Friday, November 10, 2017

Pushing Buttons

by Sage Sherman 

“Hey I have to run to the bank, can my kiddos just hang out with you for a bit?” Asks a lady I barely know. Being a store clerk involves a lot more than stocking shelves, bagging groceries, and pushing buttons on a cash register. I do many odd jobs throughout my shifts at the store, such as babysitting strangers’ children, cleaning up some pretty questionable messes, and unloading a very poorly loaded truck. Most people are shocked at all the extraordinary tasks involved in the store, but to me, it’s just another day.

I think that one of the strangest roles I have at the grocery store is babysitting strangers’ children. Just last month I had a Hispanic lady come in with a small baby. “Aww, he’s so cute!” I complimented, and she grinned widely at me and shoved the small child into my arms. Suddenly I had a child I didn’t know anything about under my care as the mother went grocery shopping. Naturally, the baby started crying and screaming its head off, and I had a line of people waiting to be checked out. I tried to get the mother’s attention, but as luck would have it, she didn’t speak much English.

That wasn’t the first babysitting incident I’d experienced at the store either. When I first started working there, I had a mother send her six year old son into the store every day after school and he would follow whoever was working around the store and tell them stories about him fighting monsters away on a motorcycle. His mother would come in right before closing and make jokes about us being a free daycare. It got to the point that the manager had to have a talk with her, and threatened to start charging her for every hour she left her son unattended at the store.

Babysitting is definitely odd, but it is nothing compared to some of the messes I have had to clean up at that store. A couple summers ago I was going about my daily routine, stocking shelves, running the cash register, doing all the typical store tasks, when I had a young family come in and ask where the restroom was. I pointed them in the right direction, and went back to stocking the canned goods. Soon I heard kids screaming and laughing, then zooming out the door. The father purchased a can of Dr. Pepper before leaving, and right before he walked out the door he said “I apologize for the mess they made in your bathroom."

I smiled at him and assured him it couldn’t be that bad. I was so wrong.  Walking to the public restroom I huffed in horror at the sight of pee all over the floor and toilet seat, rolls of toilet paper soaked in it, along with the bottle of soap and the trashcan. I quickly called in back up to run the register while I dealt with the mess. I gagged at least four times while mopping, sanitizing, and hauling out trash. It took me a good two hours to completely clean up that disaster, and all the while I couldn’t help but think “Minimum wage is sooo not enough money for me to have to put up with this shit.”

Another cleaning disaster that gave me that thought happened just last summer. I had completed all of my duties for that day, and I had seen a total of 5 customers in 4 hours, so I decided to start my newest book. Naturally, the second I turned to the first page I heard the door chimes alerting me to the presence of a customer. I smiled politely at Kasey, a friend of my brother’s, as I made my way to the cash register. All Kasey had purchased was a 12 pack of Mountain Dew and a can of Wintergreen Copenhagen, so it didn’t take long for him to be on his way. 

The second he jerked the 12 pack of pop off the counter though, I knew I was in for a world of stickiness. The cardboard tore, and Mountain Dew went flying. “Oh shit.” Muttered Kasey as 7 of the 12 cans broke open and their sticky green content sprayed over us.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” I sighed.

“Sorry. Hey, can I grab another 12 pack though? I’d stay to help clean up but I’m supposed to meet Dakota in 5 minutes.” Kasey said as he slowly backed towards the door. I rolled my eyes at him and went to grab the mop. 

Another odd job that I do at the store is one that would be considered rather normal if not for how it was loaded. Unloading freight is something that all stores have to do. The store I work at though, makes it rather difficult. Freight refers to all the shipments of items we bring to the store to sell, so it can be anything from bath bombs and toothpaste, to eggs and pancake batter. Our freight comes on numerous different pallets that we unload with a forklift. Whoever loads those pallets must have zero thoughts or cares for who unloads it. Most of them are loaded upside down, and by that I mean the heaviest things, such as meat and milk, are on top of the six foot tall pallet and the lighter items, such as fruit and even occasionally eggs, are on the bottom or in the middle. This never made much sense to any of us, especially because we are forced to send many items back because they are broken or crushed. 

The tallest member of our staff is a whopping 5’5, the shortest is 5’1. Having to unload a dangerously put together pallet at 4:00 in the morning is never fun. A couple weeks ago our ladder broke the morning our truck came in and I, being the youngest member of the staff, had to climb up the stack and attempt to hand the manager, who has a bad arm from doing this very job, and a fellow employee of 60 plus years 3, 60 pound boxes of meat from the top of the stack. It ended with all three of us sporting some pretty incredible bruises, and severely sore arms. 

Another questionable job that comes with unloading freight is sorting through it. I spend an average of 9 hours a week sorting through apples, oranges, lettuce, peaches, bananas, and numerous other types of fruits and vegetables to make sure none of them are moldy, bruised, or bad in any way. When I’m finished there, I move on to the bread and eggs. If anything is smashed, cracked, rotten, or impaired in any other way I have to remove it from the bunch, lay it in a “Return box”, write down exactly what it is, and then take the box to my manager. I’ve never questioned what happens to it from there. 

One time I was sorting through the eggs, and I noticed too late that the bottom of the box was mushy. I set it on my lap, jumped at the wet, gross feeling, and the entire box fell. We had to send back 12 cartons of eggs that week. 

While working at the store can be a long, tedious experience a lot of the time, there are always odd tasks to be done to make the day interesting. Babysitting sweet, and sassy, children who I don’t know, cleaning up messes that make me feel the utmost sympathy for janitors everywhere, and unloading poorly loaded trucks are just three of the strange tasks that make me love and despise every second I work. Many of my friends have asked me how I handle doing so many weird things, but to me, it’s just another day in the life of a store clerk.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Gettin’ Dirty

by Hannah Higgins
Ever stick your hand up a cows butt? Have you ever had to spray yourself off with a hose because you are covered from head to toe in cow shit? I have, when preg-checking cows, and it is just one of the many things I do for my job. I work on my family ranch and I have a lot of different roles when working. Some of the roles a ranch hand fills are being a stand-in vet, a fencer, a member of the hay crew, and a cattle worker.

As a ranch hand you sometimes have to act like a vet. For example, when preg-checking heifers you have to lubricate your arm and then slide it into the cow’s anus and maneuver through the cow shit and soft tissue until you can reach down into the cow’s uterus. You then can gently feel around until you find a fetus, or lack of fetus. We do this once a year so we can sell cows that are not pregnant because they are not going to make us any profit on the ranch.

Another job we have is preforming C-sections. We once had a cow that got the name Big Mama when she was pregnant because her belly was so big that she could hardly walk. We figured she was having twins because of her size but after my dad gave her a C-section we discovered that she just had one enormous black calf that weighed about 190 pounds, over one hundred more pounds than the average calf weight. There was another instance when we had a cow that was in labor for over 4 hours and still didn’t have the calf’s front feet showing my grandfather had to do a C-section to get the calf out but when he opened her up he found that she had twins. The first calf that he pulled out had a head the size of two basketballs and both calves were born dead. Neither my dad nor my grandfather has a veterinarian degree but they have had to be stand-in vets.

Fixing fence is one of the jobs that I must do regularly. The fence may need to be fixed because it is old and run down or because cattle break it. We once took in some yearlings that ended up being wild and they got spooked one night and ran through two fences. When we tried to put them back in the right pasture they went crazy and ran through three more fences. The cattle barreled through five fences in the matter of twenty-four hours and it took us a week to fix them all.
One time in the summer when I was moving cows I noticed a broken fence, or more like a lack of fence. Almost seventy yards of fence was just completely missing, and the fence that was there was a black color and felt as if it was covered in soot. The fence had been struck by lightning and appeared to have disintegrated when hit. The wire left over was so pliable that I could bend it into any shape. Wire that pliable wouldn’t make a quality fence so I started walking to find where the flimsy wire ended and the good wire started. I walked another fifty yards before finding wire that could be used. We ended up having to replace about 125 yards of electric fence. Seeing wire that had been struck by lightning was a new sight for me, so fencing was actually interesting.

Another job that a hired hand does is haying. This usually takes about one month and includes bailing up mowed hay and creating bails. I have been on the hay crew since I was twelve and have been running the rake tractor the entire time. Raking means being out on the meadows as soon as the sun is up and staying out there at least until the sun is down and sometimes longer. Most of the days we don’t even stop for lunch we just eat and drive at the same time. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with haying. We are in charge of large tractors with a large rake on the back. Breaking anything on the tractor can result in an expensive replacement or a loss of progress.

Two years ago I was raking in a meadow about two miles from our house and I drove the tractor into this small circular cut between two swampy areas. My left rake wheel was about to drop in the water so I started cranking on my steering wheel and pulling the rake together with the lever. I discovered that doing both at the same time is a bad idea because the next thing I know my left rake wheel had gotten wedged between the ground and my tractor steps. I slammed on the clutch and called my uncle, Casey, because I didn’t know how to fix this problem.

After I told him what I did he replied in a disgruntled voice, “That’s alright, just come hop in the bailer and keep bailing for me while I fix it. There looks like there is a storm coming so we need to get as much done as possible.”

I hopped out and walked to the bailer, and was going for about fifteen minutes before I noticed that I had gotten the bailer plugged.

Casey comes running over after getting my wheel out from under the steps and I can see the irate expression on his face. “DAMN, I LEFT YOU FOR BARELY FIFTEEN MINUTES!” After he screamed, he calmed down and got right to work without adding another word.

We had to disassemble the bottom of the bailer and cut the hay that was wrapped around the pick up head and then put the bailer back together. By the time we finished, Casey had just enough time to bail up the hay that was previously raked before it started to rain. We headed for home in deafening silence and I knew that I had just set us back at least two days. A day like that make the hay season longer than it should be.  

Cattle work is the main job of a ranch hand and involves a lot. The cattle will need to be moved at least once a week and taken Purina tubs at least twice a week. On our ranch we have about two thousand head of cattle so you can expect to move or feed something almost everyday of the week in the summer.
If it is between April and June then we are in our calving season, which means three times a days somebody has to check our two groups of cows and one group of heifers to tag calves. These checking trips could take thirty minutes, two and a half hours, or more depending on how many you tag. If the cow is taking too long to have her calf or if the front feet aren’t the first body part showing then the calf will have to have be pulled. This involves putting a rope on the front feet and physically pulling the calf out the mother. If this is done correctly, and in time then the calf will be born healthy.

This past May I went out checking with my dad on a Sunday night before school.
“Hannah, come with me to check the heifers. It won’t take more than thirty minutes, I was just out there.”

We went out there and the cow that was calving when dad was out there still hadn’t had the calf so we decided we would have to pull it. We were chasing her on the four-wheeler, trying to rope her and I ended up running her through a three-wire barbed wire fence. Once I got her back in the pasture my dad got her roped and then he was able to tie the ropes on the calf’s feet and pull him out. We had to wait for the cow to clean off the calf and then head back to the house to get fencing supplies. A trip that was supposed to be a short thirty-minute trip ended up taking about three and a half hours. This is a normal delay in the life of a ranch hand.

Although some of the time my job can be very boring and can consist of a lot of early mornings, I am glad I have a job where I am doing different things each day. Waking up and not knowing whether you are going to be fencing, being a stand in vet, haying, or doing normal cattle work allows for variety and makes the job more enjoyable.

Snakes, Fire, and Hay

 by Marlee Taylor
Two teenage boys stood before me trying to take their order. They gave off the vibe of cockiness. You could tell they were the “popular” boys in school. I got through the first one no problem. He’d give me the side smile every once in a while but nothing major until he looked at his friend and said, “Hey, Brad show her your biceps.” Instantly I rolled my eyes and wanted to hand their order out as soon as possible. I didn’t think Brad would say anything since he was already red in the face.

“If you let me take you out back I’ll show you more than my biceps,” Brad said confidently.

I couldn’t believe what he just said. He said it loud enough for some of my co-workers and customers to hear. Everyone looked at me, waiting for what I would do next. I was livid at what he said. He was proud of himself too. I gave him his change and walked away. My boss was angry and ready to pounce, but I told him not to bother.

This is how some customers in a fast food restaurant are, but there are many different categories of customers, some you could talk to all day and some you want to leave right away.

One category would be old people. You never know how an old person will act, so you have to hold your breath and hope they’re nice. You’ll come a crossed a lot of old people who are kind. They will never give you trouble and you will want to do anything for them in gratitude for their kindness. There’s also old people who come in that you wish wouldn’t. They demand for senior discounts and treat you like the dirt they walk on.

“Okay, that’ll be $13.95.”

“Well didn’t you give me MY senior discount?!”

If they’re ordering in the drive-thru they expect you know they are eligible for the senior discount just by the sound of their voice.

“Hey! I get a senior discount!”

It’s hard to make them happy because they already made the decision they would never be happy. With these customers you just have to ignore their attitude and continue to do your job.

Other customers you will serve are children. Whoever is watching the child determines how the child is going to act. Sometimes they do as they’re told and don’t disturb anyone, but other children aren’t so well behaved. Other children will push other people’s buttons to see how far they can go. Normally parents jump right on it and make them stop, other parents are pretty laidback. Letting their children talk really loud, run around raising hell, and let them go to the bathroom by themselves.

“Guys, you need to stop,” most mothers will say but obviously don’t care.

Their kids will stop for a second then go back to yelling and screaming. Smearing ice cream on the windows, running around the place and bumping into other people, and running into the bathrooms together.  I’ve had children run behind the counters where workers are only aloud. I don’t normally become mad because they’re children and are trying to have fun. Being a worker it’s hard since you have to try to gauge when you should speak up and say something, so normally you mind your own business and continue to do your job.

Some of the worst customers are the free-loaders. These customers try to score as much free food/money as they can. This past summer us workers had to deal with difficult free-loaders. A couple mistakenly ordered the wrong thing when they meant to order a cheeseburger, so they wanted to change it and get some of their money back. A co-worker of mine was the one who originally took the order and started to figure out how much we owed them.

“Okay, we owe you guys sixty cents.”

“No, we should get more than that back.”

 I stepped in and started to figure out what the difference would be.

“Sorry, I also got sixty cents.”  At this point the couple was frustrated. I turned the computer around to show them how we were getting sixty cents. With the evidence right in front of their face they still denied it. I went and got a manager and told her what was going on.

She came out saw the difference, got the sixty cents and gave it to them saying “Sorry for the mix up but you do only get sixty cents back.”

The customers blew up, “We should get more back than that! You guys keep it; you obviously need it more than we do!” They stormed out of the building.

We had another lady trying to score more money, but she went about it another way. We had a co-worker dry mopping but she forgot to put up wet floor signs. This lady saw this opportunity and took it. She walked out of the bathroom and walked back to her table. As she was walking she “slipped.” I could tell it was fake. She exaggerated her movements extremely, she threw her arms up into the air and shook them around and staggered all over the place. She limped to the nearest table and sat down moaning. The co-worker who was mopping looked stunned and scared. I went and told my boss, Sha, what happened. She went and talked to the lady. The lady told Sha what happened and said she already had a leg injury. She left and went to Quality Urgent Care. She brought back the bill and said that we had to pay for it and that she could’ve sued us if she didn’t tell Sha that she already had a leg injury. The owner of the restaurant didn’t pay for the bill.

There are some customers, mainly men, who are really creepy. There’s the older men who are too friendly or the teenage boys who won’t stop flirting and sometimes go too far. There’s an old man that comes into orders food a lot, and sits down so he can watch the workers. He’s a fragile, skinny old man who has a crooked smile that will make you cringe. You can catch him staring at female’s butts and when you look at him he just gives you that creepy smile. He’s been coming through the drive-thru lately. One time when I was collecting on his order I caught him staring at me. I had already given him his food, when I looked behind me he had his head stretched out looking at me and slowly drove away.

We had another incident recently where a man grew a liking for one of my co-workers. It got to the point where he would always ask if she was working and would ask for her to take his order, “Hey, is Alissa around?” or “Could I talk to Alissa?” One night he came in and she took his order but didn’t take his food out to him. After he was done eating he asked to speak to her but she didn’t want to. She stayed in the back and pretended she was busy. The man was persistent in wanting to talk to her to the point she was in the back crying. The manager went out and told the man, “Sorry, she is busy right now talking to her mother. She seems pretty upset, so please leave her alone.”

The man waited until she was off work to confront her in the parking lot about it. “Alissa… Why did you make such a big scene?” She was able to get in her car and leave quickly. The man hasn’t been seen at my work again.   

There are customers you love to see because they brighten your day and are regulars. We have an old lady who comes through the drive-thru and orders a cup of coffee and a chocolate cone. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, she come in a lot. She is really kind and always says “Thank you.” We also have an old man come through who order a large Mountain Dew and sometimes a Life Water. He’s sweet but rarely says anything. There’s a woman who comes through who has at least four children and always orders drinks. She never buys anything else and is always happy.

Working in a place where you deal with the public can always be tricky. There are always those customers who aggravate you to the point of wanting to quit but there are also those customers who cheer you up and make you see the joy in working. Working in fast food isn’t as easy as people make it seem, especially dealing with some of the customers.