I worked at four different supermarkets over a total of five years and each and every day that I spent doing that was the worst day of my life. Each of these days seemed to be the worst day of the lives of every single person employed by these supermarkets. In every department, at every hour of the day, everything was falling apart. Each store seemingly required a perfect state equilibrium to function — a state that was never, ever attained. The produce load arriving an hour late or one grocery staff member calling in sick would throw an entire day into abject chaos, producing a kind of contagious, agitated panic.
Areas managers would berate store managers who, in turn, would continue a chain of beration that trickled down from department managers to 2ICs to full-timers to part-timers until it reached the casuals, who, having no one to berate, simply fantasised about sustaining a hideous injury on the ham slicer that would allow them to finish their shift early. The pay was not good, the work was hard and unrewarding, and any customer given the opportunity to do so would treat you like a turd they found in their dessert.
There was not a lot of fun to be had. Even the nourishing, soul-satisfying joy of talking dumb shit with your coworkers could be hard to attain if you were serving customers or under the watchful eye of someone who took laughter as a sign that you were not rotating and filling the tomatoes fast enough. The brief, shining moments of happiness that could be eked out came in two forms: Fucking Off, and Fucking Around.
Fucking Off is a universal phenomenon, although each job permits it to different extents. In some, Fucking Off can only be achieved by doing a less arduous task much slower than required, giving yourself some time to rest. In contrast, any white-collar job that allows access to a computer and the internet can by itself be anywhere between 50% and 100% Fucking Off. We have all done it, and it is our sacred duty to try and do it as much as possible.
Fucking Around is a different kettle of fish. Fucking Around is different things to different people. Fucking Around means doing something you are ostensibly not allowed to do but know that you can get away with, either by subterfuge or by the willing blind eye of the powers that be. It could be anything from riding pallet jacks across the floor to ‘sampling’ approximately 4 kilograms of deli meats per week, to using the produce knife to slice pomegranates perfectly in half samurai-style as they are thrown at you in the loading dock’s security camera blindspot. Fucking Around is the gift we give ourselves to offset the shittiness of our lot.
As anyone who has done it will tell you, night fill is a particularly shitty lot. The hours are simply not conducive to fostering normal human relationships. You will almost never see your friends and, when you do, you will be dazed, confused, and as tired as God. You are isolated from your coworkers, sharing only brief greetings with the exiting checkout staff and the incoming bakers.
The work does not vary from day to day, or even from hour to hour. You grab a roll cage and you fill it until it is time for you to grab another roll cage, and then you repeat that until it is time to leave, repeating it all again when you come in the next night. It is brutal, it is punishing, and it is thankless. The only redeeming quality of night fill is the opportunities afforded for Fucking Around.
Working a largely customerless and managerless shift, the store is your big, empty oyster. You can play Meshuggah over the PA, you can ‘accidentally’ overextend your boxcutter into packets of delicious treats, and, if it helps you get the job done, you can throw shit around to get it to the place that it needs to be. You can slide cartons of baked beans from the head of the aisle right down to their spot on the shelves with the finesse and precision of legendary bocce player Umberto Granaglia. You don’t just do this because you are often given far, far more work to do than is reasonable, you do this because it is undeniably fun as shit.
No one who has ever worked any sort of supermarket-adjacent job would begrudge night fill this. Hell, I’ll go further than that, no reasonable person would begrudge them this.
But not everyone is reasonable.
Woolworths staff have been caught on camera brazenly throwing boxes of stock into piles and down aisles while re-stocking shelves.
A confused customer filmed the supermarket employees in the Banyo store, on Brisbane’s northside, carelessly restocking fridges in the freezer aisle while customers were still shopping on Saturday night.
The group of workers can be seen disappearing into the aisle and reappearing, tossing new boxes of stock into piles and, at one point, throwing the boxes down the aisle with force.
Somehow, these humble, hard-working night fill employees ended up in the nightly news for the simple crime of getting the fucking job done with efficiency and panache. This “confused customer” (read: extreme narc) walked into a Woolworths on a Saturday night — opening hours that are only possible thanks to other people giving up their Saturday nights — and, confronted by the sight of night fillers in their natural element exercising their God-given rights, decided to punish them.
— 7NEWS Brisbane (@7NewsBrisbane) October 21, 2019
Not only is this dogshit behaviour in regards to filming people who are just doing their job, it is a violation of the sacred bond between supermarket shopper and supermarket employee. The bond is a very simple one: They do all the work that facilitates you getting the shit that you need and, wherever possible, you leave them the fuck alone.
Do these people come into your work, Confused Customer, and film you cutting the various corners you cut in order to do whatever it is you do? Have they ever sent a television station footage of you wasting half an hour of your day playing with the Google Doodle? Has someone ever facilitated the publishing of a news story about how you spent a full hour on the toilet pretending to take a shit but actually just alternating between looking at Instagram and looking at Facebook?
No. No they have not.
I stand with these brave, fish-finger-hurling workers, and I believe anyone of conscience should as well.