Things being what they are, the demand for my professional services hasn’t exactly been overwhelming in recent months, as opposed to our bills, which continue to be impressively overwhelming.
With that in mind, I took a part-time “essential services” job as a cashier with a local grocery store.
After decades on the consumer side, this is my first foray to the other side of the conveyor belt, and it’s been an eye-opener in many ways.
To wit: I offer up this bagful (“Is plastic OK?”) of random retail ramblings accumulated over the past month:
* First off, grocery cashier is a stressful job, mentally and physically demanding in ways you might not have imagined unless you’ve done it. First off, just standing in place that long (six hours with one 20-minute break in the middle, for example) is taxing by itself, particularly if you’re not a high school kid as many of my fellow cashiers seem to be. Meanwhile, you’re getting a steady and often non-ergonomic upper-body workout, grabbing, scanning, bagging and hefting…over and over and over through a seemingly infinite ribbon of groceries. (Pro tip: If you’re one of those mega-buyers of pop or other heavy items, please, oh please leave ‘em in the cart and let me scan them there. Saves everyone time and defers my hip and shoulder replacements a little while longer. And a special place in heaven is reserved for those kind souls who make sure the UPCs aren’t buried.) Then there’s the mental stress. While most customers are actually pretty nice, some…aren’t so nice. (I know standing in this line probably isn’t your favorite part of the day. It’s not mine, either.) Beyond that, getting you checked out fast and without crushing your eggs or bread requires a constant series of near-instantaneous packing decisions. As your order starts flowing toward me, I’ve already, out of necessity, paired up at least two bags worth of stuff in my mind. And the mind-numbing hits just keep on a-comin’, hour after hour. So to summarize, just sayin’: Please have a heart, we’re doing our minimum wage best for you and it’s not as easy as we may sometimes make it look.
* Doing all of the above while breathing through my mask for six hours just makes it that much more fun. Trying to understand what you’re telling me through your mask amid the din of grocery store background noise makes it even funner!
* Ya’all are eating and drinking WAY too much junk. Seriously. Quarantine or not: Just because you can get a deal if you buy a half-dozen six-packs of pop doesn’t mean you should. There are some good healthy eaters out there, for sure, but the majority seem to be sucking down pop, beer, chips and other crap at an alarming rate. I’m in no way claiming sainthood there, but yikes!
* Paper bags inside plastic bags is a match made somewhere other than heaven. I get that you want maximum structural integrity, but paper grocery bags fit inside plastic bags like Jackie Gleason putting on Cher’s pants. Average age of shoppers requesting this awkward combo: 72.
* Please use the order dividers. I’m busy enough without having to try to divine where your order ends and the next one begins.
* I’ve had an affinity for coins ever since I got into collecting them as a youngster. That said, dealing with change in general - and pennies in particular - is a cashier PITA. Much as anything, it’s the inevitably awkward handoff. Any change permutation ending in “4” or “9” pretty much blows.
*Oddity: Complete strangers addressing me by my first name, by virtue of the name tag I forget I'm wearing. Still catches me by surprise. I just want to respond, "Hey Bob! How's it goin'?"
“That is all. Thank you for visiting Register 13, and have a great day!”