Au Suivant

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and for that I presume you are all very thankful. The reason is that by the time I get home from work I simply don’t have the bandwidth to sit down and tap out a coherent…thingy. You know, a collection of words including nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like organised in such a manner as to make them comprehensible to the average person. You see, my usual shift is the closing shift – 1:30 to 10 pm, and by the time I’m finished with dinner, it’s as near midnight as makes no difference, and who has the time or the energy to write at that time of night? Not me, apparently.  I started this post about two months ago, and only now am I getting back to it.

Yes, the day does calm down after seven p.m., but still, there’s a lot to do and a half hour walk home, so by the time I get my shoes off, I’m pretty much done for the day. You may well ask what it is that’s so exhausting, and even if you don’t, I’m going to tell you.

As the title of this post may suggest, I’m always dealing with two people at once: even though I give my full attention to the person I’m serving, I still have in the back of my mind the awareness that there’s another person to be served immediately afterwards, and usually one more after that. You see, we are the only full service deli in town, and people appreciate the fact that we cut meat and cheese to order. Essentially, we are a bespoke service, and that takes quite a lot of energy. We give each customer our full attention and work with them to make sure they get exactly what they want exactly the way they want it. It’s not unusual to have four of us working Meat and Cheese at the same time, all slicers in use, and still have customers waiting to be served. It’s not that we’re slow, it’s just that at times half the town is in the store, and half of them are visiting the Deli.

And that’s just on a regular day. We’ve had Saint Patrick’s Day, Father’s Day, and July 4th since I started, and each of those days, or rather the day  before those days has been a beast. People who couldn’t find Ireland with both hands and a flashlight queue up to buy heroic quantities of corned beef as if it’s the rarest and most desired meat on Earth. Have you ever cut two and a half pounds of  sandwich cut corned beef? Probably not. Let me tell you that it takes a bugger of a long time. Do that half a dozen times in a couple of hours and there’s half your morning gone before you even start. The busiest day of the year so far was July 3. Everyone, and I mean everyone was stocking up for the following day’s barbecue at the same time. We worked like dogs just to keep up, and on days like that, other things just don’t get done. You see, we try to keep the slicers as clean as possible by giving them a good wipe down with hot sanitiser any time we have the opportunity. However, when we don’t get a break the only thing we can do is brush the fragments onto the floor with a piece of paper and move on to the next order.

This means that the floor looks like someone has overturned a bucket of scraps and then gave them a good kicking around. Of course this means that when we eventually do get a chance to clean the slicers it takes about three times as long as usual just to make them acceptable. By far the worst is the cheese slicer as cheese adheres to the side of the blade and once it gets too caked on, it begins to snag the slices and tear them, making even more mess and more work. Sometimes the only option is to get some very hot sanitiser and give it as quick and vigourous a cleaning as time permits and move on, as once the sanitiser begins to cool even slightly, it loses the ability to deal with the dried on layer of cheese.

Anyway, we survived, if only just and then prepared for the fourth as those customers who realised at the last moment that they’d forgotten something made an emergency shopping run. Of course I knew I’d be working on July 4, if for no other reason that the FNG always gets the dirty end of the stick. At least I was Mid that day, so I would be finished at seven pm and be home before Amateur Hour. Until we learned that my closer had just called in sick. I mean “sick”, because if he actually was sick, then I’m the king of Poland. On the principle that it’s better to volunteer than to BE volunteered, I let the lead know that I’d be willing to stay and close. Admittedly this wasn’t purely altruistic as I was on double time all day and an extra three hours overtime would come in useful. Long day, very long day, although after 2pm it got really quiet. Still, that meant I had another eight hours on my feet and by the time I got home, my socks bore a close resemblance to tourniquets.

Despite the above, it’s not a bad place to work as I’m usually kept pretty busy and most of our customers are decent types. I’ve come to know a couple of them by name and well enough to have a short chat with them, including one local who always, and I mean always wears this Liverpool F.C. cap. The only bright red baseball cap that I can look at without sneering at the wearer.  There are the usual number of ungrateful and unpleasant people, but not so many as to ruin the day on a regular basis, and they are more than outweighed by those who are friendly and appreciative. We do work very hard to work with our customers to ensure that they get exactly what they want how they want it and also spend a great deal of time answering questions and educating them about our various products. Of course it gets tiring, but it’s part of the job, and it’s nice to be able to pass on information and experience.

So do me a favour: The next time you ask your local deli worker the difference between Bayonne and Serrano prosciutto just remember that they may have been on their feet for six hours straight and you may well be the 150th person they’ve served today, so cut them some slack if they seem a little tired.

I’ll be with you in a moment, sir!

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