He scared me when I first met him. His wrinkled face, his downward eyes staring at me. “This is our head of security Tom”, my new manager Ken, had introduced us on my first day. I was 16. “Where ya from?”he barked at me while shaking my hand.”Here” I responded,realising how stupid that sounded,I quickly added,”I mean, Westside, Corrib park” I blushed.” I know your fadher” he muttered and walked away, his hands wrapped around his back, head going from side to side.
I was quickly moved from area to area in Dunnes Stores,finally ending up in the cash office. ( Dunnes is an Irish supermarket/ retail store,with many stores all over Ireland)
Obviously working with the stores cash and balancing their books,was a huge responsibility for my then 17 years, but I loved it. I loved not sitting scanning item after item, or dealing with costumer complaints up at the ‘customer service desk’ especially when people were trying to return underware – yuck!
The cash office had just a handful of staff and we were close. Tom was head of security so I had plenty of dealings with him. I still got nervous around him,thinking he was always grumpy but my co- workers used to tell me “he’s a teddy bear, wait until you get to know him. He’s just a fecking messer”, they really liked him.
My first Christmas as cash office staff, I of course got the shitty hours, I really didn’t mind as both my co- workers had children. I was on late, late being only until 7pm, but 7pm Christmas Eve was considered late, every pub closed at 6pm and I really wanted to go out to have a drink with my friends before going home. ( this is not a story about underage drinking!)
I was left to close down all the cash registers from the office, it was a simple job and normally took only a few minutes. As each cashier made their way to my office, their till in hand, I took it and placed it into our safe. Each had a smile and a huge “Merry Christmas Ger” , which pained me more,as I knew,they were heading out to our local now and I would be at least another half hour. “See ye in a bit” I’d smile as I’d scan the computer to check how many more registers were still signed on. I’d ring the customer service desk, trying to find out if there were many customers left. “Only one is all I can spot” Michelle, the remaining customer service staff replied, ” I’m closing my till now though, so they’ll have to go to grocery, I think Annmaire is still open” she hung up.
Tom rang the office as I took in the last of the drapery ( clothes) department tills.
“Ger. Is that you Tom?”
“Are ya nearly ready there or what?”
“Well, I’m waiting on Michelle’s bag and Annmaires , then I can start the close”
“Jesus Christ , there’s one here with two trollies still, for fuck sake. Will ya make the announcement again. We will get her out” he hung up.
I walked over to the make the announcement, “Attention please customers, this store is now closed. Could you kindly complete your purchases and make your way towards the nearest check out. Good evening and thank you for shopping at Dunnes stores, Westside this evening”. I had my finger just off the microphone when the office phone rang again.
“For fuck sake, she’s still wandering around. I’ve the fucking lights off. Michelle is on her way down and Annmaire is just waiting for her. Jesus Christ. Say it again, turn the mic up and sound less happy. For fuck sake.” He hung up. I did as I was told.
Michelle came down,( to the office)laughing,”Tom is having a shit fit! He’s actually following the customer around now, he’s beetroot red!” She winked,” see ya for a drink yeah?” “If I ever get out of here” I sighed.
The phone rang.
“Will you repeat it now and remind her we’ve all got fucking homes to go to”
“I can’t say that Tom” I smirked. Oh how I wish I could have. It was now 6.25,our store had been closed almost half an hour. It was Christmas Eve. We all wanted to go home or to the pub!
“Hang on there” he placed the receiver on, what I imagine was the customer service desk.
I saw him on my security camera,before he pressed the buzzer. I hung up the phone, buzzed him in through the first door,then through the next. He stood in front of me. Face red, temper boiling.” Get on that mic and tell her to get to the checkout now”
“Tom, I can’t, I will get killed come Stephens day”( St Stephens day is the day after Christmas Day, and I was working with the store manager that day)
“It’s only us here, fuck it. She’s taking the piss. Wandering around like fucking lady Di” he grabbed my writing pad and scribbled something. His face began to brighten,almost child like, ” go on”, he handed me it. I laughed.” I can’t” I laughed again.
“Do, do do it!, I’ll even buy you a drink!” His eyes wide his face wrinkle free and smiling.
I decided, fuck it, if head of security says I can do it, I’m going to do it. “If I get killed for this Tom, I’m taking you with me” I put my hand out. He pretended to spit in his palm, took my hand and smiled,”deal”.
“Attention customer. Our store is closed. It is Christmas Eve. We’ve homes to go to. Either go to Annmaire ,checkout two,or go home ta fuck” I took my finger off the button. “Shit Tom , she will complain” I laughed a nervous laugh.”Ah feck her” he handed me a sweet from his pocket and left the office.
St Stephens day, myself and Tom were called into the managers office. We were told there was a complaint against us firstly then Dunnes itself. We were both given a verbal warning. I stayed deathly quiet as my manager told me how disappointed he was in me. Tom sat, nodding agreeing with everything the manager had to say.” Well Ken”,Tom interrupted,” well Ken, fuck her, it was a half hour after closing. Herself here,” he nodded at me, “Geraldine, only did what I told her to do”Ken looked from me to Tom, “we knew that Tom , now Geraldine, see, when ya know this fella he’ll get you into trouble” he smiled. “Go on the pair of ye, I’ll sort it out” he placed his hand on his desk phone. Tom and I left. “Are we not in big trouble?” I looked at Tom, my eyes full of hope. “Weren’t we fecking right!” handing me a sweet from his pocket, he patted my back.
We were brought to Kens office a few more times over the 8 years I worked in Dunnes , but that first time, was indeed the time I made friends with Tom, he was trouble but so much fun. He always had my back, even though he normally was the reason I was stood in front of Ken.
Rest in peace Tom , you will be missed.