Prose

Employee of the Month

29 August 2016

Patricia was just about to ask if he had a Rewards Card when the man pulled out a gun. She froze and stared at him, her mind racing through the drills and hypothetical situations they had covered in training. Wondering if this would be her chance to prove herself worthy as employee of the month, Patty felt a fierce determination.

“Would you like a bag or have you brought your own?” she asked the gunman.

He shoved a worn green recycle bag at her. Opening the till, she began to load bundles of twenties and tens into the bag, packing in neat piles to make full use of the space. Customers never brought enough bags.

Patty held up two fifty-dollar notes, “I’m sorry, sir, but we just did a pick-up.”

He jerked the gun at her. “What the fuck does that mean?”

She smiled. “It means that we sent most of the money to the office. Would you like to get cash out at the self-checkout?”

The man looked around nervously. No one seemed to realise what was happening. The customers were too concerned with there being no express lane open and the employees weren’t getting paid enough to care.

“I don’t want to use those machines, I want to be served by a human,” cried a man lingering around the express lane with a trolley full of groceries. The gunman turned back to Patty and nudged the weapon at her. Again. “Open the next till.”

“All right.” She glanced at the elderly couple queuing behind him and apologised. “I’ll just be a minute.”

Not quite hearing what she said, they both smiled at Patty and made a comment about the lovely weather outside and what a shame it was that she was inside on a day like this. Patty smiled thinly at them and turned around.

As she opened the next till, a woman heaved her basket onto the conveyer belt. “Is this register open?”

“No, sorry, I’m just getting cash out for the gentleman behind me.” Patty gestured to the man pointing a gun to the back of her head.

“But the light’s on,” the woman protested.

“Oh, it must have been left on from the last person.” Patty switched the light off but the woman had already begun loading her shopping onto the belt, saying, “Now, don’t make the bags too heavy.” She tossed away the ‘Closed’ sign to make room for a dozen cans of dog food.

The gunman was growing more irritated and anxious as he watched. Any moment he expected someone to realise what was going on and call the cops but nobody seemed to be doing anything. Even the sight of the gun had failed to elicit any kind of response.

The elderly woman beside him was smiling in his direction. Hesitantly, he turned to her.

“Can you believe I only came in here for one thing?” She beamed and gestured to the basket in front of her on the

conveyor belt. She began explaining the purpose of each item, relating it to what she was cooking her husband for dinner or the reason why cans of sliced beetroot would always remind her of her first boyfriend back in 1957.

The gunman excused himself, striding over to the next register. He pointed the gun at Patty’s face, distracting her from the lady with the dog food.

“Oh, sorry, sir,” Patty said. She opened the till and continued loading the green bag with cash, throwing in the bags of silver coins for good measure.

“I’m sorry, I’ll just be a moment,” she said to the dog food lady, who muttered something about cashiers not knowing how to do their jobs in response.

“I don’t think you’re taking this very seriously,” the man said.

Patty gasped and dropped the bundle of fives she was counting.

“Excuse me, sir, but I take my job very seriously.”

He pressed the muzzle of the gun to her forehead. “How about your life?”

She knocked the gun away. “I don’t see how my personal life has anything to do with this.”

“Why aren’t I being served?” the dog food lady said, pushing the gunman aside. “I want to talk to the manager.”

A disgruntled Patty called the manager for a service 65.

The gunman, sensing the failure of the situation, snatched the green bag from Patty and made to run outside.

“Wait, sir, do you need a receipt?” Patty asked.

He faltered. “What?”

Patty sighed. “The docket?”

He ignored her and left the store, just as the manager came to Patty’s register. The manager, Chip, watched the back of the gunman, then turned to Patty and shook his head. “Patricia, you didn’t even wish that man a good day.”

“He was a bandit, sir.”

“Did you at least enter him into our free raffle?”

“He seemed in a hurry, sir.”

Chip scowled and shook his head at her. “Be more attentive, next time. It is absolutely paramount that we provide the upmost in customer service. I think you’re spending too much time with Gilligan. If you both put as much effort into your separate work and less time distracting each other, these things wouldn’t happen.”

Patty frowned and nodded. Not that she’d stop talking to Gilligan. He gave her free cheese samples and held the store record for most trolleys carted in a trolley collection – no man she had ever met had such control.

Once he was sure that she’d take customer service more seriously, Chip brushed the dust off his suit, turned around, and began walking back to his office. He didn’t seem to hear the dog food lady’s loud complaints as he strode away and avoided her eye.

Patricia turned back to her customers, grinning so widely her face hurt.

 


One response to “Employee of the Month”

  1. Evrim Şen says:

    This short story really resonated with me, made me laugh with immense pain in my heart. The tone you captured was incredible, and the starkness of the protagonist’s POV was so relatable, it spoke to such an immense truth about the world of customer serivce, and the way minimum wage employees are spoken to.

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