A guy walks into a bar and asks for a shot of whisky. As the bartender pours, the guy starts sharing his story. “Oh, man, I need this,” says the guy. “I had a bad day at work. My co-workers are morons, the clientele are just a bunch of idiots, and every day is a struggle to just stay sane. My job sucks. I really, really, really hate my job.”
At this point, the woman sitting next to the guy turns to him. “Pardon me,” she says, “But I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying. Let me just say that YOU ARE A FUCKING LOSER! GOD, THERE IS NOTHING MORE PATHETIC THAN A MAN WHO DOESN’T LIKE HIS JOB AND DOES NOTHING BUT WHINE ABOUT IT! IF YOU HATE YOUR JOB SO MUCH THEN JUST QUIT, YOU FUCKING LOSER!” She throws her drink in his face, slaps him across the face, then storms towards the door. As she’s about to leave, she turns and yells out, “AND BY THE WAY, YOU’RE PROBABLY GAY, TOO!” The man has his shot of whisky, dries his face, and asks the bartender for another one.
As the bartender pours, he begins consoling the man. “You know,” he says, “she does have a point. I mean, at least once a month, you’re in here talking about how much you hate your job. If you don’t like it so much, why don’t you do something about it?”
The man speaks. “Look,” says the man. “You’ve said it yourself. I’m in here once a month talking about how much I hate my job. What about the other days of the month? I only have one bad day at work every month. That’s a pretty good track record. Just to set the record straight, let me tell you what I like about my job.”
Trust me, for as much as I rant about how much I don’t like working in a grocery store (9 columns out of 156, yeah, I dwell on it a lot), it does have its perks. There are those who read the columns that come out of a bad day and get the idea that I do nothing but sit in the backroom all day long just letting this hatred brew and brew. That could be further from the truth. There are times when I genuinely like my job.
For example, there was the time I got sent on a spy mission. Our store likes to boast about having the lowest cigarette prices in town. And we should boast, because we really are the cheapest place in town to get all your carcinogens. We also like to keep it that way. So, in order to maintain this status, once every couple of months the manager gets some money from a till and heads out to our rivals to buy some smokes. With the receipt as proof, prices are compared and we lower or raise ours to maintain the lowest prices in town. Well, back in November, when we got our first snowfall, I was the only one who actually braved the snow by driving to work. Being the only one with a car, the job fell to me. I was given money from a till, directions to all of our main competitors, and orders to come back from each with a variety of tobacco products and a receipt. Changing out of my uniform and back into street clothes, I headed out into the town with my assignment in hand. I hopped into my car, dug through my tapes, and finally found my James Bond music. Cruising through town, I headed to the more popular gas stations and convenience stores, buying: a pack of smokes, a carton of smokes, a pouch of tobacco, and a tub of tobacco. When that was all said and done, it was time to penetrate the stronghold: the other grocery store. I stepped through those doors, focused on my mission. I attempted to blend in, and made my way through the checkout. I placed my order for tobacco, and got it. I left, my mission accomplished. I returned to our grocery store a triumphant hero.
And we must never forget the little things. With Valentine’s Day having recently passed, we were selling novelty panties with hearts printed on them. That’s not so bad, until you remember that we were selling them in bulk. Just reach into the bin and grab as many as you want. So, for most of the first half of February, I had women marching up to me and handing me their panties. In what other job is a man going to be able to have an experience like that?
Even going back to my days as a bagger, there were little things I enjoyed. In my bagger days, the store manager was going through one of his regular paranoid fits that the president of the company was going to be visiting soon, so everything had to be clean. The manager pulled me away from my bagging duties, and took me to the warehouse; a large storage area upstairs. He gave me a broom and one simple instruction: sweep the floor. So, I did. I learned two things: 1) the warehouse is rarely visited. 2) the warehouse has great acoustics. I swept out that warehouse while singing the top 40 at the top of my lungs. Can you get away with that at your job?
Yes, music has played a rather large part at my job. One of the benefits of working the late shift and closing the store is that you can turn off the crappy Muzak that we are forced to play and put on your own music. Once that last customer has left and I begin doing the closing procedures, I have been known to crank up the Star Wars score and “Weird Al” Yankovic on the store’s PA system. I love it.
And for as much as I complain about my staff, I can’t deny that they can do their jobs well sometimes. For example, we had this incident in the store a few weeks ago. It was a slow morning, so I was back in the office trying to get some paperwork done. Then, suddenly, from out at the tills, I heard yells. “Oh my God!” someone said. “Call the manager!” Since I was in charge, I thought I’d better head out there and see what the heck was going on. Well, when I got out there, I found that one of my cashiers had collapsed and split her head open on the floor. She was lying there with a pool of blood around her head, while a customer pressed paper towel to the wound. I must hand it to my staff, they knew how to leap into action. One got on the PA system and called the assistant manager, the store’s first aid officer, down from her office. Another got on the phone and called the ambulance. I was just standing around trying to figure out if I was needed. I have never been more proud of my staff than I was at that moment. There was a crisis, and they didn’t panic. They knew what had to be done, and did it.
And of course, you can’t work in a female dominated environment without developing a crush on a co-worker. She was a supervisor and she left the store about a year ago. In fact, it was because she left that I got my supervisor position. I’ll never forget when I just started there, and a little boy asked her how old she was. She said, “I’m 19.” The first thing that leapt into my mind was, “YES!! She’s legal!” She just had this innocense and purity of soul to her. The customer service industry can be a soul-crushing profession and for her to survive in that environment showed an incredible strength of character. And her laugh…. Yeah, I was smitten.
Maybe it also helped that she was one of the few who “got” me. Whenever I would talk about how much I hated my job, or go on a Tyler Durden-style anti-establishment rant, she’d just kind of shrug and say to the others, “Don’t listen to Mark. He’s just talking his crazy talk again.” I’ll never forget our final night together. She left for a better job before heading off to university, and she was training me to be a supervisor. She was showing me how to do the store-closing procedures, and it was just her and I, alone, in the store. When we were done and we were walking to our cars, across the moonlit parking lot, I considered telling her how I felt, but decided against it. Something told me that the feeling would not be mutual. She still comes into the store occasionally, when she visits home on the weekends and such, and whenever I see her, I consider telling her that, many times, it was her smile that got me through a tough day. I haven’t done so yet, and I probably never will. Ahh, if only she knew.
But I’ll never forget the time when I knew I truly loved my job. I had been a supervisor for only a few months. It was my second Sunday, meaning for only the second time, I was the guy truly in charge of the front end. It was rather slow, and so I was just relaxing a bit. Then, suddenly, everything exploded. There were lines at every till. This cashier needed my help with something. Another one needed my help with something. The grocery manager came up to me, needing my assistance with something. After I had doled out my advice and returned to my till, I couldn’t help but take a moment, reflect on what had just happened, and smile. There was no doubt about it: I was in charge. I couldn’t help but feel a certain pride in my crew, and in myself. It must be what the great captains of Starfleet felt. Leadership is a burden, but the rewards are so sweet.
We return to our guy in the bar. He finishes his shot of whiskey, and his stories about his job. The guy looks up at the bartender and says, “So you see, even though I may complain about a bad day, there are so many good ones that go unsaid.”
The bartender smiles and says, “Then why aren’t you in here celebrating the good days rather than drowning your sorrows about the bad ones?”
The guy thinks about this for a while, and finally speaks. “I guess the bad days just make for better stories.” The guy pays for his drinks, and turns to leave. “Anyway, I guess I’d better get going. The Mrs. tends to get worried when I come home late.”
The bartender speaks up. “Hey, yeah. You haven’t brought Lance in for a while. How are you and him doing?”
The guy speaks. “Oh, he and I are doing fine. I should bring him in some night. He keeps saying I don’t take him out enough.” The guy chuckles to himself. “I still can’t help but think about that woman who said I was probably gay. If only she knew….”
The bartender laughs. “If only she knew this is that kind of bar. Sometimes, I just can’t believe the redneck mentality that homosexuality is an insult.”
The guy laughs. “I’d better get out of here, or you’ll start telling me about your bad days.” The guy and the bartender exchange farewells, and the guy leaves.