Compulsion

There were many odd people who work for Superstore but Mark was one of the oddest. Not so much because he was crazier than everyone else; but because he was the manager of the store and nobody could tell him he was being irrational without risking their jobs. Without being told that his behavior was weird, he never thought about it and it just got worse and worse.

At first it was small things, things that should be done in a store but usually were not. If he saw someone being idle, he sent them to dust the shelves in the cereal isle. If he was not in a meeting, he was helping staff put out and/or sort merchandise. When he finished his work, he walked through the isles. Once the cans were all evenly spaced, he turned all the cans until they were facing the right way. The fact that the customers had the audacity to remove cans, putting them back all wrong, made him grind his teeth. Then he fixed the isle again, sometimes as much as seven times a day. Every once in awhile, without telling anyone, he pushed a block of merchandize to another part of the store and was confused when people started to freak out about the lost pallet.

Then, he became more bureaucratic. Cashiers created a lot of paperwork; visa, master card and American express receipts with the customer's signature, proofs of debit, coupons, discount papers and other miscellaneous things. Normally, cashiers sorted the different tenders but he took it a step further, sorting them by transaction number. The employees would smile politely while he was there; and talked about how the manager was mad when he left. Somebody once tried to tell Matt what they were saying but he dismissed the allegations as slander. Nobody really tried after that.

It was the secretaries who truly suffered. They had to actually sort and file all paperwork, take messages and do so many things that would make most people's heads would explode. Matt made their jobs all the more difficult by rearranging everything to suit his sense of symmetry, usually forcing the secretaries to either adapt to his skewed system or run away screaming.

All in all, nobody was surprised when Matt managed to convince the Powers That Be that a renovation was needed to make the store more efficient. Since that Superstore happened to be the most productive outlet and Matt was their best manager, they usually bent over backwards to keep him happy every time he threatened to quit.

He redesigned the layout, organizing it exactly as he always saw it in his mind. Engineers were slightly baffled by his logic but since it did not weaken the infrastructure of the building, they went along with it. In the days before the reopening, there was a massive cleaning effort and people saw tears in Matt's eyes. Slightly disturbed, they always made excuses to be somewhere else.

Then he asked them to organize the cart corral by number, number one at the front and two directly behind it, twenty in a row, seven rows side-by side.

(The carts have a little green card on their front, each with their own number. This system was put in place to accomodate the pick-up service. Customers would put their parcels in a cart, leave it by the pick-up zone and go fetch their car. It was a convenience the customers loved, as long as they got the right parcels)

The end result was very impressive, though the maintenance crew complained many times throughout the process. Sunlight filtered through the glass doors, hitting the carts and making them gleam. A few people took pictures, knowing that it would never happen again.

As the store opened, people could see Matt twitching in pain every time someone grabbed a cart out of order. People did not notice that the carts were in order, they just wanted to get one quickly. Matt started to lurk by the carts, going so far to remove them in order and give them to customers. A couple of old ladies chattered about the 'nice young man'; a couple of young men called him a 'crazy man'.

He went on break for a couple of hours and upon his return, he saw that someone had put carts back out of order, ruining his customer count and his sense of order. Numb, he went to his office, put up the 'Do Not Disturb' sign, and cried.

The next morning, pictures of the perfectly arranged carts were found on his desk.