My first job was as a grocery bagger at a busy grocery store next door to my high school. It was between my eighth and ninth grade years, I was fifteen. There were many things to hate about that job. For some reason the one that really stuck in my craw was the fact that I had to wear a tie. What benefit did it serve the store to have a bunch of fifteen year olds running around in poorly knotted ties? Seriously, one guy showed up who had his tied in a square not. This was the first tie I’d ever been forced to wear or own, it had an image of the Lone Ranger on it. Why the Lone Ranger? I have no idea. It must have been on sale at Name Brand Clothing, a precursor to TJ Maxx where our mom diligently searched the racks for high quality knock offs or damaged real things a few times a month. I hated wearing that tie, “What are we, waiters?” I used to ask my fellow “courtesy clerks.”
I had two friends at work a guy named Matt and a guy named Ryan. Ryan told everyone his nickname was “Two Scoops.” I shit you not. When queried as to the meaning of the nickname he informed us it was because that’s how big his balls were. Most of us agreed he should probably see a doctor. Matt was the pretty boy grocery bagger and played it to the hilt. He was a handsome dude and he used it to climb the job ladder at the store, hoping someday to be the produce manager. A decidedly low aspiration but he eventually worked into middle management. The job was grueling, upper nineties in the parking lot, hundred percent humidity, downward glances from the douche bags in produce and lewd jokes from the deli boys. The deli was where you went after courtesy clerk if you were good, if not, you eventually made cashier. I wasn’t planning on sticking around that long, playing tetris with tampons, eggs, and frozen waffles was not my idea of a cool after school job.
Sometimes we would get tips from old ladies or what would now be considered “cougars.” We were not allowed to accept them. I politely refused whenever anyone offered until I found out that Matt was making an extra twenty bucks a day. Bastard. I started accepting them but never cracked the ten dollar mark, not even on a Saturday. About a month in I caught Two Scoops drinking a Snapple on the sales floor. Snapple was relatively new to our area and they were coming out with new flavors all the time. Two Scoops was taking drinks and putting them back on the shelf, “I’m trying all of them.” I asked him if we were allowed to do that, it was my first job, I didn’t know. He told me we got free drinks and the only thing he was really doing wrong was leaving his trash on the shelf. We got free drinks? I didn’t see that in the orientation video. He was the most well respected courtesy clerk, so I figured he must have known what he was talking about. I grabbed my own Snapple and a magazine and took a twenty minute break. Two Scoops got fired later that day.
The worst thing that would happen at Dillon’s is that someone would spill something and we would have to clean it up. The biggest pain in the ass I ever attempted was three jars of grape jelly. I picked all the glass out of it but then was kind of at a loss. I couldn’t sweep it into a dust pan, the jelly would ruin the broom. Matt told me to get a mop, which I did. I’d never mopped anything in my life. I filled the bucket up with water but then I just flopped the mop down on top of the jelly dry. It was a mistake obviously. I spread the jelly around the aisle into a huge mess. Matt came by and was like, “Oh my god, what are you doing? Haven’t you ever mopped anything?” What the fuck did it look like? Of course not. It took us an hour and a half before the floor manager, Candy, decided it was up to her specifications.
Another point of contention was their requirement that we all have hair that didn’t extend past our collars. At this point I was rocking “Whatever’s Cool With Me” by Dinosaur Jr. on steady repeat in my Walkman and I wanted long hair pretty bad. Unfortunately, I have bushy, curly hair and it wasn’t working, plus there was this rule. In attempt to not have to work there in anymore, I gave myself a mohawk. A bad one. Just terrible. Nobody said anything. Except Matt who said, “Dude that’s the most fucked up mohawk I’ve ever seen.”
Finally, it was time for me to get my ass kicked up and down the high school football field so I put in my two week notice. The next day I checked my schedule and I had a shift every day for the next two weeks and the two weeks past that. What the fuck? I worked everyday for those two weeks but best believe that I drank my share of Snapples.
For almost a whole year after I quit working there, the old lady cashiers would ask me if I was working that day. No, I told them, I got a much better job. At Schlotszky’s.