Daily Observations

Wednesday, 19th October, 2016

“Next customer please, next customer! Yes, thank you dahlink, next customer..”

Like a new beat you could rap over, this is how he spent two hours per shift on the Primark shop floor.

“Next customer, please, next customer!”

He would stand strategically, in the middle of a bank of registers — 23 in total, and call the next person down.

Looking at them, trying to do most of his job with eye contact, a brief nod and a quick arm movement to guide them along.

He tried to make his call into a song of sorts, a call that wouldn’t be too taxing on his throat or his imagination. If he could get into a rhythm with it, the two hours would go quickly and he’d only need a quick sip of water.

Today he was wearing the jersey 3/4 length uniform top and his lanyard banged slightly against his left rib cage when he’d call the next woman, no, person down. Although, to be honest, most of them were women today. He lucked out on the high school rush and the queue was beginning to bank up with girls in blazers, shirts, jumpers and tights not yet cynical about the buckets of tat lining the gauntlet. Since school started back, he noticed that braids were definitely longer at the moment.

His own hair was decidedly lacking in length. Or perhaps it was volume. Either way, he was going bald. And it made him look old, now. The crown of his head had already become sparse and the areas around it were now wispy, fainting and flaking out in sympathy with their fallen comerades. If he were grey, at least it might give an appearance of mad-professor style rafishness. But it was a lank, mediocre brown, the colour of cheap swedish furniture and in dire need of trimming.

“Next customer please, next customer! Yes, thank you dahlink, next customer. Yes, next customer please, next customer.”

The tall blonde Russian woman — older than most other register staff — was flagging. Yes, she raised her hand to tell him she was free, but it was so brief that he had hardly noticed. Perhaps that was the intention. Whenever he was on the call role, his inner Franco came out and his desire for continuity and upright register staff came to the fore. Perhaps the performance of friendliness and customer service — all the yes darling, next customer darling sing song sapped all that was sweet and left a punitive and robotic eye.

He caught his blonde colleague’s eye and seeing her smile with fatigue, he smiled back.

Next in the queue was a woman with just a pair of jeans.

“Yes darling, next customer please”

She jumped into the first stall. Easy take.

“Next customer please, next customer! Yes darling, next customer please.”

Excellent. Three tittering young hijabi muslimahs with new season jackets, jewellery, make up from the buckets, and inane adolescent chitter chatter. Smiling again at the tired mess in stall 23, he pressed himself back against the guide rails, smiled at them and in a grand sweeping gesture he guided them to the end of the row, passing on a gaggle of chaos, joy and energy to someone who needed it.

“Next customer please, next customer! Yes darling, next customer please.”