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A Place I'd Like To Forget
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A Place I'd Like To Forget
Another school piece. Writing about a grocery store job I held during the summer. I really didn't like that job.
[898 words]
[October 2000]
[email protected]
My Dog Opposes Communism (Essays) Actually submitted to a high school teacher. I guess I was feeling like a rebel at the time. I still like it, I suppose. It's interesting. [862 words] [Humor]
That's Ratings Suicide! (Short Stories) A satiric story done on one cynical night. [545 words] [Mind]
A Place I'd Like To Forget

       There’s always a moment of doubt when faced with the automatic doors. They stand shiny with a glimmer of sunlight reflected into my oncoming eyes. They’ve never failed to open before, but that does nothing to ease the skepticism – I extend a white-coated arm in front of me as I walk. The door opens, intricate mechanical workings make a hissing sound as it allows me entry. Perhaps my skepticism is not doubt, but hope – this is the door that leads to work. This is the door that leads to reality.

I walk past the lines of checkout aisles. Each one is topped with a great glowing beacon, offering salvation for the frantic shoppers who otherwise would have to wait in line. I make my way to the employee office, famous for it’s smoked glass walls and smell that reeks of cigarette smoke. My feet can be heard softly as they step across the shiny floor. I punch in using the time clock. Rubbery buttons and a green glowing screen stare back at me as I momentarily forget my employee number, and then remember again. The supervisors in the office hand me the shiny black case, filled with worn bills and heavy, shiny coins. There’s no turning back now.

The work starts slowing, giving me false hopes. Periods of tranquility are never a long-lasting event. Soon, the customers begin to cascade over me like a great wave. Items upon items placed upon the conveyer belt. Packaged meat, tin cans and good-smelling deli products start piling up. Large and Exotic Vegetables are added, most of which I am unable to identify. They bring bags of colourful candy, always shocked at the final price. They bring and bring, and there is doubt as to whether they will ever stop.

I stand behind my register, keyboard sticky and screen blurred. The store is sweltering; standing in my tie and a gaudy white and green coat, faced with six more hours of work, I begin to feel that this is some sort of cosmic joke. I greet the customers with a polite salutation, before moving on to the mundane conversation. They smash their metallic and squeaky-wheeled carts into the sides of the aisle as they navigate through. The beeping of the checkout scan becomes to become incessant; soon it will be unbearable. I carefully place the customers’ items into the bags adorned with the store’s logo. All the while the customer’s eyes burn holes into mine, daring me to put the eggs in with the cereal.

I’m using “Have a Nice Day” as my polite goodbye. It’s always returned with that smile, the one that reeks of being artificial. I’ll rotate my goodbye later, perhaps “Have a Nice Evening” or “Have a nice night”. The artificial smile will remain a constant. One wonders if the teeth used to perform this fakery could be put to better use, perhaps piano keys.

As it gets busier, I become more mechanical, almost machine-like. A recorded “hello” greets the customer, mechanical arms work the item through the till and into the bags. Beep Beep Beep. Gears spin as electricity flows through and the same actions are repeated over and over again. The mind, however, is elsewhere.

My thoughts are off analyzing the customers. I watch the people come through with their odd tattoos and bad haircuts. I watch men come through with exposed chest hair, or older women come through in inappropriate clothing. It dawns on me that there’s a wealth of mockery to be had, and I am totally unable to act on it. In the heat of the lights and the beep of the till, I begin to feel like a prisoner in a white and green coat.

The same music plays every day. An endless loop of soft pop rock and top 40 hits. Never too loud or too soft, it’s just loud enough to be heard – to drill into your brain and become an object of much loathing. In the midst of my shopper-induced insanity, I wonder about the older employees. Some of them have been here for twenty years with the beeping, the music and the odd-looking customers. Perhaps one day they’ll keel over on the conveyer belt, head between the lettuce and the Lucky Charms. Beep Beep Beep.

I’m snapped back into consciousness for the inevitable complaint. I’m short a nickel in change, or confused Bok Choy for Leeks. Scrutiny is something I forever face. Old ladies spend copious amounts of time painstakingly going over the receipt, hoping to find a small mistake to prove their self-worth. I watch grumpy old men blaming me for the high price of oatmeal. The prisoner gives these people his name, rank and serial number then directs them to his supervisors. They eye me like they would a badly trained rodent – I smile and nod.

The front-end of the store contains an eclectic variety of people, all of them party artificial. Employees are forced to pretend how enthusiastic they are over the privilege to serve a customer. Customers are forced to pretend shopping is an event that brings them great joy. I smile and nod while the beeping drives a stake into my skull. I smile and nod as sweat runs down my forehead and the machine takes over. I smile and nod because, hell, at least I’m getting paid.



"I am really appreciating your work so far. You take these pointless little happenings and make them quite entertaining." -- Meg.
"First of all, I enjoyed reading all three of your pieces. A great job of utilizing satire, cynicism, and exposing the predictable gullibility of people without being condescending or arrogant. What amazes me most is that you have become cynical ( and rightfully so) at such a young age. It took me years to get thay way. " -- Dick Koss.
"Great use of words and insights into a process that all readers can identify with, albeit from the other side of the counter. I will look closer at the next checkout person I encounter. " -- Danny S. , Phoenix, AZ, USA.


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October 2000

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