“Okay, so does anybody want me to go through that again?”  Team Leader Ken looked up and down the line of new recruits, inspecting the evasive faces for even the slightest flicker of emotion, hoping for a signal – any signal – a twitch, a scratch, an epileptic fit – looking for any excuse to repeat the exercise.  All ten newcomers stood absolutely still, determined not to allow even an arm hair to move in a way that said “ME, ME!  SHOW ME!  IT WAS AMAZING!”

“Lynn – do you want me to go through that again?”  Lynn knew it was a trap.  She ignored Team Leader Ken with all of her being, her gaze firmly focussed on a packet of dried prunes, two shelves up, next to the apricots, willing him to move on to somebody else.  Recognising a lost cause when he saw one, Team Leader Ken switched his attention to the 17-year-old lad beside her.  Masoud took a deep breath and held it, braced for the onslaught.  “How about you Masoud – perhaps a sixth demonstration will help you really get to grips with the manual tasks required in this job?”  Masoud’s lips began to tremble and his left eye leaked a tear with the strain, but resolutely he refused to let out even the slightest sound.  As Masoud’s eyes began to goggle, Team Leader Ken abandoned his pursuit and moved on to his next victim.

“Terence…  Terence, Terence, Terence.  I know your type when I see it,” he schmoozed.  “The consummate professional.  The method actor.  The keen angler.  The Pope.”  Terence was beginning to feel that Team Leader Ken really didn’t know his type when he saw it.  “You’re a man who likes to make sure he gets things right, yes?  A man who cannot stand to do anything at a level anywhere less than the height of his supreme powers?  A man who knows the importance of practice and repeating the same task until perfection or death, whichever comes first?”  Terence glared at his shoes, reciting the Buddhist mantra “Go away, go away, go away” under his breath.  Shutting his eyes, Terence imagined himself as a lotus on a still, calm pool atop a mountain, the sound of pan-pipes echoing around the hills, a small golden fish leaping gracefully above him to catch a fly with ruthless efficiency and panache.  Sighing blissfully to himself, he awoke some five hours later to find the store closed and facing the prospect of a night snuggled up under an extra large dressing gown beneath a rudimentary fort of bedsheets in the home section.

Team Leader Ken interpreted Terence’s silence as a bad thing and turned to face Lorenzo, the new fishmonger.  “Lorenzo – I’m sure that you-”  “YES, YES, YES!  SHOW ME AGAIN!”  Team Leader Ken shook his head, blinked hard and returned to the real world.  “Lorenzo – I’m sure that you’d like me to demonstrate this procedure once more, yes?”  “I would rather gouge my eyes out through my nostrils with a coat hanger.”  Team Leader Ken took that as a no, then addressed the group as a whole.  “Anybody?  Are you all definitely one hundred percent sure you’re happy – did you appreciate all the nuances of my actions?  It’s a very specific set of instructions and things can go drastically wrong if they are not followed to the letter.  Do you seriously want a sub-standard delivery of store protocol to endanger your safety on a lonely late night shift?  At one in the morning, your corpse might lie undiscovered in one of these aisles for more than an hour – think about that.  Just think about that for a moment.  By the time that Mrs Bedson or Mr Davies comes looking for the vinegar or the Oxo or the tinned plum tomatoes and stumbles upon your maggot-infested cadaver, you might be so beyond help that you’d wish you’d asked Team Leader Ken for one further demonstration to ensure that you fully understood the magnitude of what you were taking on.  So…  Who wants to see it again?”

A stony silence hung in the air, all of the new starters silently praying that in unity they would remain resilient and strong and repel Team Leader Ken’s persistence.  But eight heads (Terence the Lotus was snoring by now) swung round in outraged despair at the sight of a shaking hand being slowly raised above an abashed and reddening head.  “Team Leader Ken…”  Ken positively glowed with delight as he wheeled around to listen.  “I think it would be a very sensible idea if you showed us just one… m-more… time…”  The group collectively groaned and tossed their heads back in agony.  “EXCELLENT, Lucy!  What a splendid suggestion – you will make a fantastic cashier, I can tell.  Possibly one of the best the world has ever seen.”  Lucy smiled weakly in apology to her co-workers; they weren’t too furious with her – they themselves had felt almost helpless to withstand Team Leader Ken’s guilt-inducing monologue, and could understand why she’d felt compelled to do it, but she certainly shouldn’t expect any break-time company in the staff room until at least next Christmas.

Team Leader Ken bounced back to the front of the assembled crowd with a clap of his hands and a manic grin.  “Right then – everybody watching?  I’ll only do this once…  Okay.  Approach the box of raisins, stop, and then – this is the most important part – bend your knees, not your back, to get right down next to it…”