Saturday, October 25, 2014

Second Job: Rouse's Supermarket

Shortly after my mom started allowing me to drive her car, I decided to use it to drive to school one January morning. It was cold (in the Louisiana sense of the word), and the back window was frosted over. Unable to see back there properly and too impatient to wait for the window to clear up, I ended up backing into the side of my sister's car.

The damage wasn't severe, just cosmetic: there was a large dent in her driver's side door. The repairs would cost about $500, though, which was quite a lot to a kid just starting to drive. So, I started putting applications out there and, eventually, one of my sister's friends got me a job at a supermarket.

Rouse's Supermarket in south Louisiana is basically the equivalent of an Albertsons, Safeway, Food Lion, Price Chopper, Publix, or whatever other chain you might have in your area.

The first thing I had to do was order a uniform and attend a "class" where I learned some basics about the company and filled out my paperwork. The uniform was conveniently similar to my school uniform at the time: a green polo shirt, tucked into khaki pants with a belt. The only difference was that the Rouse's uniform had the Rouse's logo embroidered on it.

My first position was that of a "service clerk," which is a fancy was of saying "bag boy." My duties were to run from one cashier station to another, helping to bag the groceries of whoever seemed to need the most help. Sometimes I would need to spend an hour on "buggy duty," in which I would have to go outside and gather the shopping carts scattered around the parking lot. That was the job.

I don't know how much attention you pay to the process of bagging groceries, but there's a method to it. It's mostly common sense, though: cold things go with cold things, bread and eggs go with only very light things so nothing crushes them, cleaning supplies and chemicals never go in the same bag as food, and so on.

Some customers specifically request that everything be "double bagged." I'm not sure what the purpose of that was, except maybe to make sure the bags don't break. Did they have a bad experience with bag breakage? I'm not sure.

Some customers would insist on paper bags, which were more inconvenient than the plastic ones. Fun fact: paper bags are no better for the environment than plastic ones. If you're really concerned about the effect of your bag choice on the environment, either eschew bags entirely or bring your own reusable ones.

Bagging groceries isn't a difficult job on its own, but you have to be constantly moving and alert, which can be a be exhausting in its own way. If I wasn't actively bagging groceries for a customer I needed to be scanning for where I would be needed next. After a week or so I was already having trouble sleeping: my brain was telling me I needed to keep moving, to keep working, that I couldn't sit down and rest. So, I would wake up in the middle of the night, my hands ready to bag some imaginary person's groceries, until I realized where I was and reminded myself that, no, I'm allowed to rest right now, go back to bed. It was awful, and it kept happening.

Gathering shopping carts was far and along the best duty. I'd volunteer for it any time it was offered, which was apparently strange to some people. Still, sure it was hot out there, but rather than having impatient people waiting on me all the time I got to go outside, get some fresh air, and just push carts around. It was great!

Because of that outside work, service clerks were the only employees allowed to wear shorts instead of pants. I declined to wear shorts, though, which yet again raised some eyebrows. Which seems to me like a strange cause for social judgment, to be honest.

In fact, being a service clerk might have been more pleasant if I was a more sociable person. I was focused on the work when I could have been chatting with the customers, cashiers, and other service clerks. However, I was a quiet kid, and my weird quirks like an aversion to shorts and a preference for working outside in the heat instead of staying inside and talking to everyone else probably disinclined other people other people from going out of their way to talk to me.

Anyway, I learned a lot in that month or so I spent as a service clerk, but soon Rouse's required my services elsewhere.

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