Culture of Entitlement

by Stanley Donwood 

During a riot I am running along the street when I feel strangely drawn to an alleyway.  Breaking from the mob, I dart along it, clamber over a wall and observe the back window of a Tesco Express. The windows are completely papered over with a large photographic image of some vegetables, and I notice a window is ajar, next to an immense reproduction of a washed and handsome carrot. I force the window wide and, after considerable effort, effect my ingress.

I move swiftly and silently through the storage area and into the shop itself, noticing that there is already considerable damage to the displays. Produce lies scattered and spilled across the polished floor, and several free-standing shelving units have been pulled over. I cast my eyes about, but there does not appear to be much of value left. I move carefully in the direction of the checkout, noting that the CCTV modules have (thankfully) been sprayed black by my predecessors.

The front of the premises are plate glass, still unbroken, and I keep low as I move towards the sales counter. The sound of the riot is growing distant, and the street outside appears vacant. Although the cigarette display is empty, I am sure I will find something.  My intuition is vindicated when I spot an upturned cash register behind the checkout counter. I pull the flat metal cash-drawer from underneath the terminal and quickly move back among the shelving units.

Safely out of view from the front windows, I turn my attention to the cash-drawer, and, with effort, force it with a piece of metal. I can only partly pry it open; the drawer is very strong, and I am beginning to feel a little exhausted by the activities I have engaged in already today. Inside I can see several thick wads of used banknotes, and I attempt to force it open further with my hands.

But as I start to wiggle my fingers towards the bundles of notes I hear the front entrance of the shop being opened. No, more than opened – unlocked. I freeze. A number of possibilities pass rapidly through my mind, and I swiftly conclude that after the initial damage to the shop during the height of the riot, the premises were cleared by security and locked. Now that the mass of the riot has moved on, the manager has returned, presumably backed up by security guards, and is surveying the losses prior to reporting to Tesco head office.

With considerable dismay I move slowly, quietly backward, until I am almost completely concealed in an aisle that has been comprehensively looted, the toppled shelving units forming a sort of tent for me to hide in. I am on my knees, leaning forward, making myself as small as possible. I listen carefully. I can only see the feet and lower legs of my visitors, and they kick debris around disconsolately whilst complaining about the slow and inadequate response of the police, the level of engagement expected of poorly-paid private security employees, the iniquities of insurance companies, the general stand-offishness of head office, and a number of other subjects.

Their frank exchange of views seems, to me, to be of almost interminable length, involving many tedious digressions. My knees are beginning to hurt a great deal, there is the beginning of what I am sure will be an excruciating pain in my lower back, and I seem to have got several fingers of both hands stuck in the partly-opened cash-drawer.

To my horror, the feet of my (three) visitors stride away from the checkout area, towards the aisles. I breathe as quietly as I possibly can, suddenly feeling extremely vulnerable, crouched, as I am, on all fours, surrounded by scattered groceries, underneath a shelving unit, with my hands caught in a cash-box, within a looted branch of Tesco Express. Yes; vulnerable, and also, if discovered, plainly guilty.

Fearfully, I listen to them discussing the wholesale looting of the aisles, and I am greatly relieved when they reject any notion of clearing up the destruction. But when they commence discussing the theft of beers, wines and spirits I detect a more sombre, angry, and threatening  tone emerging. They talk about the looters in such disparaging terms that it is several moments until I realise that, broadly speaking, they mean me. They seem particularly agitated about the removal of the cigarettes, and the disappearance of the cash-drawer from the point-of-sale terminal seems, to them, completely beyond the pale.

As they begin arguing about how the looters should be treated by the judiciary, I realise that I badly need to urinate. I am now regretting drinking most of a purloined bottle of champagne from an off-licence, and my position, doubled up on the floor, is not helping matters. Surely the matter of sentencing should be left to the jury in a court of law, rather than angrily pondered by pitiless security guards and (doubtlessly) legally unqualified Tesco managers? I wonder if I can allow what is starting to feel like a gallon of urine to seep gently from my bladder, or if the unmistakeable aroma will inevitably alert my visitors to my concealed presence.

I decide to hold on for as long as I can, and to distract myself I think of other matters. After an eternity, they move away towards the front of the store, now talking more calmly and quietly about the various responsibilities and tasks occasioned by the tumultuous events of the day’s civil disturbances.

Involuntarily, a small leakage soaks my trousers, and as the three men leave the building a considerable gush of urine escapes from my penis. Due to my compressed and, literally, folded position, the hot liquid seems to squirt everywhere, some of it even splashing against the underneath of my chin. My knees slip outward in the puddle on the floor beneath me, and I suddenly slam forwards, and because my hands are stuck in the cash-drawer I am unable to break my fall with anything other than my nose, which makes a sickening cracking sound on the linoleum.

In this ignominious position I consider various aspects of my situation. I am forced, due to the injury to my nose, to breathe through my mouth, and the bubbling sound produced by my breath passing through a rapidly cooling mixture of blood and urine is deeply unpleasant. The taste, however, is not nearly as bad as I would have thought, although my fondness for salty foods may be a mitigating factor. Worryingly, I seem to have lost a certain amount of sensation in my fingers, though whether this is due to my arms being twisted to the left of my body or the nerves of my fingers being trapped in the partly-opened cash-drawer I cannot tell. My groin hurts a great deal, as my knees are splayed open on the floor, and my head is throbbing with a low, regular pain. Overall, I am deeply unhappy, and am certainly regretting the consequences of my actions. Lying face-down in a pool of my own blood and urine, I wonder whether I have already begun the process of rehabilitation into society.