You don't really get life until you understand the importance of shopping trolleys in a big shopping centre. They weave the very fabric of whatever civilisation exists in those woeful hellholes that some call malls, criss-crossing the various corridors, rolling helpfully here and there, and just generally making life easier for everyone.
Think about it. Just as the earliest humans leaped up the evolutionary ladder the day they realised that you can carry a LOT more food on a little cart than you can on a piece of bark balanced on top of your noggin, so we progressed several rungs further when we began to gather our food in shopping trolleys. Mothers use them as mobile cages for unruly offspring. Shop keepers take their rubbish out to the garbage compactor in them. Everybody loves shopping trolleys!
The other day, I had a one of those Where-the-heckfire-is-my-camera moments. A window dresser from one of the clothes shops had taken delivery at the loading dock of a bunch of naked half mannequins. Yes. You heard me. Not half naked mannequins. Naked half mannequins. The bottom half. She passed The Incidental Bookshop with a purposeful though slightly self conscious air about her. 'I know I look strange,' her body language said, 'but if you so much as mention it, I'll push a life size plastic foot down your throat.'
And how was she transporting these naked half mannequins? In a shopping trolley of course. She'd shoved them in waist first and it looked like a garden of alabaster feet had sprouted out of it. It was a surreal sight. Especially when she passed behind the waist high wall of the coffee shop near my place. It hid the trolley and made it appear as though she was simply striding along herding a gaggle of floating legs before her.
Yes, trolleys are indispensable - and like every other precious resource in the world, the trolley power is concentrated in the hands of a few at the top of the food chain. Or should I say the food chain stores. Woolworths and Big W own all the trolleys at our centre. They are, generally speaking, beneficent trolley rulers and most of the managers have no great objection to serfs such as The Incidental Bookshop staff borrowing a trolley or two now and then.
But there is 'most of the managers' and then there is...
Clayton, a small man, manager of fruit and veg, was temporarily promoted last Christmas when his superior had a mysterious accident. Yes. We suspect foul play. Anyhow, there was an unfortunate confluence of events around the time of Clayton's rise to power.
1) In the three weeks leading up to Christmas coming, The Incidental Bookshop suddenly began to receive four or five pallets of stock every week instead of
two every fortnight.
2) Shoppers began to shop in ever greater numbers. (as they will over Christmas. It apprently has something to do with good cheer but really, you ought to try spending about forty hours a week in a shopping centre at Christmas time and you will soon learn to say words 'Bah humbug' with feeling). And when shoppers begin to shop in ever greater numbers, ever greater numbers of trolleys are required.
3) A furore broke out in the local paper accusing trolley boys of loafing around smoking cigarettes and selling drugs instead of doing their jobs. This, it was claimed, was the reason there were never any trolleys in the Woolworths shopping trolley bay.
Can you see where this is headed? I bet you can. It has a sense of heavy inevitability about it, doesn't it? The trolley boys weren't loafing any more than usual! The missing trolleys weren't lying fallow out in the car parks!They were in the back of my shop filled with books!
As I said in Part 1 of The Trolley Wars, I had pioneered the trolley packing method of restocking The Incidental Bookshop and everyone agreed that it was a breakthrough in human endeavour pretty much on par with the discovery of fire or brylcreem. We watched sadly, guiltily, as the trolley boys bore the blame for the dearth of trolleys. We knew we were being selfish. We knew we should come clean. We knew that if we were any kind of decent human beings we would go back to carrying those books by hand and stop letting the down trodden boys take the heat for us.
But we couldn't give them up, damn it. Once you've unpacked books using shopping trolleys, you can never go back.
On stock morning, we would arrive at about 7 am and set out across the various empty car parks, ranging far and wide over the tar and cement, gathering the trolleys that hadn't made it back inside the centre the night before. Sometimes we had to bring them in one or two at a time. Sometimes we would hit a gusher and stumble upon a corral that hadn't yet been emptied. When that happened, we could fill our trolley needs in a single trip. Either way, between the the lot of us, we would bring thirty or so trolleys into The Incidental Bookshop as surreptitiously as possible and whiz them as quick as we could out through the back door into the spooky abandoned IGA supermarket where they would wait patiently to fulfill their destinies as book movers.
We even had little arguments among ourselves about it. Sir Laurence the Indispensable liked to use only Woolworths trolleys - they were bigger and brand new and so, much easier to push. I wanted to use only Big W trolleys - Big W was on the other side of the centre and their managers never got over to our part of the building; we were never going to get caught with the Big W trolleys.
I won that argument and to tell the truth, I think Sir Laurence still secretly resents it...
to be continued...