Category Archives: Work

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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Back On The Chain Gang

Let me start by asking a couple of questions. How many of you cut the cheese at work? How many of you get to hide the salami as part of your regular duties?  As to the first, I reckon we can all plead guilty, in that at one time or another, we’ve all let slip a Silent But Deadly in the elevator, disguised a guff in a meeting by shifting in our seat or simply kept walking towards our cubicle whilst maintaining as nonchalant an expression as possible under the circumstances.  As to the second, well, office romances bloom from time to time, and I guess the supply closet is largely wasted space, but that’s not what I had in mind.

You see, all jocularity and sophomoric humour aside, cutting the cheese and hiding the salami are what I do pretty much all day. Since the turn of the year, I’ve been working in the deli department of my local supermarket. After being taken on in a temporary capacity to sell Christmas trees, ( See “A Forest” and “On Repeat”), the store found me some other tasks to fill out my time after we sold all the trees ahead of schedule and then offered me the chance to apply for an opening in the deli. To be honest, it wasn’t a difficult decision to make, as I had nothing on the horizon. The vacancy was posted internally only and I duly applied and was interviewed twice before being offered the spot. In truth, it was made clear, though not explicitly, that the job was mine as long as I applied.

I’ve never had a food service job, so although I was happy about the work I did have some trepidation as to the tasks involved. I should point out that I was hired for the Closing shift, which is 1:30 to 10 pm. I wasn’t thrilled about this, being very much a morning person, but beggars can’t be choosers, although the three day weekend prior to starting did allow me time to adjust to the new schedule. I managed the transition pretty well by treating 11 am. the way I used to treat five am and not going to bed until two thirty or so.

I live only a mile and a half from work, so decided it would make sense to walk rather than drive, especially as short trips aren’t good for the engine and it costs money. I splashed out on a cheap pedometer and began tracking my steps, miles and calories burned in my usual OCD manner as I thought this would be a good way to see if I can lose a bit of weight. It also gives me the opportunity to listen to some of my almost endless podcast playlist, on the walk home in particular helps me decompress. Mind you, walking home alone in the dark is probably not the best time to listen to a podcast that involves readings from the works of H.P. Lovecraft. I also made the decision to take shakes to work for lunch and leave them in my locker and carry little to no cash to discourage me from buying lunch at work. Add to this the fact that I’ve stuck to my plan of not buying candy or chips, and you may not be surprised to learn that I lost 10 pounds in two months. Whoo hooo! I’m quite happy with this as you can imagine, and if I lose another 20 we’ll be talking real progress. Naturally you have to take into account the fact that I’m on my feet all day, but still, it’s not to be sniffed at.

I’ve fitted in pretty well to the team and get on well with everyone. Most of the department are middle aged or older, apart from the kitchen crew, but even they have a sense of humour and are willing to help  out as needed with other stuff and the department manages to get through the day even if we have someone out or are swamped with customers. I know it may seem like an odd  place to work for someone on the spectrum, but it forces me to interact with people all day and remain friendly and engaged whilst doing so, so in a way it’s a kind of aversion therapy, especially when you realise that there’s nowhere to hide and you are always on show, like some sort of zoo exhibit.  I made a very conscious decision to muck in wherever needed and make the effort to do things without asking: a policy that seems to be paying off, as is my effort to interact with my colleagues as much as possible, despite my natural instinct to avoid giving away personal information.

The last three hours of the day are fairly quiet, and this is when we begin the cleaning and shut – down procedures, a long process which leaves me pretty much beat as the level of cleanliness involved is much higher than that required at home. Still, the work gets done and I haven’t heard any complaints so far.

The downside of this is that by the time I get home and eat dinner, it’s around midnight, so my desire to do any kind of housework is severely diminished, and I wish I cleaned my kitchen as well as I clean the Meat and Cheese area. It’s not that I live like a slob, but my counter top is never empty, nor the kitchen table devoid of clutter. By the time I get home I just want to veg out and watch a DVD – usually an old “Doctor Who” episode from the library and eat my Poutine, which has become my comfort food of choice. I’m only drinking one night a week, as I finish at seven pm. on Friday and can get to the taphouse for a couple of beers with the lads. The middle shifts on Friday and Saturday are a recent change, and I’m not complaining as it also allows me to go over on the evening boat and have some extra time with my sweetie on Saturday. I don’t miss drinking as much as I thought I would and it makes it more of a treat than when it was a daily event, and of course, it’s saved me a bit of cash into the bargain as well.

I won’t bore you with all the details of my work day as it essentially consists of taking orders, slicing meat or cheese and wrapping said product. I do have some opportunity to chat with customers, and by and large are a happy bunch who appreciate the level of service and the range and quality of products the store has on offer. I’ve had a few difficult customers, but more of that another day.

I’ll sign off by saying that despite this job not being what I went to business school for, I’m enjoying myself, have avoided any major gaffes and have been accepted into the team, so I’m in a happy place right now.

Oh, and in answer to your original question, yes, that is a salami in my pocket… but I’m still pleased to see you!

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