A succession of large, carrier baskets rumbled into the room on a connecting (from the adjacent “retail” area) conveyor belt, some of them filled to overflowing, others containing as few as one toy, each basket reflecting the accumulated purchases of individual customers.
And they all had to be wrapped.
The “General Procedure” was essentially the following:
Having completed his previous assignment, the available toy wrapper proceeds back to the conveyor belt, where he is expected to appropriate the carrier basket closest to the end. However, if he spots one with fewer presents further back, he immediately grabs that one, carrying it surreptitiously back to his workstation.
Here’s why he does that.
No matter how many toys are piled in the carrier basket, when the toy wrapper finishes wrapping them, he takes the receipt from that completed order and jabs it onto a protruding nail, embedded in a small, supporting block of wood, sitting on top of his work table.
The fewer the number of toys in the carrier basket, the fewer the packages needed to be wrapped, meaning the sooner the can “nail register” his now completed customer’s order. The more receipts on his nail, the more the wrapper is successfully doing his job.
That’s why you took the carrier basket with the fewest number of toys – to pad your overall “Receipts Accumulation.” That is also why you sought out packages with “squared-off” edges, like books, board games, rulers and decks of cards.
Faster to wrap.
More receipts on your nail.
Unfortunately, despite his most scrupulous efforts, the toy wrapper was sometimes confronted with wrapping a tricycle.
Wrapping a tricycle poses challenging problems. There are the handlebars to encase, the three wheels, the little step in the back, the bell.
It took forever, wrapping a tricycle.
And in the meantime – no receipt.
Wait! You gotta hear this.
I was informed by someone “in the know” that those tricycles originally arrived inside appropriately-sized cardboard boxes. Which would have been relatively easy to wrap, as cardboard boxes have corners. (And unboxed tricycles do not.)
You know what that “high end” fancy department store did? They took out the tricycles and threw the boxes into the furnace to heat the building!
“Why burn up valuable petrol when we have perfectly good cardboard?”
Leaving the toy wrapper to deal with the tricycle.
And no receipt on his nail until he’s finished!
Truth be told, despite my best efforts, I was a terrible toy wrapper. What I lacked in skill I made up in ineptitude. I used way too much signature “Harrods Green” wrapping paper, my applied cello-tape was inevitably twisted, and my “finishing touch” twine-tying was truly abominable. You could pick up one of my parcels by its loosely tied strings and it would immediately slip out and fall on the floor.
Oh! Wait’ll you hear this!
Presents wrapped for overseas shipping were sent downstairs to the “Mailing Room”, where they were then unwrapped and immediately re-wrapped before being dispatched. Still, we were instructed to wrap them as assiduously carefully as if they wouldn’t be.
When I was criticized for my demonstrably flaccid twine-tying for such packages, my truculent response was,
“It’s good enough for ‘downstairs.’”
You can imagine how exuberantly that was received.
Which brings me, reluctantly, to my boss.
Imagine a squat, red-faced fireplug from Glasgow and that’s who I’m talking about. I dreaded every time he came near me, partly because my future employment was hanging by a loosely-tied thread, partly because I invariably had the fewest number of receipts skewered onto my nail, but mostly because he was from Glasgow, and all that “dialectically” entails.
The man would, already angrily, sidle up to my “work station” – I’m wrapping a Hula Hoop, and it’s taking forever. Fingering the flimsy stack of receipts on my nail – because on top of everything else I was slow – my thickly-accented boss went into a guttural tirade I was totally unable to decipher:
“Erroll! Yuh got ta pee de heh de lech de mech de heenya hoh!”
“Yer ware de hoch de hoonya hay, and you got ta wech de hech da heenya hyewww!”
“If ya doon’t hech de pech de heenya hyewww, you won’t brech de mech de hoonya hay!”
And then he was gone – a Glaswegian tornado, moving, thankfully, offshore.
And there you have it. For ten weeks of employment, I had a job I could not perform and a boss I could not understand.