Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Living On A Prayer

Todd opened the shutter of the coffee shop where he worked and pushed it upwards. It ratcheted up into the slot above the door with a squeak of its metal hinges. It was 6am on a damp Monday, He had twenty minutes to get the shop ready as the first customers of the day would arrive from the train station opposite as soon as the early train pulled in. Monday's were usually pretty busy as the workers from the local offices needed to mainline caffeine in order to make it through the day.

Todd switched on the lights and turned on the coffee maker. The shop was small and contained a counter, a fridge, a display of some baked goods and a handful of tables and chairs for those who wanted to sit down and consume the energy giving beverages that Todd and his colleagues served them. Todd put on an apron and stocked the fridge with the delivery on Milk and pastries that had been left outside by a delivery man just before he arrived. An ancient 10 CD changer occupied one corner of the rear counter, The Manager, Jason, stocked the CD player every week with whatever he had laying around the floor of his unkempt apartment. Todd pushed the power switch and the first CD played. Todd recognised the intro to "Living on a Prayer". No one Todd knew would ever admit to liking it but everyone knew the lyrics. It was the sort of song that gets played so often, on the radio or at drunken karaoke sessions, that it almost faded into the background. A person might forget their anniversary or their Dad's birthday but somehow the lyrics of the Bon Jovi song were burned into the English speaking world’s collective consciousness.

He focused on finishing the last minute tasks that he needed to do to make the shop ready for business. There was sufficient change in the cash register, lots of wooden stirrers and those cardboard sleeves for the customers, it was show time.
As he finished his preparations, he heard the first train pull in and disgorge its small party of passengers. A handful of them made a beeline for the coffee shop. A pale woman with sleep filled eyes approached the counter and ordered a skinny latte with an extra shot of espresso, Todd went about fulfilling her order and then moved on to the next customer. A steady trickle of humanity kept moving through the shop for the next hour, their caffeine intake soundtracked to the greatest hits of Bon Jovi. Calling it a greatest hits compilation was a bit of a stretch though, Todd hadn't heard about four of the twelve songs ever before. Calling it "The Greatest Hits" was a prime example of creative advertising, or a lie, as they were usually called.

The album finished and Todd waited for the next CD to play, it was early in the morning, he needed something mellow to come out of the Speaker, instead "Living on a Prayer." started again. Todd walked over to the CD player and stopped it. He opened the tray and looked at its contents in horror. Ten copies of the supposedly greatest hits of Bon Jovi stared back at him. He got on the phone and rang Jason.
"What's up?" said a sleepy Jason when he picked up his phone.
"Dude! Bon Jovi!" said Todd.
"Yeah, some guy at the car boot sale was selling copies of their greatest hits for €1. I couldn't resist the bargain."
"Don't we have any other CD's?"
"No, I brought the case home."
"Why would you do that? The CD player is so ancient that doesn't even let me plug in my Ipod to play something else!"
"I know."
Are you seriously telling me that ten copies of the greatest hits of Bon Jovi is the only music I can play here today?"
"Yeah, you've got to hold on to what you've got. Hahaha!"
"That's not even the correct lyrics!"
"I changed them to suit the situation more accurately. Grow a pair dude, It’s better than being outside in the rain digging ditches right? Besides, the customers won't mind. They’re usually in and out in less than five minutes, they won’t even notice."
"Who cares about the customers? I'm worried about my sanity. I have an eleven hour shift to work. It's not our customer’s enjoyment that's at stake: It's my life!"
A young man on the other side of the counter gave Todd a dirty look. Todd waved the man's silent protest off.
"Just do your job mate, and put the music back on, it's company policy. I’ll bring in some fresh CD’s next week, maybe." said Jason, hanging up.
Todd served the waiting customer and then restarted the CD player. "Living on a prayer" started up again.
The customer left the shop with his coffee.
"Have a nice day!" said Todd as the man retreated to a world where listening to Bon Jovi wasn't mandatory.

Once the 9am rush had finished, the rest of the morning passed achingly slowly. Todd kept busy by cleaning the tables and bathroom. An attractive woman entered the shop, she was speaking on her phone as she ordered.
"Hi! Can I get a cappuccino to go?" She said.
"Sure." replied Todd.
"I don't know why you're avoiding coming back to see me. It's been hard here all alone." The woman said to the person on the other end of the call. "Can't you please come home for Christmas?"
Todd was certain that the woman was trying to mess with his mind. Nobody just dropped Bon Jovi lyrics into a conversation like that.

Todd finished making the coffee and slammed it down on the counter. "That'll be three fifty." He said, purposefully overcharging by fifty cent to punish her.
The woman took her coffee and paid Todd without another word.
The rest of the morning pushed Todd to breaking point. But luckily he was really busy during the midday to 2pm rush and the persistent tones of New Jersey's finest balladeer didn't encroach on his thought processes too much.
The hours from 2pm to 5pm were tough on Todd's well-being, there were very few customers to interrupt multiple plays of the CD collection. The mind destroying monotony was broken by a man coming in and saying:
"Ohhh, we're half way there, Ohhh living on a prayer."
"What!!!" shouted Todd, his nerves snapping like dry twigs. "Are you making fun of my predicament? What did you just say to me?!!!"
"I asked for a mocha and an apple Danish.” replied the man “No need to get so defensive."
Todd began to make the coffee but scalded himself as his hands wouldn't stop shaking.

Finally, it was time to close the coffee shop. Todd unplugged the CD player from the wall socket, shutting off the twelfth playing of "Blaze of Glory" in mid chorus. Blissful silence descended as Todd finalised his work for the day. He smiled in relief as he left the shop and locked the shutters. But then his smile froze as he remembered: he had to go through it all again tomorrow. He was going to be stuck with Bon Jovi. Always.

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