May 6, 2009

produce in my sink

produce in my sink

In mid-march, I quit my dreadful waitressing job at a place I’ll call The Pasta Shack. I was so over the Shack. The chef was a sociopath, the owners kept accusing their best servers of stealing, I kept having to cover shifts for the people getting unustly fired, and then having to train a whole new set of degenerates to replace my friends. The longer I stayed there the more the place seemed to me like a sinking ship, and the day I quit I pictured myself a flea jumping off the back of one of the drowning rats on board.

Myself-as-flea remained suspended in that jump throughout  most of April, while I lived off my much more tolerable second waitressing job and contemplated my options. My strongest feeling was that I needed to stop waitressing full-time. Serving had rendered me bitter and resentful, perpetually spiteful and annoyed. I needed a job where I didn’t have to kiss ass all day defending crap food I wouldn’t even eat. I wanted a job that I believed in, a job that would reflect who I really am, something that that would align with my values. And now I work at a grocery store.

It’s not like I’m working at Stop n’ Shop. Of course if I was going to work at a grocery store it would have to be one with bulk bins full of spelt and shelves stocked with tahini and ghee and gluten-free pretzels. I’d loved shopping at the Hippie Market, prices notwithstanding, so I when I saw the sign for an opening in the produce department, I thought only: I love vegetables! I love fruit! This is destiny!

Its funny, because the entire time I was agressively persuing the job, not once did I stop to think about what eight hours of work in a grocery store would actually be like. It appealed to certain ideals—working in an environment I enjoyed, for a company I respected, providing healthy food to the community. I had vague visions of myself stacking celery and making pyramids of locally grown organic apples, chatting with customers about how they would cook their asparagus, expounding on the nutritional benefits of leafy greens.

I actually do get to do those things, but it’s not quite as glamorous as it seemed in my imagination. Mostly, I handle boxes. I recieve boxes, I move boxes, I unload boxes and then I break down boxes. Everything about the job is so different from the work I’m used to doing—really, the only common denominator is food.

I read somewhere once that serving is like gambling. Everything is unpredictable. You never know at the start of the day what time you’ll leave, how may tables you’ll get, or how much money you’ll make. For all the crap tips and unpleasant customers, those nights you walk out after a mere five hours with a fat wad of twenties in your pocket will hook you. Fast.

I might as well admit I haven’t quit it completely. I kept my part-time cocktail serving job at the Grungy Music Venue because the thought of having to survive on one paycheck alone and only being able to get cash out of an ATM is too scary and bewildering to contemplate right now.

At the Hippie Market, I know exactly when I’ll go home and how much money I’ll make that day. I know exactly what I’ll do—shuffle boxes, wash kale, rummage through baskets of potates and remove the rotten ones, take two paid fifteen-minute breaks and one unpaid half-hour break—but I’m already starting to find the peace and the pace of the routine.

It’s probably one of the most un-stressful jobs I’ve ever done. There are a series of tasks to complete within a day and I execute them, one by one. If customers have a question, I answer them. It seems like every time I look at the clock an hour has gone by and it’s time to take a break. At this point, a week and a half in, I’m only wondering: Is there such a thing as too easy?


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