The story starts over twenty years ago in a small town in Bavaria/Germany. This is where he grew up. The protagonist. I suppose every goddamn town around Munich is small as far as towns go. Barely sixty kids in his graduating class and you know what that means. Everyone knew everyone’s damn business. Everyone dated the same people, went to the same lame parties, ate at the same local Asian Restaurant. There was a bank, a post office, a library, a supermarket, and a small old, dirty movie theater. Hey, at least that. No mall, no good restaurant, no hospital. Nothing to do really. The most fun you could have was floating down the small river on a boat with some whiskey or beer. He didn’t have much of a choice now did he, because he was born there. He asked himself many times why people choose this town as a vacation spot.
He didn’t exactly excel at school. He was more interested in girls and listening to music. And writing and reading. The only class he really paid any attention to was English and German because reading and writing came naturally. The rest was basically struggling or of zero interest. Especially maths. Most kids were into sports but that also wasn’t his scene. A lot of his friends got out of town after graduating High school but he was stuck. Everything happened rather quickly. Days turned into weeks, then weeks into months, then months into years and time just flew by. Now, here he is, thirty-two, unemployed, depressed from a recent breakup, and living in his childhood bedroom with his parents. You think pathetic? He wouldn’t disagree.
There were some rather fortunate events, and he came across some money from publishing his first book. He was about to leave his mother’s house. His mother never had a lot of money, but she was able to take care of both of them over the years. The money he received was not a lot but it was a nice little amount enough to help him get his own place but not enough to live comfortably. That’s why he was on his way to apply for a job at the local 7/11 supermarket. He needed something. Anything. And this small town wasn’t really the land of opportunities. Bagging groceries and refilling shelves isn’t the most ideal situation, but it was real life, and that is what he was looking for at this point in his life.
So, he was on his way to the supermarket. He read an ad in the local newspaper that the store is hiring. He knew it because he wrote it down in his Moleskine notebook. It was 10 am exactly. That notebook was beat to hell but it has become his best friend. Everywhere he went, the Moleskine came along. He stood in front of the supermarket and entered. Inside the place looked like your typical supermarket. Tiled floor, jammed-up carts inside and outside and aisles and aisles or neatly and nicely stacked food. He walked through the front to pass the checkout area and make his way to the service desk where he met a middle-aged woman. Slightly overweight. Her name was Ronda [as written on her name tag]. Sassy attitude, lowered eyelids, and judgemental aura but basing a first impression on her physical appearance was not a fair thing to do. How can you judge someone simply by….. he thought.
“You apply for a job dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, baby,” she asked. “No, well, Ronda, I came here to fill out the application first. I didn’t plan on sitting down for an interview, ” he answered. He needed this job. The store manager looked at him, asked him some questions and the job was his without talking much about anything. “I have a good feeling about you. I believe in your energy, ” the manager said. “Well, thanks. How much money would I be making and what would I have to do,” he asked. “Ten euros an hour and you would be the floater”, the store manager answered. “I will be what?” “I will explain everything later but basically, you will be used for everything. See you at nine Monday morning. Bye.” On my way out he saw Ronda. “Bye Ronda, see you on Monday.” “Mmmmmmmmm-hmmmmmmmm,” Ronda replied with her fierce, strong, attitude. He loved her attitude because she gave no fucks and he adored her for it.
It all felt like a blink of an eye and there was Monday. The usual weekend-feeling. There he was and stood in front of the supermarket not sure what to expect from his first day. He was just happy to have a job and ready to get going. The first person he ran into upon entering was Wade. “Hello there. Good morning, Lady, ” Wade said to the first female customer after checking her out from head to toe. He was not sure what annoyed him more. The way Wade did this or his smile that was so constant that the front row of his teeth had become a permanent substitute for his lips. No one could be that happy all the time. Impossible. Unless you are on drugs. There has to be something dark lurking behind that grin.
Something was off with Wade, especially after he explained to him how he has to work on the different stations throughout the store. He was just a little bit too much into his job. Kinda like when you work a job in your teens and really give it your all and everything? When you really go above and beyond and take pride in what you are doing… .until four weeks in. Then you realize your job is completely demeaning. That your sole purpose is to blindly serve people who don’t give two shits about your happiness or future. Well, theeeeen your work ethic starts to slide. You walk into the break room asking yourself what you are doing here. Who the hell cares how fast you can change the oil at the local garage or who you impress by memorizing the entire menu at the Blue Oyster Seafood Restaurant? The store manager told him to start in Aisle 6: Cereal.
At Aisle 6: Here he met Roger. Roger is the guy who has been working twenty years not only at the same chain, but at the same godamn place, and he is still only assistant manager. For fuck’s sake, he thinks he is not even manager! Let alone the regional manager. Or director at this point. Just think about this for a second. He spent twenty years at this place and he doesn’t own it by now? Roger is the guy who wants to go nowhere but he will hate it when others get promoted. He never did what he really wanted to do in life. He is also the one who always makes excuses about how he would do something else, but he had other obligations, but money was tight, but this, or but that, or but you know how it is. And this is where people usually fuck up. As soon as they give a reason for why they cannot do something, they are already defeated.
“What are your dreams, Roger”, he asked him. “I have none. I will work here until I retire. Nothing special planned,” he replied while staring into the distance. “Are you serious? How the hell can you say this? You don’t have dreams? Places you want to visit, things you want to do,” he asked. “I do have dreams. I would love to travel. But how am I going to do all this,” Roger questioned. “By using your head! This thing on top of your neck? You can do anything you want in life as long as you believe it. It just takes persistence, determination, realism, and wanting success, ” he would tell him.
Then Roger looked at him and asked, “Dude, I asked you where the cereal aisle is to check if you already know, so, uh, how did we get into all this?” Then Roger stared at him blankly and walked away. He was reminded again that all this shit he just philosophized goes down the drain when he is surrounded by someone like Roger and the scary reality of working at this goddamn supermarket. The next moment he was back at stocking shelves with boxes of pasta. Penne, ziti, spaghetti. Pasta for weeks. While stacking, screams on the intercom. “FLOATER TO BAKERY SECTION ASAP!” He is a floater. As a floater, he didn’t exactly have a post or job. He did not mind because it gave him more ground to cover and keep things varied and interesting. For day one, this was all a bit much for him.
In the “break room”: He took notes in his Moleskine notebook. Observations. He is working on his third book. This keeps him sane. When he looked back up, everyone else stared at him. “New guy is a weirdo, huh? We have a writer here, Roger!” Ronda says out loud. Maybe he was. But he didn’t mind. He will always have books, writing, and reading and knowing just that, let’s him deal with anything. As a writer, being surrounded by literature made him feel at home. “Hey weirdo, did you read Lord of the Rings? Fantasy and shit,” Ronda asked. “Yeah, I read it,” he answered. Honestly, he cannot stand it. Let’s be real here; he knows the book is a masterpiece and motion picture and whatnot. Tolkien goes into sooooo much detail and has created an entire world with various races and whatnot. But fuck, by page ninety he was like, “Shit, couldn’t you have said this in like ten pages, dude!” The same goes for authors like Murakami. But see, this is the type of reader he is. He needs adventure, he needs something fun and fast-paced. He needs the pages to turn – suspense, sex, drama, violence, murder whatever it takes but just keep it moving.
Let’s get back to aisle six, shall we? Break is over. Ronda re-applied her red lipstick and put on a sweater. It looked like she knitted it herself.