Scattered recollections of an unmasked shop worker

I had a little bit of an argument with the night manager this morning. Thankfully, I’d been dreading today for many weeks, about four months, roughly 120 days, so I did not resort to shouting, personal insults or language of the sewer. I am quite an intensely amplified  speaker  when I am full of passion and have the platform to express my thoughts. I am not claiming to be a good speaker. If I had applied myself slightly differently in my youth I might have been able to use my vocal gift as a well trained singer or a stage actor.  
I must have been about 9 or ten years old and I found myself in the school hall taking part in ‘drama’ with my classmates. We were playing out situations with the aid of scripts of some sort. Reading out loud etc etc.   I was playing a part that involved shouting at all the other players. I have not got a clue what play we were reading from, but what ever the lines were that I was to read they supposed to be expressed with anger or even rage, like a strict school master. At first I was my normal quiet sheepish half-daydreaming self. But I was instructed to speak up, raise my voice, express myself like I really meant it. 
Suddenly, without warning, I bellowed out the lines so intensely that the whole class, even my friendly but unflappable teacher, nearly jumped out of their skins. 
It had already been discovered at a young age that I had quite a good singing voice, and could project it well,  always in tune, etc etc . O dear it might seem like I am bragging here. Well, whatever gifts I have in the diaphragm/vocal chord departments has not been utilised particularly well over the years and has got me into all sorts of trouble with people of authority – teachers, parents, mind-doctors and bosses at work. 
A small but significant number of us a work refused to wear masks this morning. It was my turn to be ushered into the office by the night manager so he could ‘strongly encourage’ me to be a ‘team player’, to think of others and not just about myself.  I tried to explain why I would not be wearing a mask. He wouldn’t listen. He weakly encouraged me to stop being selfish, childish. It’s about saving lives etc. etc. I reminded him of a conversation we had last week where I clearly stated to him in no uncertain terms that if it became mandatory for staff to cover their faces I would wear a visor/ face shield. It seems he only heard what he wanted to hear. Before our first exchange this morning began he handed me a visor that he said he got especially for me. I thanked him and said I looked forward to trying it on at home and would wear it if parliament passes a law making it compulsory for me to do so. 
He was noticeably annoyed. I really do not understand why. I got a little carried away with myself and tried to explain why I was against wearing a mask. He kept interrupting me. I decided to cease talking and left. I was slightly flustered. 
You see, there was a tone in his voice. The way he beckoned me to the office. It caused me to have ‘fight or flight’ butterflies in my stomach. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins. My arms became folded to hide any signs of shaking. I had to leave the room before my top lip started quivering when talking.
I left the room and the door was tightly sprung at the hinges ,  just before it slammed itself shut night manager called me back, he said he hadn’t finished with me yet. I mumbled something about freedom and liberty and walked down the corridor, down the stairs, back to the shop floor. I just walked around the store, keeping my head down in a large, almost silent supermarket. Avoiding the masked shoppers and feeling mightily self conscious I knew that I had to talk to the night manager again to make sure things did not escalate into a feud.   
I found him in the warehouse area, there was a little bit of an audience. Our argument resumed. He had a mask on, his eyes were tired and not very happy. He accused me of ‘storming off’ before. I didn’t storm off. I just left the room. I am sure the door to the manager’s office is designed to slam. He kept accusing me of saying things I did not say. I noticed that he kept touching his mask when he talked to me.  It must have been hot behind there. I feel relieved that he was not wearing glasses, they would have steamed up and the situation could have become much more embarrassing for all concerned. 
I walked off again, obviously agitated about the false accusations he was peppering me with. I went for another walk. And I returned for the third and final round. This time his arms were folded, he was in the company of a rather less confrontational assistant manager, and Night Manager  was becoming noticeably aggressive. I explained to him that his opinions about the wearing of masks are wholly different to mine. And I used words such as ‘subjective’, ‘political’ and ‘lacking evidence’.  My voice was slightly raised when I was making my valid points. And my voice was quiet and overly soft when reacting to his bad manners. 
I explained that the  conversation was going nowhere and I turned to go back to the shopfloor. He shouted ‘stop!’. I couldn’t help but say ‘Yes sir!’ and I half heartedly stood to attention and just about stopped myself from saluting. I asked him to feel free to tell me to stand at ease and to tell me I’m dismissed and let me go back to my duties at any time. 
I was being a bit of an ass. His voice was rather raised, I had got under his skin. He told me if I was going to act like a child he would treat me like a child. The tone in his voice implied that he meant it. He wasn’t only talking about the present, but the future too.  The adrenaline in my veins was under control, flowing evenly and spread proportionally. I was calm. I was well-tempered and my voice was almost less than loud. He actually said ‘You are dismissed’. Now I tried not to laugh, letting out a wry smile in the direction of the assistant manager who’s unmasked facial expression was a mixture of worry and painfully repressed laughter. 
Night Manager looked so angry. Remember he was wearing a mask. His facial expression might have been a lot milder than the sound of his voice and the fire in his tired eyes.   I casually said to the assistant manager ‘Who is the union rep?’.   The assistant manager actually looked uncomfortable and he walked with me  on the shop floor and we talked to each other very quietly and we might as well have been talking about the weather. You see, the assistant manager is someone who has a hot temper and we have clashed slightly a few times. Nothing serious. We get on well. I explained that I have no intention of making a complaint, but I had to do something. The night manager was on the war path. I just happened to be the person in his way. I explained that I sympathize with the situation they were in and the pressure they were under from their bosses. I got on with the final half hour of my shift. At the end of the shift the night manager apologised to me. I accepted his apology and that was that. 

I’m up to Chapter 14 of Robert Tombs’s ‘The English and Their History’ via audible. I am looking forward to physically reading the book for the first time and being already familiar with all the words! 


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