A Job On The Tills

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“Could Jim Dawson please report to Mister Draper’s office. Jim Dawson to Mister Draper’s office please.”
Jim heard his name being called over the loud tannoy system. Sixteen years at Thorogoods DIY and this was the first time his name had ever been called. He puffed out his chest. This was a good thing. Mister Draper was an important man. He was only one position below Mister Thorogood himself. Maybe it was promotion. He’d spent his first eleven years in the warehouse checking stuff in and out, moving stock around and of course sweeping up. He was very proud of his clean warehouse and knew every inch of it inside out.
Five years ago he’d been promoted to the shop floor. He made sure that the shelves were stacked neatly, everything had to be in it’s place and priced correctly. He even had to point people in the right direction around the store. It was a big store and people got confused, lost even. They would often ask him where a certain colour of paint would be or where they kept the hand tools. All the regulars knew him and some of them even asked for him by name.
They would come in and say “Hi Jim, where can I find a screw that will fit this hinge.” He always knew the answer. He knew where everything was kept in Thorogoods. It was important work.
Maybe because of all his hard work and loyalty he would now be promoted to the returns section or even trained on the tills!
With a wide grin on his face and hope in his heart he made his way up the stairs and along the narrow corridor to Mister Draper’s office. He knocked on the door. A loud voice boomed out from inside the office.
“Come in!”
Jim entered. A large red faced man around forty years of age with grey slicked back hair and big round spectacles was sitting at a desk in front of him.
“Ahh Jim, thanks for coming so promptly. Please take a seat.”
Jim smiled and sat down opposite Mister Draper.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve called you up here, eh Jim?”
“Yes Sir.”
“Well, times are a changing Jim. We’re not as popular as we used to be. What with B and Q and Wickes and all the other bastard stores that want to sell what we sell for a fraction of the bloody cost. So we need to make changes. With me so far Jim?”
Jims face hadn’t changed. He still had a smile across his face. Waiting for the words “TILLS” or “RETURNS” to come out of Mister Draper’s mouth.
“Yes Sir.”
“Good man Jim, good man. That makes it a lot easier. I knew you’d understand. So we need to make some adjustments to our staffing levels. So we’re letting you go Jim. You’ll get a redundancy payment, statutory of course, nothing more; we’re not a charity after all. Any questions Jim?”
Jim was still smiling. He hadn’t heard a thing after “letting you go.”
“Go where?”
“Sorry Jim, don’t follow?”
“You said you were letting me go, go where?”
“Well that’s up to you of course Jim. I’m sure you’ll find something. You’re only, what, fifty two?”
“Fifty three.”
“Whatever. You’ll be fine.”
The enormity of what was happening began to slowly sink in. Jim’s face changed.
“So I’m not getting a job on the tills then?”
Mister Draper looked confused and slightly angry. He shook his head.
“Of course you’re not getting a bloody job on the tills. Those jobs are for people who can count Jim and have some kind of intelligence. You’re being made REDUNDANT.”
“But I’ve been with you for sixteen years.”
“Now, now Jim, let’s not argue about that. You’ve only had continued service for the last four years.”
“But I started with the company sixteen years ago.”
“Jim, look, five years ago you wanted to take your old mum to Australia, right?”
“Yes, to visit my elder brother who had cancer.”
“You took two months off work. Is that correct?”
“Yes. But you said I could come back after my break.”
“Which was very good of us Jim. I remember you being very grateful at the time. But it does mean that you had a BREAK in your service with us. Basically, you left and then you were re-employed two months later. This means that there was a BREAK in your service. So your redundancy will only be for the last four years.”
“Oh, I didn’t realise that I’d left when I went to Australia. I thought you were just letting me have some time off to visit family. I did think it was odd though when I had to fill in all that paperwork when I came back. Besides it’s five, not four years.
“No Jim. Redundancy is only for FULL years. So since you RETURNED to us, you’ve been working for four years and eleven months, so we don’t count the eleven months. I know it’s tough Jim but there’s a recession on and we all have to do our bit. No point in worrying about a petty eleven months is there now. The LAW says we have to do everything by the book. You’ll get a week and a halves pay for every FULL year since your BREAK in service. So that’s six weeks wages.”
Mister Draper started tapping on a calculator.
“Now then, you are on two hundred and one pounds ninety two pence a week. So you’ll get one thousand two hundred and eleven pounds and fifty two pence. Not bad eh Jim?”
“Is that it?”
“I think you’re being rather ungrateful here Jim. You could take your Mum to see your brother again in Australia with the money?”
“He died three years ago and Mum’s now house bound due to her illness.”
“Whatever. You could take yourself away on a nice break somewhere.”
“But who would look after Mum?”
“That’s down to you Jim, all I’m saying is that you’ll be getting a nice cheque and you should be very grateful and do something with it. Okay, that’s it and I wish you all the best for the future.”
Mister Draper stood up and put out his hand. Jim stood up and automatically shook it. He still wasn’t sure what was happening.
“So what happens now? When do you let me go?”
“Now Jim, now. No point in hanging around. It’s Friday anyway and you’ve only got two hours before you would normally finish so we’ll let you off those couple of hours. Seems only fair. Go home Jim and everything will come through the post in a couple of days. Goodbye and good luck, please close the door on your way out.”
Mister Draper sat back down again and started looking at some paperwork. Jim stood there for a moment, then turned round to leave the office.
Then he did something. Something that took even him by surprise. He didn’t know why he did it but he seemed not to be in control of his actions. It was as if someone was working him by remote control and he had no option but to follow the instructions. He closed Mister Draper’s door and noticed that the key was in the lock on the outside. He very slowly and quietly turned the key, locking Mister Draper inside.
He walked along the corridor, down the stairs and into the warehouse. He made his way to the paint storage area. He picked up a two litre plastic bottle of white spirit and emptied its contents onto the hundreds of cans of oil based paints. He knew this section well. It was the only blind spot in the whole of the warehouse, completely out of view of the CCTV cameras. He lit a match and flicked it onto the tins then calmly walked away. He heard the explosion a few seconds later. It must have been the loud noise that jolted him back to reality. He ran to the front of the building and begun helping his colleagues escape through the thick black smoke.
The fire at Thorogoods was the largest the county had seen in over fifty years. Sixteen fire engines were needed to bring it under control. The whole building burnt to the ground. All staff were accounted for except one. A Mister Reginald Draper the General Manager. He could only be identified by dental records.
Jim Dawson became a local hero. Mister Thorogood himself paid tribute to his bravery. “If it wasn’t for the quick actions of this loyal employee the loss of life could have been far greater.”
When Thorogoods re-opened nine months later, Mister Thorogood promoted Jim. He was now on the tills.
He didn’t know why, but he had a strange feeling that it was best to give Jim Dawson exactly what he wanted.

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