I have ignored your pleas for acceptance, as the very fibre of your being cries out for a simple thank you from us undeserving members of the public, a pure gesture of acceptance from one human being to another. I have ignored you and I am ashamed.
Retail workers of the world, you are one of the essential cogs that enables this miserable planet to keep turning. Providing small trinkets of pleasure for the rest of society to purchase and consume as we try to forget the daily pressure of our own mortality bearing down on us with the weight and heat of a thousand burning suns.
You are the unsung angels of the common workplace.
God bless you all.
As you may have guessed, I have started that Christmas temping job, working in one of London's premier luxury department stores. And it has opened my eyes to world I never knew existed before.
The world of the till monkey.
Now at this place, there are basically two kinds of people who work there.
One group is the beautiful people. Those glamorous and well dressed folk who work in all the designer departments. The women wearing miniskirts, high heels and makeup so thick you could grout your tiles with it. The men in their smart suits, immaculate gel sculptured hair and aftershave so strong, it is like a nasal form of rohypnol. These people are bastards. Sub human scum. I honestly can’t put it any clearer than that.
The other group that works in this place are the till monkeys. Those sad, walking meatbags, whose only use is as a pathetic object to abuse, mistreat and look down upon.
I am a till monkey.
And very much like a monkey in the wild, at various points during this week, I have had an almost uncontrollable urge to suddenly begin screaming out loud and to start hurling handfuls of my own steaming warm faeces at people as they pass by.
It’s not much fun.
I started on Monday. It had been about three weeks since I had partaken in the training of what to do in my section, so naturally I had forgotten everything by then. So when I arrived that morning, I reported to the manager of the department I would be working in.
After the usual greeting and such, I was asked if I had done the till training.
“About three weeks ago” I replied, “So would it be possible to have a five minute refresher course just to get back up to speed?”
Somehow those words were run through a translator that turned them into: Yes, I am fully versed in the world of tills and would so dearly love to start serving the public straight away please, as that is what I suddenly found myself doing.
“This is your till.” the till monkey manager said to me, pointing at my lonely little island with its cash register sitting in the centre like an accusing frown. “You just get on with it and you will be fine.”
I stood there, looking dumbly at the high tech machine in front of me, a machine that could do anything in the world of retail but tell me how the fuck I was meant to use it.
“Me and you are going to have problems, aren’t we?” I muttered at it darkly.
It just blinked back at me mockingly, like HAL’s eviler twin brother
Suddenly there was a customer walking over to me with a basket of shopping.
Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.
*Quick word on most of the people that shop in places like this.
That's probably got us up to speed*
“Hello. Can I help you at all?” I said in my best cheery retail voice.
“Just these please.” The customer replied, handing me the basket.
Now somehow I managed to muddle my way through this transaction. There were only a few things in the basket and I managed to press the right combination of buttons on the till to make it all work.
I served my first customer. I could do this!
And then I looked at who I was serving next in the queue and saw that it was my first celebrity.
*Another quick word on this, as this department store is very posh, well known celebrities can be found wandering round most of the floors like lost children. It can be very surreal.*
Now I am not going to name this celebrity because I am still going to be working at this place for a few more weeks, and I had the rather bizarre situation a few weeks ago of the author of a book I reviewed in a post on here leaving me a comment on my blog thanking me for doing so. See here.
I know the chances of this being read by the said celebrity are slim to anorexic, but if he googles his own name and my blog comes up, I could get into trouble. So nameless he shall be for now, until I leave in a few weeks and if anyone is still interested by then, I can name him (I hope that makes sense?).
So anyway, this celebrity. He is a fairly young comedic actor, quite portly, plays a cheeky chappy in a huge sitcom on TV.
He looks at me as he walks over, giving me the: I know you know who I am look. I give him the: I know you know I know who you are, but I’m going to act like I don’t know who you are look back. Now this is quite hard to pull off. I think it basically means I look constipated.
He has no basket, but just dumps a handful of stuff at my till.
“Just these please mate.” he said to me.
I had one of those moments. Slightly out of body and unreal. A person who I normally watched and enjoyed on TV was now talking with his mouth at me. With words.
“Can I get you a bag?” I squeaked back at him.
“Nah, your alright.” he replied.
So I slowly started to scan his stuff through the till. As each item went through, I became more and more confident. And then he threw a spanner in the works.
“Can I pay for my parking ticket please?” he said.
“Of course you…………”
Huh, what the hell? Parking ticket??????
“……….can.” I said with the voice of a man condemned to the gallows.
He handed his ticket to me and I stared at it dumbly. I then looked at him, sweat forming on my forehead, while he looked back at me, irritation growing in his eyes at the look of terror that passed on my face.
I tore my gaze away and placed it on the monitor of the till.
Parking ticket! Parking ticket! Where's the fucking button for parking tickets?
I randomly began stabbing at buttons hoping that the parking ticket section would magically appear. Whole sections on vegetables, root beer, transaction voids, emergency exits, all flashed before my eyes, but no sodding parking ticket section. After what felt like a million frantic button jabs, I half expected for the till to suddenly start reciting 16th century French poetry at my terrified face. "Nul ne porte pour moy le noir. On vent meilleur marchie drap gris; Or tiengne chascun, pour tout voir, Qu'encore est vive la souris."
The famous funny man in front of me began to tap his fingers impatiently on my cash register and muttered darkly “Come on.”
I was being abused by someone famous!!!
Now in my head, I am normally being abused by a celebrity, but that celebrity in question is always Holly Willoughby, and she is normally wearing a dominatrix outfit that spells out “I heart Dan” on the brassiere in tiny metal studs as she does the abusing. It has never been a very annoyed large comedic actor. That would just be weird.
Suddenly I must have pressed the correct buttons as the parking ticket section came up and I was able to ring it off. My relief was almost palpable and I began putting his goods in a bag.
“I said I didn’t want a bag.” he said, the sheer hatred for this cretin in front of him plain to see on his face and in his words.
“No, of course you didn’t, I’m sorry.” I replied, hastily shoving everything into his open hands.
“Cheers mate.” he said as he left, and then he winked.
I was winked at by someone off the telly!!!!!
I tried to calm down as he left, my heart slowing to normal levels, when suddenly a thought popped in my head.
Did I scan those last two items?
I mentally ran through the last five minutes.
So what normally happens when you fail to do that? Well, as you leave this luxury department store with your non scanned goods, the alarms will go off and you will have about six burly security guards chasing after you of suspicion of theft.
I could just see the next day’s newspaper headlines.
TV FUNNYMAN IN SHOPLIFTING
“It wasn’t me!” cried the portly chuckle maker as he was lead to the police van. “It was the twat with the beard!”
In a few years time I’m sure I will find it amusing……..
To be honest though, the customers are not the rudest people to serve in this place. That privilege belongs to the beautiful people.
You kind of expect the regular customers to be rude, it’s a given necessity. Most of them are obscenely rich, are used to people fawning over them at any given moment, and come from backgrounds so far removed from my own its unreal.
But the beautiful people? They are basically the same as me but with a shinier name badge. And yet nearly every encounter with them involves them looking down at us till monkeys with almost unbearable distain.
Take this encounter I had the other day.
A lady beautiful person comes walking over to me with a trolley full of shopping.
“Hello.” I say with a smile “How are you today?”
I get a half smile back and nothing more. I am nothing to her. I am till monkey.
Fair enough then, if that's how you want to play it darling, I thought.
I scan her French stick loaf through the till.
“Can I get you a bag with this?” I ask.
She laughs at me and says in a voice that implies I am an idiot. “Well how else am I going to carry it home?”
The urge to mention that most people bring their own shopping bags nowadays sits behind my lips, and then decides that as I have been on my feet for seven hours without a break, it’s too bloody knackered to travel any further out into the world and just stays there, lying stupidly on my tongue.
“Of course. You’re so right. Is there anything else I can do for you?” I reply with a heavy sigh.
She gives a little shake of the head. Not a thank you from her. Nothing. It was at this point that I had the urge to snap her French stick loaf in half, ram each end into her eye sockets, and shove her into her trolley and send her careening across the store, scattering shoppers out the way while she clings on to the front of the trolley, screaming with her protruding French stick antennae like some Daliesque hood ornament.
As I watch her totter away on high heels that make her resemble a new born baby giraffe taking its first steps, the only sign of the little fantasy that is playing out in my mind is a small twitch under my right eye.
I now know why people snap and start shooting co-workers.
I have another few weeks of this. I don’t know how I am going to do it. And whoever thought it was a good idea to ask a man with OCD to pack shopping bags must surely have the sickest sense of humour. It takes me ages. Admittedly each bag is a work of art. Everything coordinated in size, colour and shape, but when it takes me about 25 minutes to do it, that's hardly pleasing for the poor sod who just wants to take their shopping and go home.
So I’ll say it again. Retail workers, you have my awe, you really do. And the next time I am being served by someone, I will look them straight in the eye afterwards and say “Thank you.” And then I will probably go round behind the counter and just hold them in my arms as they weep furiously into my shoulder while I stroke their hair and whisper “It’s OK. I understand. I’ve been there.”
I am till monkey.