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.