Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Idle Hours

     Now, for something completely different!  During this crazy holiday season I needed a look back at fonder moments I had in the grocery retail world.  I haven’t talked much about my time at a grocery store since I have so much to work with from my current job.  I spent quite a long time, off and on, working at grocery stores and in some aspects, that world is a lot crazier than electronics.
     Working in the grocery world was my first real experience working at a real job.  I met a lot of fun people and a lot of assholes (like any job).  The customers were idiots but different from the kind I have to deal with now.  It showed me that some people take the ridiculous a bit too seriously.  I look back on my time there with warm thoughts, generally, but I know that if I worked at a grocery store again, I would wonder why I ever wanted to go back.  That said, I did have some good times there and these are a few of them from one of those grocery jobs…
     In the department I worked in, we had a crew of 5-6 main workers (not including our supervisor) that got the work done and did it well.  They were mostly 20-30 year olds who got along with one another – a remarkable feat in the retail world.  We worked quickly enough to have the luxury to goof off when time allowed during the lulls of the day.  And goof off we did!
     There would be a few occasions when we would have 2-3 guys in the department at the same time with zero customers and no pressing work to do.  When this would happen we would head to our backroom past giant swinging doors and find ways to pass the time.  We worked in a department where most of our managers never seemed to go.  It was as if someone had done a magic spell on our department to make us invisible from those in charge.  Not that we minded that, of course.
     Sometimes we just stood around and talked about sports, music, or movies.  Other times, 1 of us would roll up a big ball of shrink-wrap while another coworker would break a piece off of a long cardboard stick and we would play a little baseball.  A few customers probably overheard the crack of the bat or our shouts and cheers whenever someone hit the ball across the room.  Surprisingly, we never were caught, and that was even after one of our coworkers broke part of the light fixture covering when he hit the ball at the ceiling.  The covering ended up having a small round hole in it for as long as I worked there (which ended up being another year or so) without much acknowledgement from anyone about it.
     When the covering was broken after that, we used the fixture as another source of entertainment during our down time.  We took giant rubberbands that we had laying around and tried to launch them at the broken fixture.  Whoever could successfully land their rubberband into the actual light and have it stuck up there would win.  I’m not sure who won, exactly, but there eventually was a winner.
     Other times, we would sneak out onto our receiving dock that was separate from the main receiving dock of our store, close the sliding dock door behind us, and chill on the little edge for several minutes just enjoying the warm summer days.  There was one or two customers, sometimes elderly people who couldn’t find a product on our tables, who would peak their head into our backroom to find someone but they would walk back out empty-handed.  Through the main backroom, which was separated from the receiving dock by a large cooler, we could see a few people through the sliding dock door’s small window as they looked around the backroom for help.  One of our managers even said he had tried to find us but we just told him we were off doing something in another part of the store and we got off with a shrug of the shoulders and a laugh.  I honestly have no idea how nobody ever caught us once.
     The best part, however, came when we had 4 workers scheduled at the same time and we were all able to go on lunch at the same time to Taco Bell for over a half-hour without anyone asking us many questions when we returned (like, “Why was your department empty of employees for a half-hour when we had customers coming in?”).  Our department had more freedom in that store than anyone probably ever guessed.  And nobody seemed to question us because we all worked hard when we were there.  Or maybe we were just that good at bullshitting everyone and they never bothered to delve deeper.
     Either way, the group of guys I worked with in that department for a year or so helped to make my time there one that I’ll never forget.  There was a lot of crap I had to deal with while working there but those coworkers were some of the coolest people I had the fortune of working with.  Anyone who can make a crappy job more tolerable is someone you should thank every day you see him/her because they are rare.
     That goes for my current job and any other job I’ve ever had.  These memories of mine might not seem all that crazy or insane but the breaks from the otherwise monotonous routines at these jobs and the crabby customers were welcomed breaks, indeed.  It’s so hard to find joy in the everyday routine and it’s those who are around us that either make or break a day.  So next time you’re at your job and someone makes you laugh that always makes you laugh or someone suggests you all sneak out for an extra break, make sure you thank them for making a stressful or a depressing job more tolerable.
     Hmmm… Maybe I should send in an application to a few grocery stores?  This trip down memory lane is making me miss the grocery world!
     More soon from the frontlines...