Thursday, October 29, 2009

Check-Out Chick

Here's a shock: I don't like supermarkets.

But I don't like cars, either, and I sometimes use them, too. And rollerball pens.

(Supermarkets remind me of rights: they're clumsy, sterile, last-minute things - but they often offer a robust combination of reliability and simplicity.)

As I stand, holding my razors or cans of tuna, I do wonder about the life of the check-out chick, busy not looking at me. (Ruth was one, and her recollections reflect badly on K-Mart.)

In this vein, comes Checkout: A Life on the Tills, by Anna Sam. In a recent London Review of Books, Rachel Bowlby reviewed the best-selling French work. It sounds fascinating. A sample from Bowlby's review:

Sam weighs up just how many tons of goods she lifts per hour, per shift, per year. She figures out the average number of times a day she says hello goodbye are you all right for bags today do you have a loyalty card please enter your pin. She notes the exact time used up in walking to the toilets, walking to the staffroom, queuing, eating, and then walking back to the checkout, during the 18-minute break that is allowed during a six-hour shift. She watches how long it takes for the last customers of the evening, while she waits to get home, to pause and pick and pause and pick again at the end of the aisle. Minute by minute, she notes the movements of their opposite number, the couple who turn up half an hour before opening time to get the best parking place, angrily tap at their watches as they wait to be let in, whizz round the store, and then – she imagines – find themselves back at home with only an empty day before them. This is the one time that Sam ventures into the world away from the store, and she gets her own back by seeing these people enjoying a life as futureless in its way as that of the checkout girl they have just barged past.
(Photo:http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattieb/ / CC BY-SA 2.0)

1 comment:

innercitygarden said...

I generally don't like supermarkets either, especially when accompanied by my nearly three year old, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the checkout chicks in the country. They don't seem angry about being there like so many of the inner city checkout kids, they say hello and chat and smile and no one gets cross about queing while the customer ahead of them asks after someone's kids. Still, I generally walk past the supermarket to the fruit & veg shop (which also sells a lot of groceries, and where the staff are also friendly) because there are fewer opportunities for the kid to grab at chocolate.