Adventures in Cheese

A chronicle of my journey to London to work in a well-known British cheese shop.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Endless Queue

The days preceeding Xmas were long and busy. The "line down the block" I'd been promised finally appeared and remained, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., until the very eve of Xmas. In anticipation, management had hired a team of grunts, students mostly, to do all the washing, packing, and refilling of supplies. They also called in ringers from the administration and former mongers with decades of experience between them to insure that service never lagged.

With all the extra help, working behind the counter became a fight for survival. Physical space was at such a premium that friendly monger relations at times took on more than a hint of aggression. The successful were those who moved most creatively: wrapped on the smallest surfaces, cut from the most awkward angles, used the till no matter how many stood in their path. The wiliest monger of all was no doubt fellow American, Zach. Zach could use the till blind, wrap in air, and sell like a prodigy. His daily ring typically exceeded everyone else's by 1000 quid.

(Above: Zach in Action)

When the counter crush got to be too much, feeding the queue was a pleasant alternative. I found myself often grabbing a hunk of cheddar and heading to the street where the weather was balmy and the crowd grateful and patient. The annual wait was for many as much of a tradition as the Stilton itself.

When we finally shut (and bolted) the door at 2 sharp on Xmas eve, relief and exhaustion easily transformed into holiday cheer.

(Need I say more?)