Sunday, 4 April 2010


There was a changeover of staff on the checkout, which is always more seamless than a changeover of bus drivers, and the new girl took her place, sweeping up the first item (Copella apple juice) in a fluid motion, almost without stopping. She had a faraway look in her eyes, but was keeping up a good rhythm as she stroked each piece of packaging across the laser scanner, and I was able to synchronise with her as I stuffed them into the bags. There was none of the occasional fumbling to peel apart the openings, no rushed pushing to get things in there nice and neatly, and no unseemly stacking up of shopping at the end of the belt.

Suddenly - there had not even been eye contact previously - she spoke.

"Are you enjoying the Bank Holiday so far?" she asked.
"Yes," I said, feeling that to say anything further would have been superfluous, but nonetheless leavening any perceived harshness with a smile. She returned to her scanning, looking strangely troubled, before again speaking up:
"This weather's disappointing though, isn't it?" I nodded, and knew that this time I would have to respond in some way.
"Mm," I said, "Though tomorrow is supposed to be better... So they say." She smiled again, and I went on:
"You're closed tomorrow, aren't you?" I paused, and then pointed towards the ground. "Here, I mean..."
She frowned and hesitated a moment before replying that, yes, she thought they were closed. I was intending to subtly hint at the fact that she would be able to enjoy some free time, which is a rare and precious commodity for those in her type of job. She didn't seem particularly buoyed by what I said, though, and went on with scanning the groceries until they were all done without a further word. But, just before I made to slot my cash card into the PIN device, a supervisor appeared at the side of the checkout and began stage mouthing at the girl. I was able to easily make out what she was saying, as she was making no effort to disguise the words:

"Have you decided?"

In reply, the girl made no effort at a stage whisper, but replied in a normal voice:
"I'm not so sure now. The more I think about it, the less sure I am. But if I don't... Well, it's now or never, really." She almost giggled as she finished speaking, and the supervisor moved away with a mysterious smile on her lips.

Whatever it was, I hope she made the right decision.

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