Are You Being Served?
The Changing of the Guard

The Players:

Young Mr. Grace
Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold
Cpt. Stephen Peacock
Mr. Ernest Grainger
Mr. Percival Tebbs
Mrs. Betty Slocombe
Miss Shirley Brahms
Mr. W.C. Humphries
Mr. James "Dick" Lucas
Mr. Mash
Miss Bakewell
Canteen Manageress
Two gentleman customers


Notes for non-British readers: septic means infected; tuppence is two pence; cor anglais is a French horn; afters means dessert; Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII, was beheaded; someone told to pick up his cards (his employment certificates) has been fired.


Scene 1

Men's Counter

As Grainger is handing a small bag to a gentleman, Humphries and Lucas are talking at the other end of the counter.

Humphries:    (sighs) Poor Mr. Grainger.  His last day as senior assistant, and
                      he's  barely made a penny in commission.

Lucas:            Yeh, he was hopin' to go out with a bang.

Humphries:    I thought for sure that gentleman with the silver cane who came
                      in earlier was going to spend some money in our department.

Lucas:            And he would have done, if we sold silver polish.

Grainger:       Mr. Humphries, are you free?

Humphries looks left and right, then at Grainger.

Humphries:    I'm free.

Grainger:       I'm going to rest my foot a bit, Mr. Humphries.  I'll just be in
                     my chair.

Humphries:    You do that, Mr. Grainger.  I'll alert you when a customer comes in.

Grainger:       Thank you, Mr. Humphries.  (he goes to chair and sits)

Humphries:    Oh, it's so sad about Mr. Grainger, isn't it?  Struck down in the
                      prime of life.

Lucas:            Prime of life?  God save us from old age!

Humphries:    Oh, you know what I mean.  If that ambulance hadn't run over
                      his foot last Christmas, he'd have had a few more years here at
                      Grace Brothers instead of taking early retirement.

Lucas:            Yeah, it's too bad.  But he got a nice settlement from the
                      ambulance firm, didn't he?  And don't forget his Grace Brothers
                      pension.  Not that it isn't forgettable.

Humphries:    Still, I hate to see him go.

Lucas:            Well, there are certain benefits, though, aren't there?

Humphries:    What do you mean?

Lucas:            Oh, don't tell me you haven't been countin' the days.  You're a
                      dead cert to take over, aren't you?  Not that I mind moving up
                      a notch in the rat race.

Humphries:    Tsk.  The rat race is quite overrated, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:            Oh?  How so?

Humphries:    Well, even if you win, you're still a rat.

Lucas:          Hmmm.

Humphries:   And anyway, I wasn't even thinking about who'll take over.
                     I'm a professional salesperson, Mr. Lucas, content to provide
                     the best level of service I can in whatever position I happen
                     to occupy.

Peacock walks over to mannequin near Men's Counter.

Humphries:  (nonchalantly) Any word yet, Cpt. Peacock?

Peacock straightens mannequin's tie.

Peacock:      If you're referring to the senior assistant's position, Mr. Humphries,
                    I won't know anything until I'm advised by Mr. Rumbold, as I told
                    you earlier.  And yesterday.  (looks at Humphries) And the day
                    before that.

Lucas:         (to Humphries) Has contentment fled, then?

Humphries:   Well, I will admit to being curious.

Lucas:           Thank heaven they're not makin' us wait until after our holiday.
                      I don't think you'd make it!

Peacock comes over to counter.

Peacock:       You know there are several candidates interested in the position,
                     Mr. Humphries, many with more seniority than you.

Humphries:    I'm disappointed but flattered.

Peacock:       But I'm sure I'm not revealing any secret when I say that thanks
                      to your excellent record in this department, you would have
                      to be considered the favored candidate.

Lucas:            There you have it.  And another thing some of our staff are
                       going to the new branch store in Brighton when it opens after
                       the holiday.  Isn't that right, Cpt. Peacock?

Peacock:         (nods) Yes, there's a bonus for senior assistants willing to relocate
                       to the new branch.

Lucas:             So there go some of your competitors, off to Brighton

Humphries:     Yes.  It's too bad Mr. Grainger can't get one of those positions.

Peacock:         Yes, well, unfortunately, when Mr. Grainger received that
                       settlement a few weeks ago and decided to take retirement,
                       the application lists had already been filled.  Rather unfortunate
                       timing, I'm afraid.

Lucas:           He would have fancied being head of the Railyard Boutique
                       we're opening there.

Humphries:     Yes, that's a job he can do sitting down demonstrating the toy
                       trains.

Lucas:             Yes, he'd have to stand only twice a day to take on tea.

The lift bell rings, and Peacock heads for center floor.  A well dressed gentleman descends.

Lucas:          (to Humphries) Cor, here's a chap with money.  Look at those
                       cufflinks!  Aren't they from Cartiér?

Humphries:     More like Fort Knox!  I'll get Mr. Grainger (goes to Grainger's
                       chair, where he is asleep.)

Humphries:    Are you free, Mr. Grainger?

Grainger wakes with a start.

Grainger:        Er, yes, yes, I'm free.

Humphries:    Customer, Mr. Grainger.

Lucas:            Very well turned out, and all!

Grainger:       Er, thank you.  (goes to counter, where customer has just arrived.
                     He is wearing a vicuna coat and sports a diamond tie pin.)
                     Good morning, sir.  How may I help you?

Man:          Thank you.  As I passed by your store, I couldn't help seeing that
                     splendid suit you have on display in the window.  The grey silk?

Lucas:            (whispering to Humphries) The one that costs 300 knicker!

Humphries:     Here's his big sale!

Grainger:        (brightens) Ah, yes, sir.  The Italian pure silk.

Man:               Yes, that's the one.

Grainger:        Very good, sir.  What size are you?

Man:               Size?  Oh dear, I don't want the suit.  I just want to know
                       if you have a tie that colour.

Grainger:       (sighs) Tie rack, Mr. Humphries.

Humphries:   (sighs) Tie rack, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:           (sighs) Tie rack.
 



 
 
Onward to Scene 2

(c) 1999 John F. Crowley