This time last year there was a lot of uncertainty in my life, both personally and professionally. Heading into 2020, I was hopeful that the year ahead would bring me good fortune and opportunity. Thankfully, I was correct. I had two amazing opportunities as a professional, and I personally had a great deal of good things happen too. However, what none of us could have anticipated was that a global pandemic would hit — and it hit hard.Continue reading 2020: A Year To Remember
I never had a chance to see Ace Frehley, the original lead guitarist of KISS, perform with the band. By the time I started attending KISS shows, Tommy Thayer was the new “Space Man.” So, when Ace announced the tour for his new solo album – Space Invader – I was ready to finally see him live.
“Have you gained weight?”
“Are you married?”
“So, do you want my number?”
“Do you carry milk?”
“I need condoms now! Where are your condoms?”
Some have been flattering, some have been insulting, but they’ve always been entertaining. This is especially true when it comes to the illogical questions. Speaking of which, I had two customers ask me what I classify as the most perplexing question of all time. But before I reveal this astoundingly bizarre question, let me provide some context.
I work in what most would call a “traditional” supermarket, and directly across the street is an organic food store. For many customers – and employees – having these two stores next to each other is extremely convenient. Many of them shop at both stores and those who drive park in our lot or the other store’s garage. However, sometimes people leave their cars in the organic store’s parking lot when they’re shopping in our store and don’t come to this realization until after they’ve bought an absurd amount of groceries.
This brings us to the strangest question that’s ever been uttered: “Do your elevators go to the other food store’s parking lot?”
The first time I was asked this question, I was stunned. The person that asked it seemed intelligent, and as far as I could tell the individual wasn’t drunk or high. The same goes for the second person. Let’s think about this from a physics perspective. For our elevators to reach the organic food store’s parking lot they’d have to do the following:
- Propel the customers upward
- Disconnect from our elevator shaft and turn in mid-air
- Burst through the cement and brick wall of our building
- Float across the street
- Smash through the organic food store’s edifice
- Somehow connect to the other store’s elevator shaft
- Arrive at the floor where the customer parked his or her car
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound feasible to me. And even if it was, that seems like an awfully dangerous way to travel. This isn’t Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While I would love to take a ride on the Great Glass Elevator, I’m fairly certain it’s not at the local supermarket.
On my lunch break, especially when the weather is nice, I like to take a walk and listen to a chapter or two from an audiobook. This allows me to decompress and exercise at the same time. My usual destination is Rittenhouse Square, the epicenter of social activity in center city Philadelphia. Little did I know that I’d run into one of the most bizarre individuals in the City of Brotherly Love during one of my daily treks last week.
Last Friday I stared at my computer screen, realized it was lunch time and headed for the door. With my earbuds popped in and my iPhone at the ready, I picked up where I left off in the audiobook version of The Da Vinci Code as I took the elevator to the ground floor of the building. I’m revisiting the book in anticipation of Dan Brown’s new novel, Inferno, and it’s just as good now as it was 10 years ago.
The steel doors opened, I passed the security guard and burst through the front doors onto Broad Street. Passing by a motley crew of University of the Arts students, I approached the corner of Broad and Walnut Streets and gazed up at City Hall – the world’s tallest masonry building. To this day, it still impresses me every time I see it.
Weaving in and out of human traffic, I made my way to Rittenhouse Square in record time. Upon my arrival I turned left and searched for a bench where I could unwind and focus on the story being piped into my ears. As I traversed the curved path I noticed to the right a crazy-looking woman with frizzy hair. I walked forward several benches and found an empty one, seemingly waiting for my behind to rest on it.
I sat down and within two minutes the aforementioned crazy woman left her bench to join me. I ignored her but she started to speak, so I took out my headphones and said, “What?” As I turned toward her I noticed that her skin was weathered and laden with deep-set wrinkles. Her unwieldy mane of hair blew in the air as she said to me with a two-toothed grin, “Can you light this for me? They don’t let me light them.” Bemused and wondering who “they” were, I looked down and saw in her outstretched hands a cigarette and a lighter. Hoping this would convince her to leave me alone, I said, “Sure.”
Assuming everything was done and over with, I put my headphones back in and continued to play my audiobook. Then I realized Frizzy Frannie was still talking to me. I took out my earbuds again and she said, “You’ve got the power! Come on baby, light my fire. Come on baby, light my fire. Try to set the night on fire.” While I’m a fan of classic rock, having a gravely-voiced senior citizen who looks like she could give Lindsay Lohan a run for her money isn’t my idea of a good time. Thinking quickly, I acted like I received a phone call I had to take and said, “Excuse me.” To make it convincing, I stood several feet from the bench and said to no one on the other line, “Where are you? I’m in Rittenhouse Square. Yeah, I know where that is. I’ll be there in five minutes.” Then I swiftly walked away, leaving Frizzy Frannie by her lonesome.
Rittenhouse Square is a beautiful park that’s regularly inhabited by street musicians, people having picnics and doormen walking dogs. It’s a great place to unwind and soak in a beautiful day in the city. But like any urban oasis, you never know who you’re going to find on the other side of the bench…so have an exit strategy in mind.
In the great book Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich, the author mentions suspecting that, when in retail stores, adults act like children because their children act out at home and they have no other place to vent. Whether these acts are conscious or unconscious is anyone’s guess. But it’s an interesting idea that I see played out each time I’m at the food store – parents acting worse than their kids. They do all sorts of ridiculous things, including putting items they don’t want in the magazine rack (I’m pretty sure pickles don’t go there!), spilling something and telling no one and leaving their trash at the register.
In addition to trash, many customers leave their shopping carts at the end of the line. This used to bother me, but as long as it’s not in the way of the next customer, I let it slide. However, once in a blue moon I’ll get a shopper whose stupidity and rudeness is off the charts and he or she will leave the shopping cart at the front of the line. Yes, you read that correctly; after emptying their grocery cart, some customers will back up and leave their shopping cart in front of the cashier’s line or in front of a display. I had the great fortune of ringing up one of these clueless individuals today.
After emptying his cart, he said to the woman behind him (who was waiting to put her items on the belt), “Excuse me, would you please back up?” She gave him a bemused look and got out of his way. Then, as he was about to push and leave his cart in front of a Tide display on the end of an aisle, I said very loudly, “Excuse me sir! Would you please bring your cart though here?” motioning to my line where he previously was standing.
He obliged, and I glowered at him as he approached. And I couldn’t help but notice how his massive gut was testing the elasticity of his shirt. Once he got to register, he said in a southern drawl, “Oh, I didn’t know these had to come through. Is that a rule?”
Without hesitation I said, “Yes. That’s a rule. You have to put it back where you found it.”
Beer Belly Bob responded, “Well, I didn’t find it here.”
I said, “I know. You found it over there,” pointing to where the carts belong.
“What’s your name?”
“Michael,” I said.
“Is this your full-time job? Is this what you do for a career?” he asked.
“No. I work here part-time, I have a full time job and I’m in graduate school.”
Beer Belly Bob responded with, “What are you studyin’?”
I said, “Communications, which is why I like to be clear. Any more questions?”
He didn’t have anything else to say. Like any customer, I thanked him for shopping, gave him his receipt and told him to have a good day. Once the encounter was over and he left, I was proud of myself. Not only did I get him to do the right thing, but I remained composed when he tried to push my buttons and get me to say something he could report. While it’s sad that he feels the need to determine someone’s worth by his or her job, that’s his problem.
If you learn anything from this story, it should be this: Always put your shopping cart – and pickles – back where they belong, and don’t judge others because of their job title. The world is already overpopulated with condescending, myopic twits. Be open-minded and happy, and most of all, have respect for others.
This past weekend at the supermarket was incredibly busy. The time sprung forward and the weather was beautiful. On top of that, it was the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia, which meant lots of jovial people walking – and stumbling – in and out of the food store wearing shamrocks, beads and anything green. However, it wasn’t the men in kilts blowing bagpipes or the old, mustachioed lady with shamrock antlers that caught my eye. It was Viagra Man.
While ringing up waves of customers at my register, I longingly look at the front door, especially on a beautiful day, thinking about what it would be like to be outside. I also enjoy people watching. My eyes lit up and I guffawed when I saw an older man wearing a NASCAR-inspired jacket emblazoned with the Viagra logo on the front and the back. Immediately I wondered why he would be walking around in public in such garish attire. Was he a proud user of the popular drug? Was he being paid by Pfizer to wear this garment because he was an influential member of the geriatric social elite? There was only one way to find out why this man was OK with being a walking punchline.
In between orders, I kept my eye on him as he traversed the aisles, secretly hoping he’d come to my line. But then I realized, how would I broach the topic of his ludicrous jacket without making him feel self conscious? After pondering this for quite some time, I looked up and saw that he was in someone else’s line. “Damn,” I said aloud to no one in particular. But then he disappeared and I didn’t see him anywhere nearby. I assumed he left without me noticing and my dreams were dashed.
Approximately 10 minutes later I looked at the back of my line and spotted him. I almost yelled out, “Viagra Man!” But, thankfully, I contained myself. Once I starting ringing him up I said, “Are you a NASCAR fan?” He pointed to an illegible signature on the left breast of the jacket and I said, “What’s that?” He responded with a racer I never heard of before and told me the jacket was “a gift” and that he didn’t watch NASCAR because it was boring. I nodded my head in agreement and Viagra Man was on his way. I expected that an old man wearing such an outlandish piece of clothing would have been brimming with charisma and a bundle of energy. But he wasn’t. Viagra Man was simply a person who felt obligated to wear a jacket that was given to him by someone he loved. Either that or he was a damn good liar.
George Carlin may be dead, but his timeless body of work lives on. Here’s one of my favorite bits:
Today was a typical Sunday at the supermarket: insanely busy. However, I was quick to get people in and out of my line. When the lines are long, the only thing to do is keep my head down and establish the highest level of efficiency possible. From time to time, problems will occur that throw off my alacrity.
The first problem during my shift was a man with a bad check. Having encountered these kinds of situations before, I knew what warning signs to look for. Once I saw that his personal check was in the name of a “business” and that his shoddy-looking state ID expired two years ago, I quickly told him we couldn’t accept his check and he was on his way.
In addition to personal checks, which I despise, people pay for groceries in a variety of uncommon ways. Sometimes I get customers that pay with two-dollar bills, silver dollars or travelers’ checks. Occasionally, people will pay with change, which isn’t a big deal as long as the total is less than five dollars.
Unfortunately, halfway through my shift, I rang up a customer who didn’t get the memo on how much change is acceptable for a grocery bill. After telling him the bill was $14.50, he said, “I’m paying with quarters today,” and dumped a massive amount of silver coins on my conveyor belt.
As I started to count the change, I looked at my line of customers, which was bending into oblivion, and apologized for the delay. I then proceeded to count the change. But as I was counting, he added news coins to the pile and threw me off completely, so I had to start again. And while I was doing this, his moronic friend – who should have been bagging the groceries – was filling him in on all the celebrity gossip from a magazine he wasn’t even going to buy. Once the counting was complete, I realized Mr. Quarters gave me two too many, so I gave them back to him with his receipt.
If you think paying for groceries with an excessive amount of change is acceptable, it’s not. Mr. Quarters could have simply visited the bank, which is directly across the street from the grocery store, and turned his sea of quarters into dollar bills, or he could have done the same thing at customer service. Please take this story to heart. Not only will it help you avoid the derision of others, but not carrying around several pounds of metal will also significantly lighten your load.
I’m on my second break at the food store. Why two breaks you ask? Because three employees called out and I agreed to stay an extra two hours. Since I’m working eight hours, I get a second 15-minute break, which I’m spending eating strawberry yogurt, mixed with a crunched up Oreo, and blogging.
In case you’re unaware, tomorrow is the Super Bowl. Consequently, I’ve been hit with endless waves of customers, all of whom are spending between $200-$300 on an absurd amount of groceries for Super Bowl parties.
I just got called back to the front. To be continued…
And I’m back. Clearly 15 minutes isn’t enough time to eat a snack and blog. Anyway, where was I? That’s right, hordes of customers buying Doritos, soda and pigs in a blanket.
The rest of my shift was just as insane as the first half. The good news is I didn’t have any difficult or rude customers. But I shouldn’t speak too soon; I’m back at the supermarket for a six-hour shift right before the big game on Sunday. God help me.
Almost all of my shifts at the supermarket are six hours. To kill the time I regularly engage customers in conversations about a variety of subjects – music, dating, the stock market, and, sometimes, food. Doing so has helped me gain a reputation for being one of the nicest cashiers at the store. Besides praising me for being good at my job, some customers – both male and female – will compliment me on my looks. This doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m grateful that people of different ages, races and sexes find me attractive. On a crappy day, having some old lady tell me I look “like a movie star” makes me feel like a million bucks. However, when customers cross the line, it can get creepy.
One night, several years ago, I was in the express lane ringing up countless customers. My line stretched all the way to Egypt, and I was doing my best to get them in and out as quickly as possible. Even though I get paid by the hour, and not per customer, I still take pride in being efficient and establishing a quick, rhythmic pace. This results in me getting lost in the moment and time slipping away like grains of sand.
After the rush of customers had gone home to have dinner, I let out a sigh of relief and took a swig of water. When my eyes landed on my next customer, I instantly recognized him; he lived in the neighborhood and, based on the scrubs he always wore, worked at a hospital. We’d never spoken outside the store and I didn’t know his name, but I still “knew” him. However, this time he was accompanied by another man, whom I didn’t know.
After placing his items on the conveyor belt, I greeted him and he drunkenly slurred, “Hello handsome.” His friend, who I quickly deduced was his partner, yelled at him: “Jack, stop that!” Jack continued by saying, “I’ve seen you outside the store. You look good in regular clothes.” Needless to say, I was mortified. This customer was drunk and hitting on me, in front of his boyfriend no less – who kept yelling “Jack!” every time he said something inappropriate. All I could do was say, “Do you have your savings card?” and get him out of my line as quickly as possible.
After he left, I never saw Jack at the supermarket or in the neighborhood again. Either he and his partner broke up and he moved away or his partner killed him; I’m not sure. I’m just thankful there wasn’t a sequel to that incredibly awkward experience. One encounter with Jack “Daniels” was more than enough for me.