Monday, February 2, 2015

Bag it all

In high school I worked as a grocery bagger at the neighborhood family-owned market.

I made $5.25 an hour (a 10 cent raise from minimum! go me!), wore the uniform of terrible men's polo shirts that were several sizes too large, "faced" the aisles, re-stocked the Shasta soda machine out front, went on cart-return missions no matter the weather, directed customers where to find the pre-made pizza dough, and made sure to put the bread and eggs in a separate bag from the heavy stuff.  To sum it up, I was the world's best and also the world's scrawniest bagger.

Ugly uniform aside, there were some great perks to the job.  My co-workers were great. They were mostly college kids and other high school kids working part time, and the management did a great job of hiring friendly, personable people.  Those of us in High School would work either a 3pm - 7 pm shift or the 7pm - 11 pm shift on weekdays and a 4 or 8 hour shift on Saturdays.

I dreaded the 7pm - 11 pm shifts because (and Blake will confirm this) I've always needed a full night's sleep. And by full night's sleep, I mean at least 9 hours.  I love sleep.

The only thing that I looked forward to on those late nights was when, twice a week, I was on bakery clean up duty.  Now, we weren't technically allowed to take home the day-old bakery goods, but it seemed such a waste to just throw them in the dumpster.  So, often, the other bagger and I would triple bag the doughnuts etc., take them out back, and place them next to the dumpster instead of in it.  That way, at the end of our shifts, we could sneak back around the building and take the bounteous and slightly stale freebies home.

Now that I think about it, maybe this is where my illustrious career in dumpster diving began?

I also prided myself in being an excellent bagger.  I kept the meats with the meats because meat juice in with the produce is disgusting.  I kept the frozen goods together to self-insulate.  I put the bread on top and the eggs in a separate bag.  Maybe it's because I was only 16 and trying to prove my worth, but I really took my job seriously.

This brings me to the important point of this jog down memory lane.

Bad baggers.  There's always that one bad bagger at the grocery store that you try to avoid.

There's one at our local Giant and I will reverse my cart mid-line just to get away.  He puts the bread on the bottom and slams the eggs around.  He lets the produce roll out of the produce bags and then practically throws it into whatever bag is nearest.  Yes, I know I'm picky, but I specifically choose non-bruised apples...

Last week I thought I was home free.  I had loaded all of my groceries onto the conveyor belt and had just answered the checker "doing well, how are you?" when my bagging nemesis showed up at the end of the counter and started pulling out my re-useable bags.

I looked at my groceries - breads, produce, meats, eggs- and back at him with an internal wince.

Each week when I grocery shop, I bring two large reusable bags.  They don't fit everything, but I like to get a few disposable plastic bags because I use them as kitchen garbage bags.

I asked Bad Bagger to not overload the re-usable bags and then to use plastic for whatever didn't fit.  Then I chatted with the checker while I saw the total rise and rise (I hate how expensive food is...).  The next time I looked over at Bad Bagger, he had tried to stuff everything into the two bags.  Cans, bread, eggs, produce. All squashed.  The bags entirely too heavy.  I asked him again if he could use plastic for whatever didn't easily fit into the two bags because I'm not allowed to lift anything super heavy right now.  He just stared at me and kept putting cans in the already overloaded bags.

I had to ask for/pay for several extra plastic bags and re-bag the groceries myself in the parking lot so that they were light enough for me to lift into the car.  By that time, my bread was flat, my apples bruised, my grapes squished, and, well, you get the picture.

Take some pride in your job, man. But until that time, I'll be requesting that I bag my own groceries. Because a good bagger, much like an elephant, never forgets.


  1. Replies
    1. I am embarrassingly opinionated about the strangest things...

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