Plane Supermarket Plane 2: Luoyang Base C12
If the supermarket was running smoothly, there should be around thirty to sixty employees when the supermarket is not busy.
But when the supermarket got busy, it required at least ten to twenty additional temporary workers.
Ye Zhou never anticipated it would get this hectic. The customers were crowding in, shoulder to shoulder. Even if the original staff of thirteen were split into two, with each person doing the work of two, it would only make twenty-six, which was still not enough.
And among these thirteen people, there were seniors and children. He ultimately couldn’t bear to burden the kids.
Originally, Ye Zhou considered waiting a little longer. Maybe after the rush of panic buying subsided, the situation might improve, and the existing staff could manage. But as he watched the supermarket’s doors close and saw the employees and their families lying scattered on the ground, he made up his mind to recruit temporary workers before reopening the store the next day.
As the employees grew exhausted, Ye Zhou himself wasn’t much better. He kept a vigilant eye on the surveillance for a while and was about to head outside to relieve Sarah and the others. He tirelessly scanned the barcodes for checkout and continually explained to customers, leaving him so fatigued that even catching his breath felt like his chest ache.
But despite all this, there was still a long line outside the supermarket’s closed doors, and another tough battle awaited them the next day.
So, as Ye Zhou observed the still-dark sky and the supermarket’s doors that had yet to close, a thought crossed his mind when Chen Gang, who had volunteered at the back door, approached.
Chen Gang had never served in the military, lacking that distinct aura. Zou Ming had observed that his hands and shoulders bore no calluses, and he carried photos of both his own and his wife’s families with him.
According to him, he had married long ago, and his mother and his wife’s mother were both in the Luoyang Base. His wife had taken their two children to the Changfeng Base, leading to a long time separation between husband and wife.
The Changfeng Base held a crucial position, responsible for producing thirty percent of the nation’s agricultural products. Those who lived in Changfeng were the heart of the agricultural industry, and each worker could have only two family members stay with them. After a discussion, Chen Gang and his wife decided that their daughters, being girls, were too little to be separated from her mother, and it wasn’t the right time for it.
So, unable to secure a place in Changfeng, Chen Gang brought his elderly family members to Luoyang, the easiest place to settle down.
These four elderly individuals, the youngest of whom was over sixty, were living in a world where the average life expectancy was less than fifty. They were already considered fortunate to have reached such an age. Even when they tried to find temporary work, no one was interested in hiring them.
Chen Gang’s wife faced a difficult life looking after their two children, and she often relied on Chen Gang to send her food and money. With his limited agricultural skills and low income as a temporary worker, Chen Gang decided to build connections with the convoy team and started working in logistics.
The authorities turned a blind eye to this, as they couldn’t afford to cut off the people’s means of livelihood entirely. For minor issues, the government was willing to turn a blind eye, too.
But now, everyone was tightening their belts to make ends meet, and there was hardly anything left to send to family and friends.
Chen Gang’s income remained stuck in a frustrating cycle, saving more corn cakes when business was good and tightening his belt when it wasn’t.
He brought out all the corn cakes he had stored at home, exchanged them for rice and preserved meat. Aside from gifting a few to his loyal customers, the rest were kept at home or sent to his wife.
So, Chen Gang was now a full-fledged pauper, burdened with the livelihood of four elderly family members.
Though Ye Zhou wasn’t sure if what he said was entirely true or mixed with some falsehoods. It was undeniable that his supermarket was short of staff.
And if he had to hire, he could only recruit from within the base. Even if he turned one person away, he couldn’t keep the next one from coming.
After thinking for a moment, Ye Zhou said to Chen Gang, “I won’t hire regular employees, only temporary workers. Compensation will be in the form of supplies, and there will be a monthly points system where you can exchange points for goods of your choice.”
“But if I catch wind of any underhanded behavior from you, no matter what you say, you’ll have to leave here immediately.”
Ye Zhou gazed into Chen Gang’s eyes. “Do you understand?”
Chen Gang’s mouth slightly agape, he looked at Ye Zhou in disbelief, as if the words he had just heard were part of an illusion.
Ye Zhou continued, “If you agree, you can start working right away.”
Chen Gang shouted loudly fearing that Ye Zhou might change his mind, “I agree! I agree!”
Ye Zhou added, “The supermarket is indeed short-staffed, but that doesn’t mean we’re hiring just anyone. And don’t even think about bringing in all your relatives.”
“Speaking of which, since we haven’t opened yet, I’d like you to go into the base and find a few people,” Ye Zhou said. He didn’t want to see any favoritism within his supermarket.
Ye Zhou’s knowledge of Feng Ling and the others was limited to their names.
“If you can’t find them, it’s fine,” Ye Zhou said, not pushing further. “We’re opening at seven. Try to make it back before then. Do you have a watch?”
Chen Gang shook his head. “Watches are also in limited supply. I bought one before to make up for the corn cakes.”
Ye Zhou said to Zou Ming, “Get him a plastic digital watch.”
Plastic digital watches were cheap and abundant in the supermarket, with only a few customers coming to exchange for them.
“By the way, we provide meals, but we don’t offer accommodation,” Ye Zhou continued. “Since the workload has been heavy lately, there will be some subsidies, but once things stabilize, and customer flow decreases, the compensation will stabilize as well.”
Chen Gang had no objections. He was anxious and deferential, willing to believe unquestionably anything Ye Zhou said at that moment, even if Ye Zhou claimed the sun was square.
After everyone left, Ye Zhou slumped onto the couch, his eyes heavy with sleepiness, and he weakly asked Zou Ming, “Are you tired? I’m so exhausted.”
The supermarket closed at 10 PM last night, but that didn’t mark the end of their operations. Restocking relied on manual labor, and people of all ages in the store pitched in. It wasn’t until after 2 AM that all the goods were replenished.
Ye Zhou didn’t even calculate the day’s earnings before hastily taking a shower and going to sleep.
In the morning, he had to get up again before 6 AM because of Chen Gang. All things considered, he had slept for less than four hours.
He had mustered the energy to talk to Chen Gang just a moment ago, but now that Chen Gang had left, Ye Zhou’s eyelids began to feel heavy as if glued.
Zou Ming sighed and said, “Go to bed. I’ll call in some temporary workers. You should rest today. I’ll handle anything that comes up.”
With his eyes closed, Ye Zhou said, “That’s so embarrassing.”
Zou Ming fell silent for a moment and then replied, “It’s nothing. Before…”
Ye Zhou yawned, not catching Zou Ming’s words clearly. “What did you say? I didn’t hear.”
Zou Ming shook his head and said, “I was saying, if you keep pushing yourself like this, you probably won’t be able to work tomorrow. Go rest now.”
Ye Zhou looked puzzled. “Did you just say all that?”
Zou Ming didn’t answer anymore. He watched Ye Zhou undress and crawl back into bed, making sure he was asleep before leaving the lounge area.
The employees had also finished their tasks, and they were yawning as they worked. They had gone to bed late because of the late-night rush yesterday, so now they had the energy to clean up.
Fortunately, customers are basically concentrated in one or two areas, otherwise they would have exhausted all their energy just cleaning.
“Zou Xiongdi 1,” Wu Yan looked at Zou Ming, came running with his huge eye bags. He asked, panting, “Did the immortal take a break?”
Even when there were no outsiders present, they still refrained from calling Ye Zhou “boss.”
Zou Ming replied, “He’s tired.”
Now, everyone in the store believed that although Ye Zhou was an immortal who had descended to the mortal realm, he had taken on the body of a mortal and could get tired, thirsty, hungry, and even die. Although an immortal’s “death” meant returning to the heavens, which was quite different from the death of a mortal.
As a result, they suddenly became more considerate.
Zou Ming took a walk around the supermarket, making sure everything was tidied up before heading to the entrance.
Outside the glass doors, the residents of the base were lined up, each holding large and small bags. Some had even managed to find suitcases from somewhere and brought their entire possessions with them. They all stood outside the supermarket door, and a few people were in the process of packing their tents.
They seemed to turn a blind eye to the wandering zombies beyond the barbed wire fence.
Countless pairs of eyes were fixed firmly on the supermarket’s entrance, waiting for the moment it opened, so they could rush inside.
Zou Ming contemplated the base he was in and how different it was from this place.
This was still a human society with rules, laws, and people who hadn’t been pushed to the brink of desperation. Their daily life may be mechanical, and they might struggle to see hope, but at least they hadn’t fallen into deeper despair.
At least for now, they didn’t have to resort to selling their children or their bodies.
While the country was still standing, their safety and dignity were guaranteed. When the population sharply declines, and the country crumbles, human dignity becomes negligible, and men and women can sell themselves. Moral values all take a back seat in the struggle for survival.
Resources forever remain concentrated in the hands of a selected few at the top of the pyramid. While the people at the bottom had to shed their blood, sweat, and tears just to provide a tiny fraction for those at the top.
Zou Ming observed the eager looks of the residents in the queue.
He probably once had that same look in his eyes. The longing to escape hardship, the yearning for the stability the supermarket represented, the desire for the warm store lights, and the longing for that person in the store.
As Chen Gang walked the base’s roads, he felt somewhat dazed, as if he weren’t stepping on a road beneath him but walking on clouds. He wandered around in a daze, asking everyone he met about Feng Ling and where she could be.
Although he only knew this one name, he was confident he’d find her. It was the first task the boss had given him, and he had to complete it!
“Calling someone Feng Ling is too common. I know at least three people with that name. Which one are you looking for?”
Finally, someone responded to Chen Gang’s question.
Chen Gang immediately regained his composure, a smile on his face, and he spoke warmly, “They are under fifteen.”
The person who answered shook their head, saying, “I know three people with that name, and they’re all adults.”
Chen Gang wasn’t discouraged. After thanking the person, he continued forward. He searched street by street, casting a wide net, and finally, he arrived near the public service center.
“Oh, Feng Ling!” an enthusiastic elderly man pointed to the service center. “She’s inside the center. That girl has had a tough time. Who are you to her? A relative?”
Chen Gang shook his head and said, “I was sent by someone to find her.”
The elderly man looked at him warily and said, “You better not have any ill intentions. Our base isn’t that big, and if something happens, you won’t be able to escape.”
Chen Gang didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, “Don’t worry, I’m heading there right now!”
He rushed into the service center and indeed found Feng Ling, who was in the middle of a meal.
The public service center provided for a group of elderly, weak, and disabled individuals who had no source of income. They sometimes engaged in voluntary labor, but because of their physical conditions, they couldn’t do much. So most of the time, they relied on social welfare.
Two pieces of corn cake a day, not much.
But the authorities couldn’t just let them eat corn cakes. Occasionally, they sent some pickled vegetables, preserved vegetables, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Most of the people here suffered from varying degrees of malnutrition, with the severity varying from person to person.
Feng Ling brought out all the rice she had purchased, and with their teacher, they had exchanged all the corn cake they had stored at the service center for rice, cured meat, and sausages. Now, everyone gathered around, sniffing the fragrance of the white rice, their mouths watering.
Even Chen Gang couldn’t help but swallow a mouthful of saliva at the smell of the rice.
With too many elderly people at home, he couldn’t bear to eat it himself. He bought rice, but he hadn’t had a meal of rice until now.
Chen Gang had swallowed his saliva so many times that his tongue felt a bit sore. He couldn’t help but wonder, when the supermarket opened at noon, what would he be able to eat?
He didn’t dare to think about what he could eat. Could he manage to have a slice of cured meat?
It is best if the part was fat, rich and oily meat. Just thinking about it made his mouth water, and he could happily meet his end in that delicious aroma.
Panda has something to say: Hints and hints ~~ (2/7)
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- 兄弟 xiōngdì: brothers / younger brother