man boobs don’t sell cheesecake.
Wasn’t that lovely? I thought it was.