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» Sticking it to The Man

The Place: Small supermarket branch in the UK. The Time: The morning of the second Sunday in November.
The Background: Quoting Wikipedia; "In the United Kingdom, although two minutes of silence are observed on 11 November itself, the main observance is on the second Sunday of November, Remembrance Sunday."

(skip to end for summary)

As the shift began early that morning, we asked the boss what the plans were for later on. We were told that company policy was for the silence to be observed only on the 11th, a couple of days previously, and that we were to keep trading as normal today. He was one of the better managers, known to sometimes break unjust rules in the interests of his staff; and he seemed to be making it clear that this was what only the company wanted, distinct from his own opinions; maybe that's what triggered what happened later.

Mutters of discontent led into a rebellious air as the morning progressed. Due to the circumstances of rota and timing; most of us Sunday shift staff had not been on duty on the 11th itself, so (aside from wearing poppies) we hadn't yet been able to show respect in some small way by laying down tools. Many of us were angered at headquarter's apparent fear of 'losing' even a couple of minutes-worth of profits - I mean, if someone's already in the shop at the time, they 'd just be paying slightly later; so where's the harm?. The dissent crystallised into rare agreement amongst the workforce: in a feat of unified rebellion not seen before or since; we decided to do it anyway, and to heck with what the company wanted. Although it barely compares, it was sort of our own 'christmas armistice'.

10:58 clicks over to 10:59; and we're underway. We see the boss is safely out of the way doing paperwork in his office; he's a half-decent one, but he's still a manager. With few words and knowing nods, we move into final position; most workers to stand by at the checkouts, me to the front door to discretely intercept people as they enter. A radio, smuggled out the warehouse, is switched on for timing.

11:00 arrives, in the broadcast from distant whitehall, the cannon fires then the radio falls silent; the conveyor belts are switched off, cashiers and customers join in dignified silence. A couple of customers wander in during the next two minutes, but with a simple gesture to my watch they immediately understand and join us.

11:02 arrives, "Last Post" starts playing; with honour satisfied and dignity intact we start things up again. I'd like to have done more, it felt wrong not to wait at least until "The Rouse", but we're not on parade and we're pushing our luck as it is. The manager had CCTV monitors in his office, but if he saw anything he wisely said and did nothing about it. Sometimes I think he expected defiance and just let us get on with it. But in any case:

That year, at least in our branch; a disgraceful order was soundly ignored, and the wheels of commerce were briefly paused while respect was paid.

(summary: Shop staff unite to disobey direct order not to show respect)
(Thu 17th Jun 2010, 17:29, More)

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