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Monday, January 11, 2010

{W}rite of Passage: The Job

My first official job was when I was 18. For years before that, I had been babysitting off and on, and working at our church occasionally. I got paid sometimes, but it wasn't really a job for me. I liked kids, and they liked me. I was one of those responsible kids that adults felt comfortable leaving their children with. I was always "working" for people who were either family or good friends of the family though, so it never really was like a real job.

The summer before I started college, my mother told me that if I got a job, she would get me a car. (She never did, but that's a whole other story.) I landed a job at a nearby grocery store as a checker. I should have known things weren't going to go well when a friend who was a manager told me, "You don't want to work here." I applied, was hastily accepted, and thus began my training.

My "training" didn't quite go as planned. I showed up when I was supposed to, in one of the awful teal shirts that were the uniform, and found the manager who was supposed to train me. Apparently she was pretty disenchanted with the whole idea. She looked me over, sizing me up, and then told me to go an open register she pointed at. To do what, you might ask? Well, to check people out of course! The "lovely" manager thought I didn't need training. Never mind that I had never checked anyone out or used a cash register before!

I had to learn on the fly how to ring up produce, what to do when someone paid by check, and how to handle food stamps and WIC checks. It was one of those things where I had seen it done for years, but had never really thought about it and all it entailed. I had some very visibly annoyed customers that night. Thankfully, none of them took it out on me. I was also extremely grateful for an older checker working next to me, who took pity on me and would coach me through transactions when I needed help. Unlike the "manager". (Who was a different person from the one I knew, by the way.)

I want to say that I found my rhythm, and after some time things went smoothly, and we all lived happily ever after. Yeah, right. What I hadn't known at the time, was the the whole chain of stores was a sinking ship. We cycled through managers on a monthly basis, each one more apathetic than the last. Eventually, with everything I had going on with school, I was only working one night a week, and after a grand total of six months as an employee, I quit all together.

There was no love lost, and less than a year after I quit, the entire chain of stores closed. I did learn some valuable things in those six months. Things like, I am always nice and patient with the person ringing me up at the grocery store. I've been on the other side of the fence, and I know the crap that they have to put up with from customers on a daily basis. (When I was a checker I lost count the number of times *I* got reamed for the price of something by a customer. You know, because I had control over that, right?)

I also help bag up my things if there isn't a bagger there, because I know the stress and fear that comes when you don't have one. The groceries are piling up, the people in line are impatient, and you have a million things to do at once. So, I help.

I also am very careful to not pick up things without a UPC code on them. Having to get something price checked is an inconvenience to everyone involved. I am sure to mark the PLU number of any produce I get that is out of the ordinary, like the time we bought star fruit. Any good checker will have a lot of the produce codes memorized, (bananas-4011, green grapes-4033, red grapes 4032, etc.) but there are things that I don't expect them to know offhand. I don't want to have to wait while they flip through that little book looking for it either. So, I write it down, or I make sure to get one with a sticker on it.

The six months on that job taught me a lot. It taught me to be nice to those people at the register. It taught me what it felt like to get a real paycheck. It also taught me that some people out there really don't care about others. I think everyone should work at least once in their lives at a job where they have to deal with the general public. If anything, to learn that the general public can really suck. Maybe by learning that, more people wouldn't treat others as crappy, and the overall suckitude of the general public would decrease. It's a nice thought anyways.

1 comment:

Jim said...

I've learned to be nice to a lot of different occupations since I've:

o Worked in a feed store.
o Worked in restaurants and concession stands.
o Worked as a janitor.
o Worked at a gas station.
o Worked in a grocery store.
o Worked in a discount store.