An old man steals a bit of salami.
The security guards giggle.
The girls working in the children’s department are all fat.
The guys in the mobile phone department are all rude and pushy.
Hardly anyone is really working.
They keep glancing at their watches and going for another fag.
The madman wants to show me his pistol.
He buys some beer and says to me:
Before I go to jail I’m going to kill three of you.
In his eyes I’m a you.
There are three kinds of guards.
The first stand about near the cash-desks, wearing jackets and ties and stroking their beards carefully.
Keeping an eye on nothing.
The second kind are the anti-shoplifting infiltrators.
Badly dressed Pakistanis with swollen paunches.
They mingle among the aisles.
The third kind are stationed outside the hypermarket.
1,000 useless keys hanging on their pants and 100 empty pockets.
Ready to go into action if nothing should happen.
The cashiers all wear high boots.
And vaguely sexy uniforms.
Which contrast starkly with their resigned bodies.
Those in command hate one another while smiling relentlessly and miming fraternal friendship.
An old man tells me that the Scottish are the best motorbike riders in the world. Because they know what freedom means.
He adds that he has a gay grandson who ought to buy himself a motor bike.
Another customer asks me if I know a restaurant where they serve frogs.
One lady, showing clear symptoms of mental disturbance, comes and shops three times a day.
She always leaves with a large amount of purchases, looking more settled.
It would be imprecise to call this place hell.
It lacks the charisma for that.
It’s more like purgatory really.
The outstanding feature is a sense of waiting for something.
I want to die at 5 p.m.
We’re all looking for the same things.
My pass says visitor number 23.
It’s a totally crazy system.
A Philippine family hauls in a big bag of elegant clothes to dress up in for their official photos, getting dressed inside the photo-booth.
Various customers go berserk when, after half an hour in the queue, the cashier closes the cash-desk in their faces.
Some women have legs as short as short-lived lies.
The security guards say that teenage girls often pocket cosmetic products.
And they turn a blind eye.
But if an old man steals a piece of meat they get nasty.
They feel he tried to make fools of them, they say.
The antique furniture restorer is a conservative snob.
He dispenses expert advice, protected by his salmon-pink pullover.
On average a table costs about 1,500 euros.
The hypermarket’s resident hobo is better dressed than I am.
He has short hair and a well-trimmed beard.
But he’s still clearly homeless.
I wonder what it is that makes this so evident.
A man tells me that his wife died in a motorbike accident.
No one should ride motorbikes.
The guy who works with me asks whether I could come half an hour earlier next Saturday, because he wants to spend some time with his daughter.
Like fuck I will.
Working in here turns you nasty.
Here, half an hour is an eternity.
Everyone feels they have to justify any absence.
- I’m going to make a quick phone-call.
- I’m going to have a smoke.
- I’m just nipping out for a coffee.
- Off to the loo, but back in a minute.
It’s like being back at school.
It could be a comedy.
If it weren’t such a tragedy.
The crisis, such a crisis, this crisis, it’s the crisis, do you know why?
Because of the crisis. Thanks to the crisis. The bloody crisis.
People used to buy biscuits in family packs, now they buy the smallest pack available.
It’s the crisis, all caused by foreigners.
A guy with only one hand asks me if he’s allowed to drive a scooter.
I tell him that if he can manage it, that’s fine.
As he’s leaving, I realise that he’s missing his right hand.
The one that works the accelerator.
In the metro a fat Rumanian woman next to me stinks of sweat.
I’m ashamed, but I change places as soon as I can.
Work is a disabling activity.
Motorbike jackets are designed to be ruined by the rain.
So that waterproof jacket-covers sell well.
Same thing with gloves and shoes.
A heroin-addicted couple spasmodically try on one jacket after another.
In the end they get their 3 year-old son to choose one at random.
Being here means taking a cold reality shower.
It’s unbearable, but it reactivates blood circulation.
On the wall of the lavatory someone has written “I feed on cum.”
One guy wanted me to go with him to the lavatories to check whether the waterproof motorbike-cover was really waterproof.
The three homeless men who always hang around outside the hypermarket are arguing over who is the biggest failure.
One says: Not me, I have 2 children.
All the turds in the world and me.
Basically, people higher up hate the people beneath them.
For example, the management hates the various heads of department.
Who hate the guards.
Who hate the cashiers.
Who hate the customers.
If this is human nature, I wonder how we can kid ourselves into pretending that the people who govern us don’t hate us.
This place generates tons of rubbish every day.
Naturally, while we go crazy trying to adapt to differentiated rubbish collection, they can just chuck everything together.
Creating wonderful cubist sculptures made of plastic and organic materials.
A Chinese asks me Atte id etla malello opio wat floo?
I answer confidently, On the first floor.
A lady asks me if her son can wear the motorbike jacket even when he’s not using the motorbike. I reply that unfortunately that’s against the law.
You can always tell that someone’s a racist if they say I’m not a racist.
A guy asks me whether a scooter has brakes, and if so where are they and how are they used.
Mathematically relative time is influenced by the number of people present.
A woman asks me if her son, who has passed his final school exams, can now drive a scooter.
Blue is the colour of standardization.
The two fat brothers who sell air conditioners are the cause of the global economic crisis.
A guy asks me whether size XM exists. I think he means something a bit smaller.
After 6 hours in here, even the Japanese girls’ legs start to look straight.
I’m on chatting terms with one of the homeless men always hanging about outside the Hyper. He proposes I help him to steal a jacket, and I tell him I’ve got nothing against that, but he has to take it himself.
He tells me about a friend of his who splashed his eyes with acid in order to be eligible for an 800 euros a month allowance.
He says he’s considering doing the same thing.
Sabrina, head of personnel, asks me if I’d be interested in working here full time.
I must have pulled a strange face, because she immediately continues:
Sorry, you’re obviously not interested.
I say: I’ll think about it. Trying to sound reassuring.
What I’m really wondering is how much the acid might hurt my eyes.
Working is a mistake.
My mother comes to see me, along with 4 friends, and they start debating whether I look more like my father or her.
As though I were a new-born baby.
Yesterday, just before closing time, a crazy guy visited my area, a total textbook lunatic, a classic.
Aged about fifty.
Dressed like a church-warden.
He addressed me in a formal way, sounding simultaneously both frenetic and polite.
Shaking my hand without pause, he tells me that everyone teases him because he doesn’t have a driving licence.
I tell him I don’t either.
He keeps shaking my hand, but takes on a less formal tone.
Children scream today.
I go outside to smoke a cigarette, and a guy asks me if I’ve got a euro.
I tell him I’ve got no small change.
The guy thinks for a moment and then says: 50 cents.
I say: No, really, I don’t have any coins. Another pause for thought: 20 cents?
30 seconds pass, then he tries again: 10?
No, not even 5, I say.
I stub out my cigarette and leave, convinced that it must be a candid camera set-up.
Someone offers me 2 cannoli.
I undo a whole week’s efforts, cursing people’s generosity.
A guy asks me if we stock light systems, meaning lamps.
I say we have two-wheeled ones.
Meaning fuck off.
I catch a glimpse of Satan in the frozen foods section.
Today someone has written on the lavatory wall: “Long live Berlusconi, he’s fucked southern Italy”.
While I’m smoking my 4-minute-winning cigarette, I notice a couple groping each other behind the escalators.
I can see them behind the glass, mixed with its reflections.
It’s almost closing-time, there’s nobody about.
Except for the three hobos, Romeo and Juliet, and myself.
He’s got a respectable face, she’s got a nice arse.
They laugh out loud, in stark contrast with the cemetery of hope in here.
I think that’s what they find exciting.
For 2 euros, mothers can give their infants a quick go on a bulldozer, a horse, a sports-car or a hot air balloon.
The toddlers sit there with blank expressions while the machines rock them mechanically for 15 seconds per euro.
The security guard I hate more than any other won 1,000 euro today on a scratch card.
There’s something ironic about that.
But it doesn’t make me laugh.
A smart-looking couple have made a formal complaint after buying a carton of ravioli one month past its sell-by date.
If they’d eaten it and been sick, and then sued the hypermarket, they’d have been awarded hefty compensation and the place would have been closed for a month.
It’s important to buy products past their sell-by date and keep the cash slip.
Twenty 42-inch plasma monitors, CCTV cameras galore, illuminated signs, fridges bigger than a bus, burglar alarms, neon lights and escalators are all left turned on 24 hours a day for weeks, months, years.
The monitors transmit films for an audience of tampaxes and deodorants.
The neon strips keep the tinned tuna awake all night.
The CCTV cameras make sure the spanners don’t try to escape.
Next to the bar which is closed for an overhaul, there’s a sign that proclaims “This is not an exit”.
Some further scattered considerations to wind up.
Yesterday two drunken tramps had a fight with broken bottles.
One customer asked for an XLL size.
An Arab with only one leg is told to surrender his crutches and go back outside, helped by a friend, because he set off the metal detector. Same procedure for a handicapped woman wearing a metal protective helmet.
One of the security guards is an ex-carabiniere who was stationed in Naples for 5 years and says he still can’t sleep for thinking about the things he saw there.
Generally speaking, the crisis is caused by foreigners, because they live 8 at a time in a one-man bedsit and send money back to their native countries.
A lot of people talk to themselves, and then burst out laughing.
The bigger the price tag on a product, the more people ask how much it costs.
All the anti-shoplifting squad have enormous bellies.
The world is full of experts, but even fuller of turds.
Doing a useless job makes you humble and submissive.
Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.
Work is a disabling activity.
It’s 11 p.m. and the Hypermarket closes.
Thank you for doing your shopping with us.
Images with nervous strokes and grainy colours illustrate 23 streams
– or rather spurts – of consciousness, where various characters take off their decency masks
and reveal the most turbid, outrageous, violent but all in all human and sincere parts they hide deep inside.
Short story taken from:
LIKE A LITTLE HOLOCAUST
softcover with flaps, 160 pages, 165x230 mm