Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The b.h. and I went to visit his parents for Thanksgiving. They recently bought a house (which will serve as their retirement home) in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina. We flew out on Thanksgiving, which was great, because while the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest day of the year in airports across the country, the actual holiday was quite the opposite. We were prepared for the worst, arriving at the tiny airport in Burlington two hours in advance only to find t quiet as a tomb. Security was pleasant, I didn't get the porn camera or get felt up, and everyone was very pleasant overall. We flew to New York on a plane that actually had propellers (pictures later when I am less lazy) with a delightfully cheerful flight attendant. LaGuardia was also quite empty. It would have been an ideal time to film a post-apocalyptic zombie movie. Unfortunately that wasn't happening. Our flight to Norfolk was also uneventful, except for the enraged flight attendant. While entering the plane, I passed him and made the mistake of asking "How'ya doing?", to which he responded "I'm working on Thanksgiving, that's how I'm doing" in his angriest gay Southern man accent. The b.h. snorted with laughter behind me. We were sitting across the aisle from one another in the second row of the plane, from which vantage point we were treated to his tearing every soda angrily from it's six pack holder and then slamming it into the refrigerator, then every cabinet in his tiny compartment. He also complained loudly to each employee that was silly enough to speak to him. I text messaged my friend A in giddy anticipation of an in flight meltdown. Once everyone was seated though, he managed to find his game face.
We landed and called the b.h.'s parents, who were on their way to pick us up. While we waited outside, I watched two men trying in vain to jump start a car that was in the fire lane, standing right in front of the entrance to the airport. I was tempted to go and help them, because what they were actually doing was repeatedly flooding the engine while not waiting long enough for the battery to take a charge, but I refrained, since the last thing a man (and especially a Southern Man) wants is to be told by a woman how to fix his car.
In the car, the b.h.'s mom chatted happily away to us while looking more often at the rear view mirror than the road in front of her. We were to have Thanksgiving Dinner on Saturday, since the b.h.'s sister and her husband wouldn't be down until Friday night. Halfway back to the house, the b.h.'s mom said
"Oh, I forgot to tell you about dinner."
to which his father responded
"You didn't tell them?"
with just enough incredulity in his voice that I became truly worried.
After an incredibly draw-out explanation, we discovered that we would be having Thanksgiving Dinner at the home of their neighbors across the street who had "a bunch of stragglers" coming for the holiday.
This is why I hate holidays.

No, You Don't.

So one of the pet peeves of the cheese department employees is people who come in and tell us how much cheaper they get certain cheeses at other stores. I don't know if this happens in other departments or not, but our cheeses are marked up in a very standard way. Some of them are probably more expensive than they are at other stores, but I also know for a fact that some of them are a lot less expensive. There are various reasons for this, none of them having anything to do with our trying to screw anybody out of fifty cents.
They are also cut and wrapped (for the most part) in house, and there is virtually always somebody on staff who can let you have a taste, cut any order to size, and help you find exactly what you are looking for. This is not the case at the chain stores. For some reason, people do not seem to recognize this, and not only do they not get it, but they feel the need to tell us about it. One thing that is repeatedly said is "I have to tell you..." followed by what kind of cheese they got for how much and at which other store.

In another stunning display of customer ignorance, when I asked a woman what I could help her find, she responded:
"You guys really need a Trader J0e's here. I can't afford what I want."
That one left me speechless.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Customer of the Day today was a woman who I first notices as she threw (and I mean literally THREW) a piece of soft-ripened cheese back into the display case after checking the price. I went over to move it(because in addition to brutalizing it she had put it in the wrong fucking place, of course) and noticed that she was now clawing her way through a pile of brie.

"Let me help you with that," I said very loudly, from just behind her shoulder.She jumped, not having seen me.
"Can I help you find something?"
"No, because you don't have what I'm looking for." She was still at it. I swear she must have touched every single piece.
"And what exactly are you looking for?"
"I need a piece of brie that's four dollars and seventeen cents."
"You're right. We don't have that."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Betty was a bartender. She can't hear very well, so she and I tend to have very lengthy conversations without much information actually being exchanged. The other day I had just clocked out and picked up a six pack to take home when we had our first real conversation, during which I found out that she really enjoys working in the deli (she is positively ALONE in this feeling), and that she thinks it should be more "fun." Maybe that's why she thinks the deli should be more "fun".

"I don't know why everybody is so afraid of the customers. They just want their stuff and you just have to give it to them. If they have to wait a minute, then tell 'em to wait. It's not a big deal."

She is either insane or a genius. Gods bless her, I hope she makes it work.

There is a manager at work who I am very fond of. She is about four foot eleven, so I will refer to her as The Short manager henceforth. Anyway, TSM and I have an interesting shared history: Waitresses, band managers, vagabonds. She asked me if I wanted to swing by after work the other night for a glass of wine. I did, and we had a great conversation and avoided talking about work as much as possible in order to keep ourselves sane. After a glass each, however, we were both talking about the possibility of leaving, and both talking about not talking about it. Hilarious. It seems we may continue on similar paths.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On my first assignment for Oddfellows Local 151, I was asked to sit in on a meeting with a member of our grocery department and the Head Grocery Manager. There was another Steward present, not because I hadn't had one of these meetings before but because the grocery employee felt that they needed extra support. It all went fairly smoothly, as far as I could see. The HGM was very calm and neutral and took notes and barely reacted to anything that was told to him. When he seemed slightly defensive I jumped right in and said that I was merely trying to initiate a conversation and that I was not making assumptions, etc, etc. So I was feeling okay about it when the HGM left the room. Except I obviously don't know the history between these two people, and therefore couldn't understand why the employee in question freaked out after he walked out and started accusing him of being "such an asshole" and saying that the whole thing was "total bullshit." I disagreed, and I thought this employee was being a bit dramatic under the circumstances, but didn't say so, choosing rather to tell them that the HGM was supposed to remain neutral and that he said he would take action regarding the complaint. Case closed, one would think. But not. This employee went on a bit of an emotional tangent then, and the facts revealed to me said that the situation was actually caused by something in the employee's past, and then I knew that there was no way for the HGM to fix it because the employee needs help and will otherwise never feel better about the situation. After we spoke for a few minutes, I got up and left, telling the employee to take a moment to relax and then get back to work.
Later I had a short conversation with the other steward, who also had the same reaction to the situation. That steward approached the employee later and had a private conversation offering suggestions on how to deal with the past thing. I also had a quick talk with the HGM and let him know that I was new to the whole situation but that I was not to be viewed as an adversary because I was there to solve problems, not to get him fired. I actually felt pretty good about it. It had taken up about half an hour or forty minutes, but I felt like good headway was made.
Then the next day the Employee approached me again. The issue had not been settled yet, and the employee was very upset, having an emotional meltdown and cussing the HGM behind his back within range of many, many other employees. The employee was also not getting any work done because there was too much drama to be had. I dealt with it as best I could, told the employee to talk to the HGM when he got back the next day, and then got back to my job.
I had two days off, and when I returned I went upstairs to punch in and saw The Employee in a meeting with the HGM, his assistant, and another steward. Then I found out that this employee had included five (!!) other people in an official capacity in this situation. Oy. Later I met with the steward from our original meeting and the steward from that day and told them I was bowing out. This employee was obviously just trying to get as many people as possible on what the employee perceived as their team. Total B.S. What a waste of like, two hours of my time. Ugh. I don't know if I'm cut out for this. It feels rather like high school.

The other major snag, staff/union wise, is the kitchen. I haven't had to deal with that yet, but from what I can tell it's a lot like Israel and Palestine. I believe that makes me Hillary R0dham Clinton.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Local Grocery is Unionized. This means decent wages, health insurance, paid time off, and a basic right to be treated like a person. The Union was started at the LG many years ago because there was a General Manager who was a giant pain in the ass - incompetent, unprofessional, and unfair to most of the employees.
So began Oddfellows Local 151, the Local arm of a National Union which is quite powerful in this part of the country. It is required that as a new hire in a non-management position at the LG you join the Union(Managers are not represented, which is one reason why I wouldn't be a manager there if you doubled my wages). Five dollars are taken out of each paycheck in order to pay for the Union's operating expenses.
Recently, OFL151 had an election in which the members chose Stewards. These are people who will represent employees in any "situation" with management. I was one of the people elected to this position, and today was my first official day of OFL151 Steward's Training.
Boy howdy was it exhausting.
There are a lot of rules, a lot of forms, and more information than one could possibly be expected to memorize. Luckily our local Union Rep is very organized and very smart and has been doing this for a long time. We spent the afternoon at a co-worker's house learning our responsibilities and catching up on current Issues that are affecting our membership.
Suffice to say that my brain is full. I am glad to be involved even though I know it will mean more responsibility and more headaches. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

So winter is officially here. The cold isn't anything like it is going to be, but car car has had a thin layer of snow on it for a full 24 hours now, so there's no turning back. Sigh.
In other news, I have been invited to a vegetarian pot luck and craft beer shindig tonight at out beer buyer's house. If I can get my ironing and housework done and get the dogs to the park in time, I will also be going to yoga class for the first time in months. I just discovered, to my delight, that my instructor is a bit Slobberbone fan. Now I just hope I can shut up about that long enough to actually do the yoga.

Speaking of Slobberbone, they're playing a show with the Centro-matic boys (who are currently in Spain, I believe) on New Year's Eve in Dallas. The very thought of it makes me want to go buy a lottery ticket.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Fair Warning: This is an incredibly boring work rant about something that I am recording because I know I will have to use this guy in the future, when I am writing a TV show about my stupid job(s). Don't waste your time here unless you are very bored, easily amused, or both.*

So there's this guy who used to work at the Local Grocery. He is now a regular customer, and he enjoys talking about wine. The thing is, he talks like he knows everything about it, and then he says things that are completely opposite of what is um, what I believe you might call "common knowledge."
Now, I am not any kind of expert, and I do not claim to be. But if you ask me for a recommendation, and you look at the label and say

"But they don't grow anything there. I used to live there"

I have to wonder how I am supposed to react.

"Apparently they do, because here it is" was my answer. So this guy lived in California maybe twenty or thirty years ago. Okay, whatever.

The next time he comes in we have a conversation about some other kind of wine. Again I give hm several recommendations (at his request, mind you), and again he chooses something else. Fine.

Then another time he tells me how great a particular wine is and I reply that I didn't like it and he looks completely crestfallen. I also am careful to say that Barbara loves it and that it's a Kerm!t Lynch import and therefore I was sure it was a great quality wine, but that it had simply been not my cup of tea. He still seems upset. At that point I swore to Sven that I was never going to talk to Wine Mike about wine again. I have studiously avoided him, ducking into the back or heading for the bathroom when I see him coming. Sven has witnessed every one of these encounters, and he agrees that there s no other solution. He even warns me when he sees Wine Mike coming.
He caught me last weekend when I wasn't paying attention, asked about a particular white Italian wine that was on sale, and I replied vaguely that I had tried it but that it had been a long time, and rattled off a couple of very general details that I remembered (and which he could have read on the big sign that was on the display). He said that these details were "weird" and that they didn't match a regular profile of that type of wine. I didn't really respond to that statement because it was the opposite of what I thought was true (but again, I'm no expert, and what would be the point of arguing that anyway?) but I nodded my head and told him to try it.

"It's really nice. You'll love it."

Today I saw WM long before he saw me, so I made quick eye contact with Sven and motioned that I was disappearing for a minute. I went into the back, checked to see if there was any good cull, chatted briefly with the beer guy, stopped in the kitchen to pick up the cheese cutter, and returned after what I thought was a safe amount of time. It wasn't.

I overheard Sven saying to him

"I don't know, man. I don't drink." (Which is funny, because Sven made me dinner the other night and we shared a lovely bottle of Sauv Blanc.)

I stayed behind the counter, going directly to the sink and trying to look busy in hopes that he would walk away. No such luck. He walked behind the counter, holding the bottle up to me, and started talking about it.
As politely as I could, I said
"Yeah, I remember we talked about that last week."

"You said you hadn't had it." And then he went on to describe the flavor profile exactly as I had said it to him, tropical fruit and blah blah blah, and I said

"I just said that I hadn't had it in awhile and I couldn't remember that much about it."

He looked puzzled.

"But you liked it? That's great."

And then he went off about it again, and again said that the qualities it had were completely atypical to that variety, etc. And again he was wrong. I actually was certain that he was wrong this time, because I looked up the information in a few places and everything I read was consistent with what I said.

Sven was standing behind him, shaking his head.

When Wine Mike finally went away, I was like

"What is the deal here? I mean, what do you think his point is? I cannot for the life of me figure out why he just keeps at it."

"I think he just wants to talk." Sven seemed exasperated as well. "I had to change the subject like three times."

"But why me? We obviously have NOTHING IN COMMON! It's just baffling!"

So that's the end of the story. I am confused and exhausted by this person, and no, he isn't hitting on me. I just think he is one of those socially inept people that seem to gather at the Local Grocery. I sure wish he'd bugger off, though.

*I suppose the same could be said about this entire blog, come to think of it.
Today there was some kind of expo downtown involving food. Apparently it was mobbed, and people were walking around getting samples of stuff that they were told they could then purchase at the Local Grocery. Our management was heavily involved in the promotion and production of this thing, but somehow failed to give any of the employees who were actually working in the store today a list of the items that were being sampled.
So you might imagine that things were a bit messy. We ran out of one of the cheeses halfway through the day, because we hadn't ordered any extra. Also, I repeatedly had customers approach me and ask for "that local goat cheese they were sampling at the expo." We have about fifty local goat cheeses, and I had no idea which ones were there. When I finally was able to track down a list of the vendors at this thing, I still didn't know what products they had, but at least I could narrow it down. So now I get a lady who comes up and says she's looking for the goat cheese from XYZ Company with ginger in it.

"They don't make one."

"I just had it," she insisted, in a tone that suggested I was obviously stupid.

"Well, I'm sorry, but I have never seen an XYZ ginger goat cheese.

Now Janice the Operations Manager is approaching.

"What's the question?"

Before I can say anything, the woman gets right in Janice's face, waving a small tub of herbed XYZ goat cheese, and repeats her demand loudly:

"It's in a tub just like this." The tub in her hand is about three inches in diameter, an inch and a half tall, with a cream colored lid and the name of the company in neat maroon letters, containing four ounces of cheese.

At this point I walk away, because I am done trying to reason with this woman. (I walked away a lot today).

Then I looked at the list again and realized what she was looking for. I went back out and asked her:

"Wait- do you mean ABC goat cheese?"

She stopped in mid bark and, just like Kilgore, cocked her head sideways for a second.

"That might be-"

I came around the counter and pointed at the giant pile of tubs (around five inches in diameter and an inch tall, with purple writing and a large, smiling animal on the front, containing nearly eight ounces) of ABC cheese that was approximately one and a half feet to her left, right in the front of the display.

She quickly dropped the other cheese (in the wrong place), grabbed the one she was looking for, and walked away.

Monday, November 01, 2010

36 Degrees. Feels Like 28.

Boooooooooooooo. Sometimes I wish I didn't have this information at my fingertips. Makes the likelihood of getting out of my pajamas today very low.