Sunday, February 26, 2012

ABC Wednesday, Magpie 106 and Three-Word Wednesday

"G" is for "Grocery Store"

A few years ago – quite a few years ago – your friend Berowne was a 19-year-old student struggling to put himself through college by working in a grocery store.
The year was 1941. Politicians, the media, everybody was then assuring us that the Great Depression was finally over: jobs were available.
So I got one. I learned the skill of stacking shelves with cans of Campbell soup and other sundry items – and not just sundry; the other days of the week too.
Though the depression was over, no one had gotten around to notifying whoever was responsible for figuring out what an adequate salary should be. My pay was thirty-three and a third cents an hour. You worked three hours to make one dollar.
It may no longer have been the Great Depression, but as far as I could see it was a pretty good imitation.
Anyway, as I mentioned, I eagerly learned the art of filling the grocery shelves and the even more demanding skill of building displays.
Ah that, building displays, that was the exciting, intellectually-challenging work! Just putting cans of soup on the shelves was small-time stuff; being able to build an effective display was the major leagues.
Surely you have, at one time or another, gone into a grocery store and been greeted, just as you entered, by the sight of a magnificently-constructed display of toilet paper, or boxes of macaroni and cheese, or perhaps by a huge, awe-inspiring structure made up of large cans of tomato juice. It’s something you don’t forget. In some stores the displays are so crowded it's hard to navigate through them.
It is at least possible that you may have taken a moment to appreciate the engineering skill that must have been involved in such productions. That’s why anyone who could plan and construct a truly effective grocery display was always in demand.
And usually for a lot more money – forty cents an hour, in some cases. Anyway, to get on with my story, I was the new guy in one grocery store and during my very first week there I was startled to learn that I was to be given the assignment of building an important display.
It was to be in the front of the store, the most important spot, and should be built to a height of some ten feet. A blockbuster, in other words. My guess was, they were testing me, trying to see what the rookie could do.
In addition, the display was to be made up of huge jugs of Dad’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer, a prestige item in that store. These came in cases, four jugs to a case.
I went to work. Le Corbusier himself never planned better or worked harder to produce an architecturally perfect construction. I first set up a huge rectangle of cases of Dad’s stuff as a base, then built on these cases, using the ancient pyramids as my example. Up, up went the cases, and then, toward the top, I threw caution to the winds and used the jugs themselves for the crowning glory of the display.
It was superb – “magnificent” might almost have been an appropriate term for the structure. Until…
It seems that some of the cases that I had used for the base of the display had been empty; someone had removed the jugs. I had had no idea. When the base collapsed the result was disaster.
The massive juggernaut came hurtling down, the large number of jugs crashing on the cement floor. I stood there transfixed. My eyes were crinkled in panic; I was unable to utter a sound.
The store in that area was suddenly flooded with Dad’s Old-Fashioned Root Beer, up to everyone’s ankles.
After the screaming and shouting had died down, the manager of the store thanked me for my service and wished me well in my next job.

42 comments:

Helen said...

OMG, OMG .. I cannot stop laughing on this beautiful Sundry morn.

chiccoreal said...

Dear Berowne: You create a very vivid and comical image of a bagboy's nightmare. I had my little disasters too, as a waitress at 16. Being an absent minded teenager I had forgot to click the bottom of the milkshake machine. The whipped hot chocolate sent the scalding confection everywhere. Needless to say, it was Jimmy's wife, the owner of the restaurant, gave me a deep penetrating gaze, a look, which, in no uncertain terms, meant it was definitely time to say "goodbye". I can SO relate to your well-written tale and laugh hysterically~!!!

Brian Miller said...

oh my...terrible that this was before the age of youtube you know...haha...i worked the loading docks to pay my way through school...so if we dropped something no one noticed...

ninotaziz said...

Well, I am so glad you can talk about the humbling experience today tp brighten up our day.

Cheers, Berowne!

Doctor FTSE said...

Great story and amusing in the telling. But are you sure you weren't being set up for "Candid Camera?"

Berowne said...

Believe me, FTSE, that was long before "Candid Camera." :-)

Kathe W. said...

oh my that was a test to test anyone....poor you...what was your next job? A much better one I hope!Cheers!

Karen said...

You should have taken up art ;)

Roger Owen Green said...

I have done likewise, I'm sure, though i have obliterated it from my memory.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Trellissimo said...

I've heard of crying over spilt milk, bit root beer? Hmmm... :)

Trellissimo said...

Sorry - that should have read 'but' root beer - I saw the error even as I clicked the mouse...

Laurie Kolp said...

hahaha... funny now, but no so then I'm sure...

jane.healy said...

Lovely memory and cleverly written ... love the punch line!

Tess Kincaid said...

33 cents an hour...hard to believe now isn't it?

Berowne said...

Yes, Tess, your prompt took me back - as it so often does. My thanks to you.

Lyn said...

Skill pays...One wishes that you'd gone home and painted a still-life of Dad's Old-Fashioned Root Beer...to be auctioned for a zillion!!

JJ Roa Rodriguez said...

nice one... nice story... :-)

JJRod'z

Tumblewords: said...

This takes me back. But my faux pas was a huge stack of shoes. Well, not my only one, but...

Meryl said...

Some story! True? It doesn't really matter, it was so well written - I have admired those displays, and the planning and attention that goes into them.

Have a great week!

Reader Wil said...

Wow! What a story! When are you going to write a book of short stories? I met quite some talented people on blogger! This is a hilarious story.
Have a great week!
Wil, ABC Wednesday Team.

Berowne said...

Thanks, Reader Wil, for your generous comment. I have always preferred "Reader Wil" to "Reader Won't." :-)

Berowne said...

What an all-star lineup! Thanks for your comments to Meryl, Tumblewords, JJRod'z, Lyn, jane healy, Laurie K, Trellissimo, Roger O G, Karen, Kathe W, Doc FTSE, ninotaziz, Brian M, chiccoreal and Helen.
Drop by any time; I'll keep the light on for you...

Kay L. Davies said...

Oh how funny, but sad, too. Poor you. Empty boxes. I hope you weren't "set up" by other employees.
I failed working at a supermarket when I was 17, and I have no idea why. Like Roger, I've obliterated it from my memory.

Leslie: said...

Good Golly, Miss Molly! You didn't feel the difference in weight??? Lucky they didn't charge you for the loss! Hilarious story, though. Have a great week,

Leslie
abcw team

Wander said...

The art of the desplay is long lost in most places...long gone are the days of the mad dash off to the regester trying to get to the checkstand before the angry neanderthal wearing the Bears jersey and his cart full of Hams and Bar-S hotdogs he closly avoiding, but you not so luckily careening into the monsterious desplay of commet tub and tile cleaner shaped like the Eiffel tower. Sad days these are....

Wander

Rinkly Rimes said...

You manage to find an interesting story for us every week!

Berowne said...

To Rinkly R: It's worth it when I find interesting comments in response...

Chris said...

That is a great story, it wasn't your mistake, you had good intentions. I am sure better things would have turned up now because of that incident.

Sheilagh Lee said...

too funny.I worked in a variety store as a teen.I once tried to pick up a box that was too heavy not only did I hurt my arm but the contents which were all glass broke shattering everywhere as the box too collapsed.I was working alone so I had to clean up the mess with one arm as i had pulled all the ligaments in my left arm.

Berowne said...

I guess everyone has had a similar experience at one time or another. It's always traumatic.:-)

Angel said...

Oh my goodness!

ChrisJ said...

Good story and something most of us can identify with. If they were setting you up for testing your ability a word of advice could have avoided the catastrophe and you would still have learned the lesson. I do enjoy your writing.

Other Mary said...

Oh, spectacular! (giggling, but with...not at, honest!)

Alice Audrey said...

What? No display creation training? It was the store's fault.

Carrie said...

Oh my, what a sight that would have been!

jabblog said...

Hilarious! It sounds like something from a sitcom. I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time. It really was slave labour,wasn't it?

Berowne said...

You really brought my little post to light with your comments - so thanks to:
jabblog, Carrie, Alice Audrey, Other Mary, Chris J and Angel.

sush said...

haha that was a great experience perhaps..

ds said...

Oh, no...poor you...very funny in the re-tell though. I worked in a fast food joint (the food was "fast", i was not) in high school, those first jobs do have their imprint, don't they?

Berowne said...

Wonderful to hear from you, ds, thanks. I don't feel dull; I don't feel hollow. I found myself in your Blogs I Follow. :-)

jaerose said...

Andy knew the beauty of stacked shelves..I think satisfaction can be gained from working hard for a dollar..although maybe in hindsight..when you have the time and a few dollars to sit at a computer and write about it..thanks for your comment! Jae

Sandoval said...

oh my that was a test to test anyone....poor you...what was your next job? A much better one I hope!Cheers!

 
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