Hannah O’Brien – Working On Christmas Eve

“Based on my experiences of working in a supermarket on Christmas Eve.”

Working on Christmas Eve

So my manager says, ‘overtime, Christmas Eve?
Want an 8-6 day shift with Paula and Steve?’
‘Why not?’ I reply, ‘I’m not being funny,
ask Santa, he’ll tell you, I could do with the money.’

So my name’s on the rota; Steve and Paula’s come next,
My ten hours await, I know what to expect.
I’ve done this before, so take it from me,
On a one-to-ten scale, this shift hits a three.

Tilling I am, and alas, soon enough,
despite positive hopes, things begin to get tough.
It’s like famishing fish are fighting for bait,
there’s pushing and shoving, I’m getting irate.

The rabble’s arrived, madness has ensued,
‘Excuse me,’ I beg them, ‘please form a neat queue!’
But my pleas go unanswered, as out from the crowd,
slides veteran shopper, Mrs O’Dowd.

As if ‘Festive Priority’ is stamped onto her head,
she sidesteps the queue and my heart fills with dread.
“Excuse me young child,’ she asks with a growl,
“but where is my order of seasonal fowl?”

‘I’m sorry Madam but there’s others here too,
could you please join the wait at the back of the queue?’
The contempt in her eyes I can barely digest,
she can see that it’s busy, I’m doing my best!

Anyway, she’s off, to take her due place,
there’ll be no head starts in this Yuletide rat race.
Stopping at nothing to reach festive goals,
over rushed shoes are worn down to the soles.

The queue trundles on and the problems get stranger.
I thought stubborn mules belonged by the manger?
With bickering brats my till seems to heave,
you don’t see these tantrums at Paula’s or Steve’s!

As gift geared grumbles and groans reach a high,
lingering menacingly in my mind’s eye,
with reddening face and furrowing brow,
is ever-approaching, grumpy, O’Dowd.

A heartbeat elapses, she’s back at my till,
‘Child!’ she exclaims in tones piercingly shrill,
‘that seasonal fowl to which I referred,
would you please do me kindly and fetch the old bird?’

So I trot to the stockroom but to my dismay,
the shift takes a turn for the worse shall I say?
I’ve weaved through the commotion only to find
O’Dowd’s Christmas turkey has been left behind!

How shall I tell her? What on earth shall I say?!
She ordered online, her deposit is paid!
I recheck her form – ‘butter basted, organic’,
but I know it’s not here and I’m starting to panic.

I trudge back, dejected, O’Dowd in my view,
and Steve and Paula, like wisemen one and two,
Handing out turkeys like they’re frankincense and gold,
O’Dowd doesn’t seem the myrrh type truth be told.

I make the approach with a sorrowful smile,
If this ends in tears I’m running a mile.
As the knot is untied and the news is let loose,
O’Dowds anger spirals into full on abuse:

‘Heaven’s above child! My turkey’s not ready?!
What in God’s name will I feed little Freddie?!
(He’s my youngest grandchild, I’ve a total of nine)
No turkey at Christmas and the fault will be mine!

Wait, what am I saying?! The fault will be yours!
My Christmas is ruined and you are the cause!
I’ve already purchase this cranberry sauce,
what use is it now without the main course?!’

It’s a clerical error, I try to explain,
from indignant remarks I attempt to refrain.
They’re sat on my tongue but held back with a bite
but it seems it’s just me who wants a silent night.

‘No turkey? NO TURKEY?! This just will not do.
How this could be worse, I just haven’t a clue!
My seasonal fowl, it could have been missed,
so make like Santa Claus is to his list

and check it again! I demand that you do!
Be thorough about it now, check through and through!’
Bound by contractual work obligation,
I go, fearing O’Dowd’s potential probation.

I arrive and alas, it is just as I thought,
there’s a serious lacking of turkeys pre-bought.
I debate, should I give her another’s Yule game?
But surely a quandary would evolve just the same?

I cast my sight to the attributed labels
and a curious factor is brought to the table.
Two remaining turkeys are branded ‘E.Scrooge’,
that both should be named this, the chance isn’t huge.

Two people can’t bear this unfestive a name,
surely a glitch in the system’s to blame?
I debate with myself and I twist my own arm
as potential success outweighs potential harm.

I hustle the turkey, the shift’s turning shifty,
dart back to O’Dowd and I’m feeling quite nifty.
With confident manner and no hint of shame,
I tell her that this turkey is hers to claim.

‘Thank gosh, I was starting to get really quite miffed,
fearing my family’s turkeyless rift,
but all is resolved so I bid you goodbye,
to sit by the hearth and enjoy a mince pie!’

Needless to say, my relief highly piles,
but is tainted with visions of fit to burst aisles.
The ratio of potential E.Scrooge to person
is looking unpromising, my mood starts to worsen.

A Miss Eleanor Scrooge approaches my till,
I turkey her and down my spine runs a chill.
One down and yet hopefully not one to go,
I gravely hope E. Scrooge mark 2’s a no show.

I settle my fretting, It’s completely absurd,
two grinchly named people can’t require Christmas birds.
it just would not happen, the name is too rare,
I get on with my job and forget my despair.

An hour goes by and it seems I’m in luck,
there’s no sign at all of the ill-fated schmuck.
But just as I gladden and am feeling quite swell,
there’s a loathsome addition to my clientèle.

“Hello my dear, Edward Scrooge is the name,
turkey collection’s the reason I came.”
I sigh in exhaustion and place a mind’s bet
that this will be the longest Christmas Eve yet…

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