Thursday, January 20, 2005

Back to the Giant

Giant groceries stores. Oh the wonder of it all. All the cans and boxes lined up, row after row, faced to the front of the shelf. There is nothing prettier than a store just before it opens in the morning. The floors are shined, everything is in its place, the produce screams freshness. Rows and rows of fresh steaks and chops. It is a sight to behold.

So how does one become so enamored with something as simple as a grocery store? I was 17. I had graduated high school the previous year and had my VW bug to get from here to there. I needed a job to pay for gas and the ever present rock concert. I needed to find a good job. I had had all those other jobs. You know the ones that include the ability to smell like a taco when you arrive home at midnight. Or the one that promises lots of hours and money that end up in 10 hours a week during a slow season. Yes, those jobs. So, as my grandpa always said "if you want to work forever, work for a newspaper or a mortuary. Someone always needs something to read, and people die every day." Well I didn't have journalistic desires at 17, and I certainly didn't want to work in the death industry. I thought what else do people always need? Food! So I was off to make my way in the food world! Waitressing was also out. I had eaten out, one too many times, with a very picky person. I was not going to endure someone like them.

The sign went up. A big shiny 8'x10' sign. It was in the middle of the empty lot we had traversed on the way to high school. It read: Coming Soon! Giant Store of your Dreams! We are the best of the best! You will want to shop here! It also had that tell tale symbol on it: AFofL CIO. Hmmmm. Taking applications beginning next week.

I soon found out that the AFofL CIO meant big money. The kind people made in the big city. Yep this was the job for me. It didn't matter then that my neighbor, whose wonderful general store would be affected by this Giant. It's effect would be negative. I was going to apply for a job that paid more than anyone my age had ever made!

The day arrived. I got myself dressed in the shortest skirt I owned, and went down to join the line of hopefuls. It was about fifty feet long. "Oh, maybe I'm too late! Maybe that great job has already been taken!" I stood patiently in line, looking ever so young. I knew exactly what to say when I was interviewed. My turn next! My heart pounding I walked up to a guy in a striking blue blazer. I handed him my application and smiled the biggest smile I could. You see, that was my secret weapon. I have dimples. I had already learned this was the way to gain attention without even trying! He smiled back and asked me one simple question. Why do you want to work here? "Because", I said, "everyone needs to eat". And smiled again. It must have done the trick, because later that afternoon I got the call. Yes! I landed the big time job. The one that paid more than anyone I knew made! Very cool!

Soon I began learning the "ropes" of the retail food industry. I also had the wonderful opportunity of learning to deal with workplace sexual harrassment. I of course went to my boss, who did nothing. The guy kept up, trying to see if I'd give in. Fortunately for me his wife shopped at our store. I simply informed him the next time he tried that I would be willing to give his wife a call and mention our little confab. It worked, and I have never been harrassed since, by him or anyone else.

I learned how to fill a paper bag with food. Those bags, were huge!. They were made of such unrefined paper that many times a day your arms would be raw from the tiny little splinters in the paper. Non food items in one bag. Produce in one bag. Meat in its own separate bag. NEVER put meat in a bag with produce. Cans always went on the bottom row of a bag. Then lighter things fill the bag. Milk? Give the customer a choice.

Simple. This food thing was simple. And it could last a lifetime. It has lasted a lifetime for me. I tried other professions, one that people 'ooh and aah' over. It wasn't for me. There was something about the food. The glisten in people's eyes when you could get them the perfect banana, or pick a watermelon for them. Even something as simple as eggs on top could please the most finicky of little old ladies.

The stories I could tell. The stories I will tell! See you soon.