Supermarket Chronicles Volume 1,
Chapter 7: The Employer Strikes Back
A whole Summer later, I looked out across the shop-floor of Sainsbury’s. Everything looked normal. It was late evening and there were few customers to get in our way. Yet somehow I’d missed the smells-a-lot lady. Every so often she comes in to check for reduced items. When I say every so often, I mean every so often in each shift. You see, she wasn’t a helpless individual, someone I may have felt sorry for…. No, she was a normal looking lady. Except for the wellington boots and nose-hair-singeing smell of farmyard poop. I didn’t even mind having to help her, but it was the whole ‘talking whilst holding your breath’ thing that really got me. She must thing I am a robot or something by the way I always end up speaking to her.
Still after showing smells-a-lot lady to the reduced cabbages, I noticed the keen eye of the powers-that-be watching me. The managers. Now the Summer had brought about many changes. None more evident than the raging war between the employer and the employees. I know what you’re thinking, ‘that’s always been the case’, but this summer widened the gap so to speak.
The start of the Summer saw my immediate supervisors breathing down my neck to find a way to incriminate Elisha. Who had, or had not, done something to really mess with their heads over the previous Christmas. I had always looked out for her and there was no way I was going to let something happen, and I certainly wasn’t about to start reporting it to my managers. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when she announced that there was a career opportunity for her in another job. Of course, this was great news until the managers decided that I needed to incriminate her before she left. I could be wrong but I am pretty sure that whilst they were telling me all these things they had a black helmet and were breathing like a radiator. Either way I could tell these were going to be a long three weeks.
One of my fellow employees decided that work was getting boring and thought it might be a good idea to have a leaving party for Elisha in one of the chillers after the managers had left for the evening. Free food. Free drink. Free for all. Not such a bad idea. Until some anonymous person decided to let the management know. It was the day of the celebrations. No sooner had I stepped in the automatic doors (which weren’t working and opened so slowly that I walked straight into them….), Mark, the evil store manager pulled me over. His radiator tone and black shirt (which seemed to hang out of the back of his black trousers like a cape) seemed somewhat more entertaining than whatever it was he had to say to me and my asking him to repeat his so-called speech didn’t exactly help the mood he was in. But after about the third time of his spit-filled explanations, he made it clear to me he know about the celebrations and had reason to believe someone was going to ‘borrowing’ food and drink from the store for the food. And he wanted to know who. He even went to the trouble of making it sound like he was doing me a favor as he finished:
“You know what, Stephen, I don’t even care about our previous agreements about catching Elisha. I need someone to take down for the Christmas incident and this too. If its not her, then fine… But you find out who is stealing from the store or you will go down for the lot.”
I tried everything in that conversation to turn things around, including the old jedi mind trick, but apparently bounty hunters don’t fall for it.
One day later, I slumped into the cheap plastic chair in Marks office opposite some kind of mini-power-station-looking desk with heaps of buttons and controls on it. Against the wall were two really short people with white helmets flicking switches and fulling knobs whilst watching a screen that looked like a bunch of planets. I shook my head and focused on the situation. Mark.
As he walked into his ‘office’ he asked the others to leave and he smiled. He slid a blank piece of paper and a small silver pen with a red nib across his button-infested desk.
“Give me the name.”
I looked at him, I looked at the paper, I looked at the gray beach ball he had hung from his roof.
I imagined Elisha. I knew what would happen to whoever it was who had stolen from the store last night. I looking into his eyes and spoke.
“I don’t think you quite understand the significance of this. I’d be turning to the dark side, a snitch and a grass. I can’t do that.”
He smiled; “Oh how I would love to label you as the managers’ snitch. What would it take, Stephen? A raise? More time off?”
It was worth the thought; “Do you have any idea of the pain I would go back to knowing I’d given someone up and watching them take the blame for everything that has happened here?!” The more I thought about it, however, the more it became appealing. But I did feel sorry for the person who had done the stealing. What was happening to me, I felt the a dark force trying to pull me into his evil deal.
“Stephen, you know you want to join me. Together we could rule the store…” He smirked.
Finally I gave in to the pressure; “I will give you the name and all the photographic evidence you need.” It hurt to say it, but I had no choice. “But in return, I want no more of this. You can’t bribe me, you can’t keep on at me for stuff. You need to leave Elisha alone. And you can never sack me. The only way I leave this job is if I choose to.”
I don’t know whether the thought of getting me to talk or the power he had got to him, but he actually agreed to the conditions. Conditions being conditions, I made him write them out and sign them and brought one of his white-helmeted guards to witness it. It was official. All I had to do was give up a name. I didn’t want to, but I had no choice.
“Fine. The person who stole for the party…” I leaned across his desk. He turned his ear to hear better and began to smile. “Was me.” Now it was my turn to smirk. He fell backwards into his chair snarling. I got up with my written immunity, smiling and walked out of his office, just in time to see him catch his teary-face with his hands.
However genius it was, I still had to say goodbye to Elisha for a long time, which was hard. But I should have been focusing on other things, because the war that raged over the following weeks was harrowing.
To be continued…
(a long time ago in a supermarket far, far away…)