A customer had found it’s way into Susan’s shop. A rare occurrence for her. She did nothing to welcome it in, she just let it roam about whilst she tapped away rapidly on her smartphone. She liked to blame her lack of profit on the global downturn; “a nice excuse” thought all of her neighbours and fellow business owners. They agreed, as they smoked, that in order to absolve Susan of blame for her failure, the global downturn would have to have been so bad so as to reduce the free market to a system of bartering for objects. As she usually whiled away the days “at work” downloading apps onto her smartphone, smashing digital sweets and inadvertently allowing third parties access to all of her private information so they can tailor adverts for novelty cushion covers and plaster her Facebook page with clickbait for weight loss regimes, she literally had no idea there was another person in her shop.
The customer continued to browse, it wasn’t looking for anything in particular, much like Susan, it had a vague idea of what it wanted but it wasn’t able to adequately describe it to another living being either because it was too much hassle or because it just didn’t know and so found itself wandering about aimlessly always missing out, getting frustrated and blaming others for it’s problems. The customer, dressed entirely in beige and looking so boring that to look it in the face would cause stomach cramps, ambled up to Susan’s counter and said “excuse me”.
Susan shit herself, she was so shocked she nearly fell off her stool. Somebody was shopping. Shopping in her shop. The last time someone other than her stepped into her shop they said “oh, wrong shop” and immediately walked back out again. She did little to hide her surprise, in fact, the customer had startled her so much that she shouted “oh fucking hell” which is always useful when trying to lock in first time shoppers
Luckily for Susan, the customer was so thick, it didn’t really notice, instead it just blinked once and shook it’s head lightly like a retarded dog that’s been physically punished for shitting where it shouldn’t but still struggles to understand it’s error.
“I’m looking for those things that you can sort of stick two pieces of paper together with” said the customer, articulate as ever.
Susan was stumped immediately. She hadn’t completed a stock take in six years, in fact, the last one she did was still incomplete and the computer she used (covered in dust) still had the post it note stuck to the screen upon which she wrote “it’s probably all here somewhere, check tomorrow”. She didn’t check tomorrow.
“I’m sorry, what is it you’re looking for?” replied Susan, trying not to sound confused
“You know, those things that you sort of slide at the top of a few pieces of paper, you know” the customer said, frowning, clearly looking agitated and waving it’s hand in her face as if saying “you know” and wafting her with stale air is going to make her remember what it is she does for a living.
“Glue?” she replied optimistically if not entirely convinced the description accurately matched the product she suggested.
“No, not glue, I know what glue is, I’m not an idiot” lied the customer
“What does it look like?” she asked
“Oh I can’t remember, they’re like little bits and you stick them at the top of the paper and the paper sort of sticks together for a bit” the customer gave Susan the benefit of a mime in the hope that some vague hand gestures of how the object worked would help her understand what it was talking about
“Perhaps if you tell me what it is you want it for, I’d be able to narrow it down” she said. She was already tired of this and she couldn’t be certain that she had the patience to follow through with it.
The customer huffed and began to spell out exactly what it’s need was “I have two pieces of paper that I need to link together without them getting stuck, there’s an object that allows me to do that, I want to buy it. Where is it?”
This was testing Susan to the limit. The prospect of making some money was certainly appealing but she’d just received a notification that her fort was under attack on Clash of Clans, she couldn’t help this moron and defend her honour at the same time.
“I’m fairly certain it used to be an annoying help mascot on a computer” added the customer. That triggered Susan’s memory, she remembered having a strange crush on the little digital paper clip because it was the only thing in the world that would ask her if she was ok.
“Ooooh, you want paper clips” said Susan dramatically, the customer nodded as if it’s description had been plenty of information and the drawn out nature of the enquiry was entirely Susan’s doing. “Follow me” she said optimistically.
Her optimism was short lived however as it’d been so long since she’d actually looked at what it was that she sold that she’d forgotten where she kept them. She scuttled around for a bit, muttering “I’m sure they’re around here somewhere”. The customer remained unimpressed, not because it felt like it’s life was ebbing away on an as yet fruitless search for paper clips but because that’s just how it was all the time. Like an episode of Coronation Street.
Eventually the customer piped up again smugly “you know, paper clips are a fundamental item for any stationery shop to sell”
“Yeah, and I have them, it’s just that I don’t seem to remember where I’ve put them, just give me a minute and I’ll be right with you” she retorted, she wasn’t going to be told how to run a stationery shop by someone who didn’t know how to run a stationery shop. Which was both of them at this point.
“Ah, here they are!” she exclaimed triumphantly. She’d succeeded at something, finally. She took the customer to the till and struggled through yet more memory puzzles as she attempted to get the till open. It’s a miracle she even accepted the cash she was given as it had been so long since she’d had someone else’s money in her hands she could have mistaken it for an intricately designed cloth.
The customer left the shop with what it came in for and Susan returned to her smartphone. She was happy that she’d made 15p but when she saw the devastation wrought upon her settlement she wondered if it was worth it.
She’d have to start again from scratch…