Monday, September 06, 2010

This Space Is Free

So, I’m immersed in the small scale mania of my first day back at work after a week off with the wife and kids. I won’t belabour the point but I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to be picking up the phone, picking up the contracts, picking up the complaints, picking up the tab, picking up exactly where I left off and running in that big wide circle of dull employment that positions me back in this exact same position this time next Monday.

But I am and I will. The bills need paying. The kids need feeding. The wolves at the door need sating. This is life, right?

But there is one consolation. One undeniable fact that makes this reintroduction to the corporate grindstone a little more bearable this morning. Hell, it even makes me review my career path and makes me think that maybe I didn’t bum out after all.

And I have ASDA to thank for this joyous epiphany.

A quick walk to their store yesterday afternoon to pick up a packet of Bourbons and draw out money that I haven’t got from their ATM brought me into contact with a member of their staff who surely must have the most demeaning and soul destroying job on the planet.

Maybe this position has been around a while and I have merely missed it due to my infrequent visits to ASDA’s superstore? Maybe it’s not big news but it was certainly a new experience for me.

I’d grabbed my Bourbons. A double economy pack if you must know. I was heading down the aisle towards the checkout booths and that’s when I saw him. Or rather I saw it first.

It. The big green cardboard pointy hand held up on a big stick. The big green pointy hand with the words “space here” printed across the palm in ASDA’s jolly shopper script.

ASDA are employing someone to stand in front of the checkout area, moving along its length backwards and forwards like a crab in a force 10 gale, indicating which of the checkout booths has space on their conveyor belt of plenty to accept a new customer.

You poor sod.

Those were the exact words – pure and unadulterated – that entered my head when I saw him. He wasn’t even a young YTS-wannabe. Not a Hoodie serving community service. It was some poor middle aged fellow. Geez. Someone my age. He looked as fed up as such a job could make anyone. I could feel his depression emanating from him like the BO from his upheld arm. Space here. How he didn’t just dip that sign down so it was pointing to his own skull, I don’t know.

And then I thought: well, my job isn’t all that bad. I have a desk. I have a computer and a telephone. I have an In-try and an out-tray. Paperwork and emails. Budgets. And most important of all. I have a need to fill. My job is required. It is needed and, dare I say it, essential to the smooth running of the building. It’s important.

But then again it also has stress. And responsibility. And fall-out. And consequence. And complaints. And accountability. And capacity for foul-ups. And boredom and tediousness. And a sheer lack of personal engagement which quite frankly stultifies my brain for 5 days a week.

The only difference between me and that guy in ASDA is the stick.

And the BO.

*Sigh*

Space here. If anybody wants it.


42 comments:

Trish @ Mum's Gone to... said...

God, poor bugger. Mind you, the staff with clipboards trying to sell you their credit cards must have a shit time as no-one wants to talk to them. Maybe the man with the stick is working on a new novel in his head to fill the space.

By the way, in case you didn't see my funny quip to you on Twitter, here it is again.

Get yourself an in-tray, an out-tray and an LBW tray (Let the Buggers Wait)...

Very Bored in Catalunya said...

Utterly brilliant. I shall look back on this post next time I have my hands down the pan, cleaning the toilets of our guesthouse.

It's good to feel important.

Steve said...

Trish: can't I just convert all my trays into an LBW tray? P.S. I always thought LBW was a cricketing term.

Very Bored in Catalunya: and once you have the toilets clean and blockage free you can borrow the little green hand sign to place over them...! ;-)

-eve- said...

wow. ur right. things could be worse. i keep telling myself that with everyone I see, like 'well, I think I'd make a better doctor than a waffle-maker' etc :-) but yes, i've never heard or seen or imagined that 'space here' occupation. lol! :-)

Steve said...

Eve: ah, but you'll never be short of friends if you can make waffles...! ;-)

Michelle said...

OMG Steve. Like you say that poor sod. I am also back at work this morning after 2 weeks off and driven to my favourite blogs during my lunch break.

I have tpo say things here are not to bad when you compare them to the green hand guy!

Mich x

Steve said...

Michelle: I think "the green hand guy" is the benchmark for utter futility and career hopelessness.

Kelloggsville said...

damn me that's a brilliant idea, actually I would find that really useful - someone telling me where to go to queue - no seriously, I would! But the job would be fulfilling for about the first 5 mins of the day but you wait for the few days before Christmas - that man will become a God!!!!!!!!!

Welcome back to the world of (no) work!

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: at Christmas they may employ some seasonal "space indicators" or whatever his post has been called and I may well apply... I'm up for bribery and corruption if you're interested...?

Nota Bene said...

I'm rushing off to Asda now to run from counter to counter just to confuse and amuse the dear fellow...

Steve said...

Nota Bene: that's a great idea - the fellow could do with losing a few pounds.

Heather said...

Do you know...there's something to be said for being that guy, spending the day doing something benign and dull. I'll bet he has no stress or job worries and his mind is free to wander...sounds a lot better than some of the jobs I've had...

Steve said...

Heather: that thought did cross my mind as I was writing this piece... stress free days, no complicated procedures, small impact on H&S and no danger of taking your work home with you. Unless you grew really attached to the sign, of course.

London City Mum said...

Right - better get the job interview preparation done for the 'big one' later this week or that could be me...

Although I would probably alter the sign to say something aking to "Free sex here".

At least it would spice things up.

LCM x

Steve said...

LCM: what a fabulous idea. You could customize lots of different signs depending on which checkout you were standing in front of: bad sex here, kinky sex here, gay sex here...!

misssy m said...

Yep- I've seen these poor spacehere folks with their pointy sticks. But in my local branch they all seem to be middle aged ladies who are looking at their coworkers and laughing their asses off that it's there turn to hold the pointy stick.

I imagine the novelty will wear off quite soon.

One of the happiest people I ever met was the lady that drove the van to refill the sanitary items and condom machines in public venues and empty the yucky you know what bins. She would come in every week or so positively beaming. She was either on really great meds or just loved her job. So maybe I'm wrong- maybe the pointy sticks laughing ladies are stood there thinking "I can't believe I'm getting paid to stand here holding a stick!"

Steve said...

Misssy M: maybe there's a power thing here that I'm just not getting? That sense of driving the herd... directing the sheep to the right stall. Stop, wait... wait... OK, go! Maybe there's an opening to introduce hand gestures as used by traffic policemen? Or just whistles and shouts of "come-by" for the "cunnry vokes"...?

Kayessjaykay said...

Sorry, but this just sounds a bit offensive - "Look, I've made a better job of my life than this guy"...
Doesn't even sound that bad a job to me - everyone hates checkouts at the best of times and there is nothing worse than studying all the queues trying to figure out if you should go with this one, or keep walking in the hope that something further down is free, then find it's not and the first one has now filled up etc etc.. At least this guy seems to be directly helping people to be a tiny bit happier. He must get a fair number of smiles in a day. Is that really less worthwhile than sitting at a desk where the only person you're making happier is the boss you're making money for?
Sorry, nice blog, but the tone of this one meant I just couldn't resist commenting.

Steve said...

Kayessjaykay: hello there - thanks for commenting. Did you read the post all the way to the end? I think I do make reference to the fact that actually the job I have isn't really any better than the guy's with the stick... Or do I need a big sign to point that out to people? ;-) I do hope any offense I have caused won't stop you dropping by and commenting in future.

the fly in the web said...

Problem of perception...he is visible to the public in general, you only to a small sector thereof, so what you feel to be the futility of your occupation is not likely to be the subject of unkind remark as is his.

LBW is indeed a cricketing term...but it now also means let the buggers wait...while the third umpire decides what should have been obvious to anyone without a white stick

Steve said...

The fly in the web: alas, when I am mopping out the toilets because the cleaner has gone home I am all too obvious to the public at large and the stick I hold usually has a sodden mop head at the end of it. Same meat different gravy, perhaps?

I need to get into cricket more. It might improve my work ethos.

libby said...

All about mood for me Steve...I too have seen this guy and on some days...I'd swap.....other days...glad its not me....but generally anybody who works merits praise from me...whatever the job, high or low....there is a nobility in earning your crust and not taking money from the state and doing feck all for it...

Steve said...

Libby: that's very true and should make all of us, regardless of the type of stick we wave about, feel better about how we earn our moolah. :-)

Rol said...

And yet, I can't help think it's a more noble profession than writing radio ads.

Steve said...

Rol: well, as someone above has already pointed out; this person if doing something useful and of value and may garner a few smiles for his labour. That's more than I ever manage. I guess if you wrote a funny radio ad you'd manage one out of three?

femminismo said...

What are "borbouns?" Are they smokes?

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Jeez, I've seen one of those poor saps in the Coventry Asda store (Walsgrave). Only the once mind. Now they have ushers in most superstores to try and persuade you to use self-service and put their colleagues out of work. At least as bad.

Fran said...

And you have Bourbons. I bet he doesn't even have a proper coffee break.

Steve said...

Femminismo: bless you. They are the biscuit of the gods.

Laura: and that's all this is at the end of the day... a way to drive more customers quicker through the store and out the doors with less money than they came in with. Talk about tapping into herd instinct.

Fran: and I'm really not sure I can cope with the guilt. I may have to break open the Gold Blend just to cheer myself up. ;-)

vegemitevix said...

Reminds me of the jobs I did when I was a student. They inspired me to get out and get something better, or run the risk of changing drawsheets and wiping old ladies bums for the rest of my life. Sigh.

Being Me said...

You forgot "a bin". Sure, everyone lobs scraps of leftover food stuffs in it. But you have a bin.

Steve said...

Vegemitevix: I know what you mean. It's kind of one step up from a paper-round.

Being Me: I do have a bin. With its own bin liner. Hey! Things really are looking up! I may have to write my employer a thank you letter.

Selina Kingston said...

You've made me feel a bit guilty now as I have a job that I love but I still moan about it! Next time I'm in Asda, I shall go up to the man with the big green hand and smile broadly at him.....I know that will scare him though !!

Steve said...

Selina: don't smile too warmly... he looks like the kind of guy who'd stalk...

EmmaK said...

Another weird job at the supermarket is at the 'self scan' section at the supermarket there are at least three members of staff just wondering about doing F all sort of monitoring that people are able to self scan. I suspect that they are also there to see that people don't abuse the system - I myself would never dream of scanning in expensive apples as the cheapest ones but there are of course such unscrupulous types about ;)

Steve said...

Emma: I rarely use the self scanning checkouts. Why abuse the system when you can abuse a checkout lady?

;-)

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip said...

AWesome post, Steve. I must admit, I saw a guy laying on the sidewalk next to the highway the other day with a sign that said "Mattress Sale" and a big arrow. Pretty much had the same effect on me. And did I mention that it's like 105 degrees outside here just about every day? Yeah. I guess my job isn't so bad after all...

Steve said...

Organic Motherhood with Cool Whip: signs with arrows - especially pointy hand ones - should be banned. They are somehow derogatory and diminishing to the poor sap that has to hold them up. This is what we should be developing robots for. Or using youth offenders and those doing community work at her Maj's behest.

The Dotterel said...

'Ah, give me my in-tray, my loaf-haired secretary [whom he was shagging mercilessly at the time, btw]... give me your arm, old Toad, help me down cemetery road.'

Comment brought to you courtesy of Philip Arthur Larkin.

Steve said...

The Dotterel: my favourite all time Larkin quote is "tuberous cock and balls". ;-)

The Sagittarian said...

I'd take that job today, do youo have earthquakes up there?? :-)

Steve said...

Amanda: we rarely get hit by earthquakes here in the UK but when we do they are really only minor tremours. You'd be very welcome to stay with us. In lieu of a rabbit hutch I can offer our garden shed. ;-)