Roy looked around the car park, counting trolleys. Most people returned their trolleys to the allocated bays, but there were always some who thought they didn’t have to bother. Maybe they thought they were too important or they were too busy or too lazy or assumed some minion would do it for them. Some minion like Roy.
He very much resented being thought of as a minion. Until nine months ago Roy ran the computer department of a large supply company. He managed thirty staff, held numerous budgets, had opinions on things people cared about and sought out, attended conferences and earned enough to take his family on holiday summer and winter. His company car was top of the range and he wore bespoke suits and handmade shoes.
Now Roy wore standard issue, SupaValu supermarket mid-green shirt, plain black trousers – any style as long as they were the supermarket’s own – and a fluorescent yellow vest over the top. If the weather was bad, which was often even in the summer months, Roy could borrow a matching green fleece. Every SupaValu employee was issued with three shirts for sole use but the fleeces were communal and rarely laundered, so Roy preferred to wear one only on the coldest days.
Nineteen, he counted. Nineteen trolleys strewn across the car park that Roy would have to collect individually and return to the allocated bays. Nineteen trips, although he might be able to plan a few routes to take in two trolleys, so perhaps only eleven trips. Three trolleys together began to get too unwieldy, especially if any had dodgy wheels. Roy knew at least 10% had dodgy wheels.
Nine months ago Roy would have been unaware that three trolleys together were unwieldy or that more than 10% of the trolleys had wheels that probably should have been replaced. Nine months ago Roy didn’t use trolleys because he never went to supermarkets, except to fill his Audi with petrol paid for with his platinum credit card. Roy’s wife did all the shopping, online, and had it delivered by Ocado once a week. They didn’t shop at SupaValu.
On day one of the job, Roy’s supervisor had given him an induction, covering health and safety, SupaValu rules and values, shift patterns, staff discount and how to use the tether. The tether was a bit like the strap Roy used to secure his luggage for holidays, but it was much longer and dirtier and looped trolleys together. One tether held twenty trolleys, which Roy then attached to a device and steered from the allocated areas back to the main trolley point at the front of the store. Every employee was issued with one tether which couldn’t be replaced for three months. Lost tethers were the responsibility of the employee and cost £20 to replace. Roy was very careful with his tether.
Roy had taken his wife on a long weekend city break for their wedding anniversary, returning to work with a relaxed glow from sightseeing, good food and surprisingly good sex. The car park had few cars in but Roy was early so that wasn’t so unexpected. He didn’t notice the empty look of the windows until he was almost at the front door. The door was locked and he had to bang for five minutes before someone let him in.
The company had gone into administration whilst he had been sipping champagne and looking at centuries old paintings. Management had hidden the true state of the problem from everyone until it was too late to remedy. The first most people knew of the trouble was when they arrived at work the previous Friday to find a receiver’s notice on the door and a security guard to direct them off them premises. Letters had been sent to people’s homes but Roy hadn’t had a chance to read his accumulated mail before he set off for work that day.
His old manager had provided him with an excellent reference and Roy had done the same for his team members, but as most of them signed on at the job centre together, few had hopes of using their endorsements soon. Some of the younger staff had found work quickly, especially those who were happy to work at anything, regardless of wage. Roy held out for a management position, then a supervisor position, or a professional position, or an office job. When his benefits were threatened unless he applied for whatever was available, he chose SupaValu Trolley Attendant. By the time he was offered the job his confidence was so low that he felt chuffed they wanted him.
Roy tugged the collar of his SupaValu shirt closer around his neck and secured the last of the abandoned trolleys together with his tether. He attached the steering device and headed for the store front with his trolley delivery. In the corner of his eye he saw a red car driving faster than was safe in a car park, but he knew there was no point in telling the driver so and knew it from personal experience. He reached the main trolley point and began to unload his tethered trolleys.
Behind him he heard a loud bang and a crunch. Startled, he turned to see the same red car crumped into a blue car that had been reversing out of a parking space. Plastic light fittings lay strewn about and there was dented metal on both cars. The red driver was getting out of his car and went to examine the damage. The blue driver was still inside the vehicle.
Roy untethered his trolleys, rolled his tether into a tight wad, put it in his pocket and headed towards the scene of the crash. He hoped no trolleys had been damaged or they wouldn’t fit properly for tethering and he’d have to return those individually to the main trolley point.