I took a casual part-time job for extra money and to get my steps in. Or so I thought.
This job taught me so much about myself and how important it is to work with decent, kind, funny, and quirky people regardless of how much they pay you.
Cock -a- doodle- do!
The rooster crowing starts my shift as an instore-shopper for a higher-end grocery store. My fellow workers, are diverse and from all walks of life. I am thankful and inspired by them.
Remember to Delight in the small things
"Oh, look here comes the train on the overhead track." Kids still squeal when they see it. A model train in a grocery store is among the most magical things ever.
Another is a perfectly ripe avocado. They are really hard to find. You have to know what they look like and what they feel like. More magic is watching the store employees use a metal ruler to straighten the rows of wine bottles so they line up. My inner organizer is thrilled.
We (me and my fellow shoppers) trick out our shopping carts like purposeful homeless people with indoor jobs. We try to maximize our shopping time and make sure our metrics align with corporate standards. Some of us have special cup holders we bought off of amazon. Some would tie scarves to the handle bars to easily identify their cart in a crowd. We drink our coffee, eat our granola bars and all while moving.
Pushing my cart around and talking to myself like a crazy person. Aren't we all a little crazy these days? The muzak now is reflective of all the hits I grew up with in the 80s. Sometimes I dance and sing while shopping.
It's mandatory to have three messages to a client so they felt like we were paying attention. I chose the "short and sweet" message to my customers. I use carrot emojis and most of my customers have no clue what they mean.
Some of my fellow shoppers arrive with full on makeup and hair done up. I look like a shlub. I pull my hair back and wear the most comfortable clogs I can. I was sweating most of the time like a beast. I hope no one I knew would see me.
Am I too judgey?
Big sigh. How can you tell if the customer will be problematic?
They order mostly organic food = problematic
They order all vegan food = complete pain in the ass
They order gluten free food = they seem a little cranky
I once had a client ask me to take pictures of everything I bought for her. If you are that OCD shouldn't you just shop for yourself?
The general public approaches the grocery store like a great wilderness of the choices and a haze slides over their eyes. They are oblivious to their surroundings and how to drive their carts and where to park. They get in my way when I am trying to work. I resent their clueless-ness. But I still get things off the top shelf for the little old lady because I am working on being nicer.
The shoppers I worked with really worked so hard. They were constantly moving. The shopper application doesn't really allow for many breaks. I'm sure the corporate algorithm was worked out to maximize profits and push people resources as far as possible. Some folks are working their second or third job to make ends meet.
As I writer, I think of myself as collecting stories for my writing while working other jobs.
I know painters who are dog walkers and poets who teach yoga. There are fashion designers who shop at the grocery store for others. It's all proof of flexibility and resilience.
Corporate standards are mostly devoid of humanity
The application I use for this shopping job has a count down noise like a bomb about to go off. All I can think about is Oscar Goldman's exploding briefcase.
Steve Austin, the Bionic man had a handler named Oscar Goldman. As a kid, when the toys came out we got Oscar as well as Steve. Steve had "skin" on his arm that would roll up and expose his bionics. Oscar was a little less interesting but he had a secret briefcase that would explode if you opened it the wrong way. My brother and I would pass the briefcase back and forth waiting for the other to get the exploding side. Sometimes I would just trip it off to watch it explode. The exploding parts just another puzzle to put back together.
At the end of each shift I watch the dial count how many seconds it clocked me during my shopping shift. It tells me I could always do better.
"Remember to offer replacements but no refunds." I think we are the ones that are not replaceable.
The value of helping others
Shopping for others is a treasure hunt.
The majority of people I shop for are incredibly grateful and pleasant to interact with.
It is a little bit of a high to make someone's day that way. Sometimes I imagine that my fellow shoppers and I are bandits during the apocalypse looking to grab resources before others get to it. Looking over my shoulder for zombies.
We use a message board to collectively problem solve when we can't find an item. Everyone joins in to help with clues.
We HATE shopping the produce department because it's messy, disorganized and they move stuff around. But we all love the older English gentleman who works there. He's a younger version of Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street. Friendly, joyful and always willing to help.
The seafood department is a weird no man's land where they play their own music and it smells like fish.
The Bakery department staff couldn't be nicer. Plus it always smells good. I find it comforting and I always want a PB&J while I stroll through.
My first week on the job, I pushed my cart into a display and knocked it over in a large crash.
I looked around embarrassed and several different employees rushed over to help me. "Don't worry. We'll take care of it". One of them whispered to me "at least it wasn't a bottle of wine".
Perhaps all who wander are not so lost.