STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
And we go now to France for a kind of supermarket Cinderella story. A cashier in France has become a literary sensation. Twenty-nine-year-old Anna Sam turned her routine job into a humorous memoir, and now her book has been translated into 16 languages and turned Sam into the author she always wanted to be. Here's Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
ELEANOR BEARDSLEY: Unidentified Woman (Actor): It's lunchtime and your first customer of the day is stuffing his mouth with a tuna salad sandwich. Chewing noisily, his mouth wide open, you get a glimpse of every ingredient. When you ask to borrow his sandwich for a moment to scan the price, he takes one more giant bite before handing it over. So what's a little mayonnaise on your fingers and crumbs on your register?
BEARDSLEY: Despite the indignations, Sam says in some ways the job actually made her feel good about herself.
ANNA SAM: Unidentified Woman: By taking a job as a cashier you have also chosen the best route to a super new shape. The cashiers' perch is the perfect place to tighten those buttocks, build those biceps, and yes, ladies, even firm up those breasts. Just compare yourself to a customer or a new checkout girl who doesn't have the firming experience you have behind you.
BEARDSLEY: Sam began working as a cashier during college to support her literature studies. When graduation came and went, no other jobs were available. So she stayed on and on. Five years passed. The work was ungratifying and mind-numbing - until she decided to write about it.
SAM: Unidentified Woman: The automatic gestures and sentences repeated thousands of times a day aren't exactly conducive to cognitive development. But they welcome that you could put your espirit on automatic pilot. Enjoy the mental relaxation. You can pick up your faculties on you way out of the store at the end of the day.
BEARDSLEY: Sam first started writing in a blog, where she provided a running account of what went on in the world of a cashier. Titled "Cassiere No Futur," her blog attracted a large number of readers, then newspaper reporters. Soon publishing houses took note, and Sam had several book offers.
(SOUNDBITE OF FRENCH RADIO AND TV PROGRAMS)
BEARDSLEY: Since her first book, Sam has become the toast of TV and radio talk shows. With a second book, also about the supermarket world, just off the press, Sam has now left her till behind for good. It wasn't all bad, she says, and reads one of her favorite chapters about how the cash register beeping could sometimes transport you into a dreamlike state.
SAM: (Through translator) The store is packed. Shoppers rush to and fro, their grocery carts squeak and rattle. A voice over the intercom barks out the latest sales promotions over a backdrop of jangling Muzak. The general brouhaha intensifies. The store is approaching its maximum sound threshold. The squalling of a brat tips it over the edge, opening the passageway to this other dimension.
BEARDSLEY: For NPR News, I'm Eleanor Beardsley in Paris.
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