Brianna Parkins: How I learned you can only tell someone to eff off a finite number of times

I was a checkout chick and reluctant underwear arranger. Sue, Dawn, Val and Deb took care of us

Tidying the lingerie department was ‘about taking pride in your work’, one Val told me. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Tidying the lingerie department was ‘about taking pride in your work’, one Val told me. Photograph: iStock/Getty

Every morning I watch the girl down the street leave for her summer job at Penneys. Lanyard on. Earpods in. Ponytail tightened. She doesn’t know it, but I salute her as she goes into battle, for I too spent my summers folding and refolding €1 thongs as people pulled them out willy-nilly EVEN IF I WAS STANDING RIGHT THERE.

My years behind a till have let me in on two secrets. The first is that our entire ability to buy food and clothes relies on an unlikely alliance between hungover students and middle-aged women. The second is that middle-aged women with name tags keep the world as we know it turning. 

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