Friday, October 08, 2004
Presto - Supermarket woe
Another week, another skint student. I got fifteen pounds a month to keep myself in beer and porn, and even at 1980s prices this lasted no more than a couple of minutes. Something had to be done to maintain the increasingly large luxury gap.
I got myself a weekend job working in a supermarket. I'd leave college on a Friday, work the evening and the whole of Saturday for slave wages at Presto's in Reading - a supermarket chain that has since disappeared, and for good reason. They were shite.
The manager, Mr Norton, drove a pink Reliant Robin, and looked like he had eaten the entire stock. The only reason the place hadn't closed years before was that it was the refuelling stop for all of Reading's winos, and their own-brand cider was the biggest selling line.
Not exactly my career of choice, but in order to keep myself in beer and pornography, whilst simultaneously failing to turn up for lectures, it was my only thing I could do. Three quid a week for a paper round was never going to hack it, and after asking all the record shops and WH Smiths if they had any Saturday jobs, it was the supermarket or nothing.
This was a lie - I was offered a job in a bed shop, mainly because I liked the idea of lying around on the job. However, the owner refused to pay me more than two quid an hour, and even I had standards.
As the token student, I was made to do all the shitty jobs, like stack the washing powder, getting rid of the dead things from the stock room and taking the girl from the deli to hospital when she cut her finger off in the meat slicer. Which was a shame, because I fancied her rotten, but was rather put off by having to lug around the spare digit between two bags of frozen peas.
But there was one job I hated. As a matter of fact, everybody in the entire store hated it, which was why I, the token student was made to do it all the time: collect the trollies.
The customers, as a whole, were lazy bastards. They would do their shopping, take it back to their car in the multi-storey next door, and leave the trolley where it stood, miles from home. Some would even do their shopping, and take the trolley home with them, leaving them out for the council dustmen, who operated a Return-A-Trolley service for the local stores, at fifty quid a trolley.
So, with all the trollies sitting in some council depot, and the company too tight to go out and pay the ransom or buy some more, it was my task to stalk shoppers back to their cars and get them back to the shop before they ran out completely.
It was almost exactly like a computer game. Get the trollies from the multi-storey and bring them back before the shop ran out and Mr Norton got you. You had to avoid winos, tramps, mentallists, people driving straight at you for a laugh in the car park, and worst of all, the homosexual advances of the Sainsbury's trolley boy.
The lifts reeked of urine, and hideous dark corners smelled of vomit and far, far worse. And like all good computer games, there were secret levels - the underground car park next door, the bus depot, and a frightening dark passage leading to the railway station that always had one, lone trolley right at the other end.
Anyone would have thought I hated it. I did, with a venom. But jobs were hard to come by, and one of my college mates was earning a whole £1.10 an hour at Asda, where the entire staff was searched on the way out of an evening. But there were advantages. You could, of a Friday evening, when things were a bit quiet, go up to Level 10 of the car park and watch the world go by a hundred feet below you. On the darker evenings, you could also watch the the cleaners and late workers in the office block opposite, emptying bins, or catching up on their work.
What I didn't expect to see was one office worker disturbed at his desk by a female cleaner, a long conversation with exaggerated body language, followed by a prolonged bout of what can only be described as "energetic how's-your-father" across his desk. They ran out of trolleys that night, and I caught hell from Mr Norton.
Glowing from my Friday night voyeurism, I told the entire Saturday staff of my adventure, and the whole lot of them volunteered for trolley duty. But no, Norton, the pie-eating bastard, determined to get his own back for Friday's lack of trolleys, sent me out for an entire day with the town's low-life, wearing a wanky blue nylon jacket that only supermarket employees ever get to wear. I "lost" my name tag at the first possible opportunity.
Out into the carpark I strode, and spent the best part of an hour looking for nudity and finding none. Instead, I found several unconcious winos and three trolleys, two of which belonged to Sainsbury's, which I hid. Then back to the supermarket with my spoils.
"Hold the lift please!"
I pressed the "Door open" button and a not unattractive older woman bounded in between me and my prize trolley. Up close, to be honest, the full horror struck home. That wasn't attractive, it was all the make up in the world, and possibly a couple of bulldog clips round the back holding it all in place. But virgins can't be choosers, and my eyes were drawn to the heaving mass of cleavage straining under a tight, white blouse. Benny Hill ran around my head shouting "Knickers! Knackers! Knockers!" while the voice of reason asked me if she was out spending her pension.
Perhaps it was the rotating swonnicles that did it, or the accumulated years of tramps pissing in the lift car that buggered up the mechanism, but halfway down, the lift ground to a jarring halt, and my fellow prisoner wobbled impressively.
"Oh," I said.
"Oh," she said, keeping a brave face on things.
I pressed the emergency button. Somewhere, floors below, a bell rang.
"I hope they don't take too long," I said, trying to make conversation.
"People will start talking - young man like you stuck with an attractive woman like me."
"HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP!" I screamed. Except it came out like this:
Then, running a hand provocatively across her chest and down her thigh, she said the words that launched a thousand scud movies, and I knew I was doomed:
“Oh, it’s so hot in here.”
I prayed. Pleaseletmeoutofhere. Pleaseletmeoutofhere. Pleaseletmeoutofhere. Pleaseletmeoutofhere. I'll do anything, I'll dump the jazz mags, never look at another woman again. Please God, GET ME AWAY FROM THIS FOUL SUCCUBUS!
One of the buttons on her blouse was undone, revealing a cleavage that would have experienced potholders in trouble. The waft of stale tramps' urine made me gag, the nylon supermarket jacket had me boiling like a kipper, as she edged towards me.
The lift started again, moved about six inches and the door opened to reveal half of Berkshire Fire Brigade, dozens of annoyed shoppers and Mr Norton, glaring at me as if it were all my fault.
The temptress spoke.
"Can I have this trolley then?"
I fled, screaming for mercy, finding none.
I had a classmate who had a job in Burger King. Burger King! The lucky, lucky bastard.