Aisle Prophet

Aisle Prophet

In the hustle and bustle of a large Tesco supermarket in the heart of London, an unlikely guru emerged. Neville Greenfield, a plain-faced shop assistant, became an icon of wisdom for shoppers and seekers alike.

There was a man named Neville Greenfield who, for all the extraordinary people in this world, was an unremarkable sort. He was neither tall nor short, his face as plain as a spud from the supermarket he worked at, his demeanor as mild as the tea he steeped each morning.

Neville was an assistant at a sprawling Tesco in the heart of London. For five long years, his life danced in the rhythm of stocked shelves, stacked cans, tidied products and customer queries. Neville lived in the world of grocery logistics, an art in its own right, where every tin of beans and box of cereal had a home, and he was their diligent caretaker.

And Neville was good at what he did. He had spent so many hours in the supermarket’s labyrinth that he had memorized every nook and cranny, every hidden corner, every subtle bend of every aisle. You could wake him up at 3am and ask him where the gluten-free pasta was stocked, and he’d tell you, in his sleep, “Aisle 4, bottom shelf, next to the buckwheat noodles.”

Word spread about this mystical man who knew the Tesco like the back of his hand. It started as a convenience. “Oh, go ask Neville,” mothers would instruct their confused spouses, trying to locate the capers for a new recipe. Neville would direct them, sure as a compass needle. And so, the phrase “Ask Neville” became a community lexicon, a shortcut to saving time, a sign of urban wisdom.

But Neville wasn’t just a human map of Tesco; he was more than that. You see, Neville was not just stocking shelves; he was stocking stories. Every day he listened to the furtive whispers of first dates shopping together, the arguments of strained marriages, the playful banters of friends, the comforting advice of older siblings, the heated discussions about politics, faith, or climate change. He heard them all, like a fly on the wall, absorbing, reflecting, growing.

It started when a man named Alfred, a regular at the store, asked Neville about a brand of dog food. Neville replied, “Aisle 9, top shelf. And Alfred, don’t forget, kindness to your furry friend will pay you back tenfold in loyalty and love. You’ll need it after your recent breakup.” Alfred, taken aback by Neville’s unsolicited, yet on-the-nose advice, spread the word about Neville’s wisdom.

People started coming in not just to buy groceries but to get answers. “Neville, why doesn’t my husband communicate?” asked a frazzled young mother. “Well,” said Neville, calmly stacking a tower of baked beans, “Communication is a two-way street. You’ve got to give him space to talk, but also make sure you’re truly listening, not just hearing. Aisle 7, next to the marmalade, you’ll find a nice bottle of wine. Share it tonight and let him share his day too.”

So it continued. The store was always busy now. Pilgrims of curiosity and desperation came seeking wisdom from the Guru of Tesco. Management, pleased by the uptick in business, gave Neville two whole alleys for his interactions, the ‘Neville’s Nook,’ they named it, stocked with philosophical books and plush armchairs, nestled between aisles 12 and 13.

Neville never considered himself a guru. He was a listener, a mirror reflecting the wisdom he had absorbed over countless hours stacking shelves and overhearing human stories in all their messy glory. He was merely a conduit of life’s truths, told to him by the very people who now sought his wisdom. In the end, he was simply a shop assistant at a large Tesco supermarket in London.

Still, the pilgrims persisted. Neville’s Nook swelled with people, their lives unfolded like a 24-hour reality show for Neville. His wisdom wove together the tapestry of the human experience he observed, and he dispensed it, never too proud, always too humble.

A businessman asked him, “Neville, how can I balance my ambition with the need for a fulfilling personal life?” Neville, restocking the shelves with fresh cartons of eggs, responded, “Think of life as this carton of eggs. Each egg is an aspect of your life: work, family, hobbies, friends, health, love, personal growth. If you apply too much pressure to any one egg, it’s bound to crack. So, distribute your efforts evenly. Balance isn’t about lessening ambition; it’s about giving equal importance to everything else that makes life worth living. By the way, Aisle 11, next to the mayonnaise, you’ll find a lovely book on work-life balance.”

An old woman came in, hunched over her walking stick, asking, “Neville, I feel the chill of loneliness in my bones. How do I warm my twilight years?” He gently guided her to a seat and told her, “Your golden years are like the end-of-season fruits—deep in flavor, rich with life’s summer. Start by sharing your bounty. Join a community, volunteer, engage with your peers. There’s a senior center down the road, they meet every Thursday. Loneliness isn’t fought with company but with connection. And, Aisle 3, right at the middle, a selection of teas to warm your nights.”

Even tourists started including a visit to Neville’s Nook in their itinerary. “See Big Ben, Ride the London Eye, and ask Neville a life question” was the unsaid rule, the offbeat attraction that outdid all others. It wasn’t uncommon to find someone from Germany asking about existential dread and another from Australia questioning the true meaning of love, while someone from Japan sought guidance about the balance of tradition and modernity.

And so, Neville lived his peculiar life, always in Tesco, always by the aisles, always there for anyone who asked. He kept to his job, stacking shelves and lives, giving direction to lost items and lost souls alike. People came, listened, left, but Neville stayed. In the vast aisles of the supermarket, Neville found his calling, his purpose, not in the grandeur of a guru, but in the simplicity of being human.

All images generated using Midjourney