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Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: An Ongoing Series

Crappy Jobs I’ve Had: An Ongoing Series

Editor’s Note:  Wednesday I apparently blacked out or something and fell back into the ways of an investment banking Vice President.  However, instead of subjecting some disgruntled associates and analysts to a false deadline, I for some reason imposed one upon myself.  Next week, I will get back to my Fantana-ish “60-80% of the time, there’s a new post every day (during the week).”  It’s probably good to establish some keep-em-on-the-edge-of-their-seats-wondering-what-it-was-like-to-be-a-donut-cook-in-the-late-80s dramatic tension anyway.

The first leg of the Tunica trip was an unmitigated success, with SO and I both posting solid wins in our craps session.  Up about $1600 total, not including the $100 I gave a kid for rolling like 7 5s in a row, or the 15 or so Vodka Crans imbibed.  Late night menu at the ‘Shoe was a little lacking though – no chicken fingers??  Are we in like Siberia?

Also of interest was that our rental car, a sweet Chrysler 300 the size of 60s Caddy, was brand new.  2 miles on the odometer.  Good omen.  

Back to Tunica, Sunday night.  In Little Rock for the wedding now.  Enjoy your weekend, C17.   




If you are trying to piece together the narrative of my life through this haphazard collection of experiences, hopefully at least one clear theme emerges: I’ve had a lot of fucking jobs.  I am talking major breadth here: from cleaning up some kid’s vomit at T-Bell to supervising nuclear reactor startups; from helping orchestrate corporate mergers to carving up deceased turkeys – that’s kind of the gamut.  And I was initially excited by the opportunity afforded me in each of these gigs, although the final verdict was invariably disappointment.  Today (and tomorrow) I will relive my trials and tribulations during my brief tenure at Food 4 Less.

This was the time period in my life following failing out of college and at least a year before joining the military – Guns N’ Roses, Dirty Dancing, The Cosby Show were the isht.  I had some cash flow problems – for the first time ever, I wasn’t getting along well with management at The Bell and my work hours were fluctuating wildly.  I was living on the floor of some friends’ apartment.  (Although that probably sounds horrible to you, I remember this time very fondly.  Probably a total of seven people lived, for the most part, in a one bedroom apartment – someone bringing a slab of ham home was like a gift from God.  It was essentially like a three month party – sans alcohol, so it was more like a sixth grade party. (Those were simpler times indeed.))  

I needed to find some supplemental employment post-haste.  The local grocery store, Food 4 Less, was hiring, but the competition was fierce.  As with the poultry plant, Food 4 Less had upped the ante: $5/hr.  Now, granted, I had spent one (highly unsuccessful) semester in college at this point, so I wasn’t as blinded by the dollar signs.  Even at this youthful age I started to realize that these highly paid jobs came did not come without supreme personal sacrifice.  I hit it off well with the hiring manager, a giant of a man (who was probably among the first users of anabolic steroids for improving appearance, not athletic performance) that could smell my (soon to be wasted) potential a mile away.  I was hired – as a checkout person.

Having worked this many jobs, I can with all appropriate modesty claim that I usually rise to a level of average competence at the task at hand (rarely, of course, above average).  That being said, scanner technology in 1988 was in its embryonic stage.  Finding that fucking UPC code back then was the proverbial needle/haystack situation.  After finally finding the inconveniently-located little bastard, it took at least 25-30 attempts to get it to scan.  I won’t even start with my inability to bag the groceries in anything resembling an efficient manner (in my defense, this was before Tetris).  And the disgruntled housewives were viciously disapproving of my leaden performance.  I lasted one night on the checkout.

Given that there were many different work roles required to make a Food 4 Less operate at the highest levels, there was no need to discard a strapping young lad just because he was a shitty checkout person.  I mean, really, isn’t that a girl’s job anyway?  Isn’t housewife-to-be DNA wired to know where the bar code is on a Shake ‘N Bake box?  For those of you from NYC, you wouldn’t recognize a store like F4L – it was approximately as big as the warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark.  This wasn’t a 900 square foot rat-infested Gristedes, it was a gigantic Hot Pocket emporium.  I was given a second shot as a late night stocker.

At first glance, being a nocturnal stock boy seemed optimal – I was closing T-Bell a couple of nights a week anyway (having lost the coveted 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM weekend slots when I foolishly went to college), so this would mesh well with my late night schedule.  We did stocking on Friday and Saturday nights, so it meant you could theoretically still enjoy a portion of your weekend nights and then head to work.  Between the 20 hours at F4L and a similar amount at TB, I would be able to right my cash flow situation and figure out where my life was headed.

Except for stocking groceries was backbreaking, time-sensitive work.  A background in bailing hay or being a left tackle was better stocking experience than frying taco salad shells or playing tennis.  And you could get some mad splinters from the pallets!  I found myself unable to get all that shit off all those pallets and onto all those shelves in anywhere near the alloted time.  I lasted two days as a stocker.

There was one alternative left, one that really worked against my desire to never have to awaken before 1:00 PM.  They asked me to be the fucking donut cook.  The ignominy!  But I didn’t have a whole lot of choice – the sweet aftermarket turbo in the 280ZX was now producing sufficient smoke to suggest my ride was equipped with a wood-burning fireplace.  (Also, if you doubt my love for the 280Z, check this recent New York Times article).  The upside was that there were more hours to be had, this was a Monday through Friday gig.  The downside was that I was closing T-Bell a few nights still, so getting home at 2:00 AM and getting up at 4:30 AM seemed like a bad combination.

What was it like?  I’ll tell you tomorrow.