Every day is the same, except Friday. I like it that way. So does our Leader. She says predictability is the key to a successful business.
I arrive at 7.30am, stamp my timecard and take the 63 steps down to the warehouse. I find my red picking truck, check the battery is charged and drive to the pig pen. I pick up my order from one of the lieutenants and then the fun begins as I race around the aisles to finish as quickly, and accurately, as possible. Those with the highest pick rate make the most money. Those with the highest error rate disappear.
There are three delivery options: corrugated cardboard box, roll cage trolley and pallet box. The key to quick picking is to get as many pallet box orders as possible. If Lieutenant Hutchinson is on duty, he’ll give you pallet orders in exchange for beer. Lieutenant Chrissie is harder to bribe as she doesn’t drink, but luckily she likes me. She says I’m the only one in the warehouse who doesn’t objectify her; whatever that means. Nothing can bribe Lieutenant Sean. He was a marine.
Most orders contain between 150 and 200 units. Anything from white musk to tea tree oil, hemp body butter to satsuma bubble bath. I always leave the warehouse smelling better than when I arrived.
I have the fastest pick rate and have never made an error in seventeen years. They used to call me Rainman. I never understood that. Now they call me Freddy, the one from Nightmare on Elmstreet. I like that movie.
It’s mainly men down here, and we all have nicknames. Tetley is named after the beer he consumes daily. They call Brett foreskin because he doesn’t have one. Simeon is Turk because he was born in Malta and Paul is Baghdad because when Tetley asked where he got his new bag from, he said his dad.
My best friend is Porridge. I don’t even know his real name, but when he was in prison, I visited him every week. He’d ask me to pop to Turk’s on the way and pick up some Lemsip. I told him I didn’t mind getting it from Boots, but he said Turk had plenty. Porridge said prison was a germ ridden place and that’s why he needed so much Lemsip.
He returned the favour when I was in the hospital after my surgery. I hated the food so he’d pick me up a Filet-O-Fish and a chocolate milkshake. I always let him keep the change, for his bother.
Every day at 10.00 a.m we go to the canteen for breakfast. A full English for £2. Katie works here. She serves the beans. She has silky brown hair, green eyes and a four leaf clover tattooed on her left wrist. She’s Tetley’s girlfriend and always gives me an extra spoon of beans. Sometimes she has bruises on her arms, but I don’t think Tetley even notices. If she were my girlfriend, I’d ask her if she’s ok.
Friday is the highlight of the week. This is when our Leader comes to say hello to her little bunnies. That’s her nickname for us. Our Leader doesn’t believe in testing products on animals, and I agree with her. I love animals, especially baby penguins.
On Friday’s we don’t go to the pig pen. Instead, we go to the goldfish bowl, a gorilla glass testing bay behind the Vitamin E sorbet, in aisle 72.
Inside the goldfish bowl are very comfortable seats. Like the ones at the dentist. There are fifteen of them which means we all get one. When we’re comfortable Dr Francis (a.k.a Armstrong) comes in wearing his spacesuit and applies the latest products to our skins. We then sit in the goldfish bowl for two hours doing nothing and getting paid! Usually, it’s the easiest two hours of the week, but once some liquid paraffin melted the left side of my face. That’s when I got the new nickname. But I also got a bonus from our Leader. She’s very kind. All I had to do was sign my name on a piece of paper and promise not tell anyone.
Once the two hours is up, we all get to go home early. Except none of us do, we all head straight to the fiddler’s elbow for pints of beer, except me. I drink orange juice and lemonade.