Series 2 Episode 3 The Campaign Written by Ricky Star
The paint was fresh and immaculate, and the products were specifically designed to be aesthetically pleasing and impossible to resist. The counter had a rounded edge, to appeal to the eye, and the logo had a small curl at its foot, so as to give an impression of sleekness combined with beauty. No flower aficionado could possibly be immune to the charming and precise nature of the shop- many tests and experiments had proved this. And indeed, it was true; the consumer population of Foxgrove seemed to have migrated in its entirety to Hocus Crocus, including a great deal of people who had not previously been particularly inclined to buy flowers.
For Emmy, this was essentially good news, as far as her personal finances were concerned. The pay was good for the person behind the counter, even if the hours were relatively high. She didn’t mind; it gave her something to do, and enough money to get by. Emmy Targent was in her mid-20s, and was one member of a largely female staff at Foxgrove’s latest flower shop. She liked to imagine that the reason for a predominantly female team at the shop was a push for diversity, but doubted it; there had been many applicants for the jobs in question, of all ages and genders, yet it the majority of the ones who had been picked were females under 30- with a smattering of kindly old ladies, the sort who remind customers of when their grannies used to make them nice cakes, and thus lull them into a strange desire to make these elderly people happy by buying flowers from them. There were a couple of male vendors, but nobody, it felt, between the ages of 30 and 60 to sell flowers. An odd phenomenon, which only Candice, the store manager, knew to be a part of the official guidelines for employment, as set out in Hocus Crocus WorldwideTM’s Official Guidelines for the Management and Maintenance of Hocus CrocusTM Branches.
On this particular day, however, custom seemed to have dried up. It was a pity; for Emmy, interacting with customers was the highlight of her work (which was otherwise lonesome), and in the absence of anyone to flog goods to, she was not permitted to entertain herself in any way. There was no distraction from a constant sense of unease at the lack of customers, and soon enough, other thoughts began to creep into Emmy’s head, to make her feel uncomfortable. Once it had occurred to her that she felt a little bit itchy, therefore, there was simply no way to suppress the thought. The official Hocus Crocus shirt was not made of the most pleasant material, and, as a result of the way it had been haphazardly tucked into her official Hocus Crocus skirt that morning, it had ended up rubbing against her unpleasantly at each and every movement. She tried to stay completely still. She failed.
There were no customers.
The shirt was itchy.
There were still no customers.
The shirt was itchy.
The flowers were pretty.
The shirt was itchy.
There was a nice bouquet over there.
The shirt was itchy.
It wouldn’t be difficult to fix this itchy problem, it occurred to Emmy. All she needed to do was adjust her clothing. She tried doing so subtly, but it was impossible. It would require a quick trip to the bathroom, and nothing more. There were no other staff on duty, so nobody would know, if she did just scurry away for a few moments. It would be easy, and relatively quick, and there were no customers…
What if a customer arrived?
But there would probably be no customers. Maybe there was an event on in the village, or something.
But what if?
But the shirt was itchy.
But a customer could arrive at any moment.
But the shirt was itchy.
But if a customer arrived, it would be a disaster.
But the shirt was so itchy…
It was decided. In the absence of any customers, or the sign of any customers, Emmy fled swiftly from behind the counter to the bathroom around the back of the shop. She locked the door, and began to sort herself out.
The shop bell rang. A customer had entered.
Emmy froze, in terror. How could this have happened? A customer, at this most precarious of moments? Rapidly, and haphazardly (again), she assembled the cursed garments into some semblance of their intended use, and rushed out to the shopfront, to see who it was that she had kept waiting, and how forgiving they might be. As she came out from the back, she realised, with horror, who it was that had entered the shop: Mrs Hatran, an old woman renowned for being amongst the most difficult and unforgiving of customers.
“You took your time!”
“I’m terribly sorry, Mrs Hatran-” began Emmy, before she was interrupted.
“To you, young lady, I am ‘miss’, not some familiar face who you can call by name! And what do you call that?” She was pointing now to Emmy’s clothing. “Why aren’t you wearing an apron? Usually, the person who serves me in this establishment is wearing an apron! And there is a stain on your blouse!”
Emmy cursed in her head, as she realised that she had accidentally left her apron, which had previously obscured a stain on her front (as well as being part of the official dress code), in the bathroom. She continued to look calm and helpful, as best she could, in the face of Mrs Hatran’s incessant onslaught, but it all felt like too little, too late. Once Mrs Hatran had reported someone to their superiors, as she surely would do soon, it was too late.
Candice did not like firing people. It was one of the least fun things about being the manager of a shop. But in the case of Emmy Targent, there was simply no alternative; the evidence against her was staggering. She had been away from the counter when a customer came in. She had been wearing her uniform incorrectly. She had had a stain on her front. All of this could have been permitted to slide, however, if it were not for the most compelling reason to let her go: Mrs Hatran had complained about her. It was well-known in Foxgrove that angering Mrs Hatran was essentially the same as business suicide, as the local butcher’s shop had discovered the previous year; they had refused to refund Mrs Hatran for a piece of meat that she claimed had been poisoned, and which the shop claimed was perfectly alright, and as such, Mrs Hatran had run a huge campaign which successfully ran the butchers into the ground. Candice could take no such risk.
“I’m sorry, Emmy, I really am-”
“But- I only went to the toilet because-”
“I know, Emmy, I know that. I understand. But there’s nothing I can do. Not if Mrs Hatran is angry!”
For all of her usual cold reserve, Candice did genuinely like Emmy, and did not especially want to let her go at all. She was a good worker, who often outsold her colleagues; and, beyond that, she seemed a perfectly good person. Candice liked good people. She just didn’t like annoying people.
“It’s this uniform!” protested Emmy, to no avail. Candice wouldn’t change her mind on this, and she certainly wouldn’t consider going against the company policy on uniform!
It had been decided. Regretfully, Candice followed through on her firing of Emmy, signed the relevant papers, and resolved to put the matter behind her, not expecting it to have any continued relevance.
Gita had succeeded in persuading Haresh that she should take Alfie to his parents’ evening, and thus had won. All she had to do now was prove that she could go, and take on board everything that the teachers said, ultimately help Alfie to help himself, and not humiliate herself or anyone else in the process. It would be easy.
As she wandered towards the school building with Alfie in tow, she came upon a young woman handing out leaflets. She was standing next to a big sign, which Gita did not read, though she did take a leaflet. Alfie hurried her along, so she began to read the leaflet without pausing in her walk.
Down with dress codes!
All over the world, workers are forced to wear clothing which draws gender lines and which can-
Gita was distracted from her reading when she walked suddenly and violently into a lamppost. Alfie began to laugh, which at this moment exacerbated her frustration, and strengthened her resolve to prove herself to be something other than simply the buck of every joke. She could make a difference! Indeed, she could be a campaigner for something that mattered, like that person near the school with the leaflets. Ooh, the leaflet! She skim-read the rest of it. Something about uniforms being a systemic problem in modern society. It sounded very true. Something must be done! And Gita Chandra was the person to do it!
“Gita? What’s up?”
“Hm?” Gita snapped out of her machinations, and realised where she had vacantly found herself: outside a random classroom in a random corridor somewhere in the vast and complicated school.
“We’ve got to go in now!” urged Alfie, a tad more agitated than Gita felt necessary. She entered the room perfectly hastily after he had declared this; she could do things properly and not mess them up! She was proving it!
“Ah,” remarked the teacher sitting within the room, as Gita entered. “You must be Mrs Chandra- and hello to you, too, Alfie. Please, sit down.”
Gita had already sat down.
“Now, Mrs Chandra, I don’t really know what to say about Alfie and PE. He has a natural aptitude for the subject, and-”
“Well, that’s good. Why am I here, then, if he’s really good at it? Oh, I remember, I have to prove that- Oh, never mind. Listen, er, whatever your name is, what is your stance on dress codes and uniforms?”
“Well,” Gita consulted the leaflet, “they are shown to deter expression and happiness in the workplace, and often draw gender lines. Were you aware of this?”
“I, er, I mean, Alfie can certainly make some progress in English-”
“Now, I think you should abolish the school uniform- ooh, that’d make sense!- yes, because it will, um, stop learning, and everyone will be unhappy. Have you thought about that? It’s common sense really!”
Suddenly, it all became clear to Gita. All she needed to do was find that woman who had given her the leaflet, and back the campaign, throwing Bloomin’ Lovely behind it as well! That would also work as publicity! Smiling at her own genius, she returned to reality, and realised that both the teacher and Alfie were staring at her, evidently confused. She resolved to drop the subject, and return to whatever academic stuff they were meant to be discussing.
“You know, Gita, you don’t have to do that by yourself. I’ll help you paint it, if you like.”
“Don’t worry, Haresh,” replied Gita, looking at her handiwork with glee, “I’ve got it under control. I’m nearly done, in fact.”
Gita had the image of a crazy murderer, splattered as she was with red paint, and brandishing her brush like a deadly weapon.
“All right… Incidentally,” continued Haresh, “Alfie told me that you did a good job at parents’ evening. He said that you, uh, kept your reserve through most of it, after a slight outburst at the start. He was impressed. You know, I think he thinks you’re bonkers, but-”
“Don’t worry, dearest. I can do these sorts of things, you know! You don’t need to mollycoddle me! Anyway, I’ve just about finished this sign. You can go, if you like! Go and watch your telly, or whatever it is you do when you relax! You should relax more, you know. It’s not good for you, all of this work stuff.”
“Well, if you say so…” mumbled Haresh, departing.
Gita stepped back and looked at her handiwork. It was beautiful! This plan was a great one.
Now supporting the Emmy Targent campaign to remove dress codes in the workplace
Candice could only look on with horror at the sudden loss of custom at Hocus Crocus. How was it that Gita Chandra could concoct a plot so clever? She was promoting her own shop, by appearing charitable and supporting a campaign, and also driving people to boycott the newer shop, through the nature of the campaign! A clever strategy indeed; suddenly, Bloomin’ Lovely and the Emmy Tangent Campaign were the talk of the town, and nobody wanted to come into Candice’s store while she continued to operate a dress code. How changeable consumers could be! Just recently, they had been flocking to her shop for the very opposite reasons; the uniform gave it a sense of professionalism.
Yet it seemed that there was no choice for her, but to concede to Gita Chandra, on this occasion. She had clearly underestimated her opponent, and operating this shop would perhaps be less risk-free than she had previously anticipated. She would remove the uniform regulations completely, in order to compete- it may not please the high-ups in the global company, but would ensure that her reputation might be preserved.
But she would not yield to Gita Chandra again. No, she would fight to the bitter end, and win! No crazy old lady could defeat the amassed strength of Candice Snow…
“It was good of you to support the campaign, though, Gita. Thanks again!”
“Are you sure that you don’t want a job? There are no dress codes here! You would be most welcome!”
“Oh, no, thank you. Don’t worry. It’s time to move on, for me. Working there was only a temporary thing; now that I’m free of it, I’ve got a motivation to go to live in Spain, which was always the plan, long-term!”
“Ooh, that sounds lovely! Where in Spain? What will you do? Oh, but what about your campaign?”
“Don’t worry. I’m not giving it up! The state of the world is stupid, and I’m going to try and help to make it better, one small victory at a time.”
“Reckon you’ll succeed?”
“Probably not, but it’s worth a shot.”
“Well, good luck with it!”
Once the pleasantries were done with, Gita let Emmy out and locked the shop door. Indeed, the campaign support, brief though it had been, had helped to bring in some more customers for a time. Publicity was good. But it was not good enough; she did not want to tell Haresh or Alfie about the extent of the problem, but there had been a dangerous swing in custom towards the new flower shop. Somehow, she would gain back her previously loyal customers - assuming that they could continue to scrape together enough money to get by at all...
Bloomin' Lovely will return tomorrow with The Trespasser.