"Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity." ~ Gilda Radner

Monday, October 29, 2012


What do a conveyor belt, a frozen cash register, a plastic anti-theft box containing a package of condoms, and a fake $2 bill have in common?

All in a day's work for me at my new grocery store job.


As anyone who has ever hired me knows, I am a Nervous Nelly when I first start a new job, and I put gaboons of pressure on myself to get it right the first time every time.

A mere week into it and, lo and behold, I am not perfectly on my game. Dang learning curve.

Like running the grocery conveyor belt.

A conveyor belt?


Back at The Fro (Frohlich's SuperValu), in Coon Rapids, IA, shoppers just pushed their carts right up to the cash register and I reached into the cart to grab their stuff and scan it.

"You don't have to reach," one of the head cashiers kindly reminded me during training. "Use the conveyor belt."

Oh. Yeah. 

But finding my conveyor belt mojo is not as easy as it might sound.

Not when I am racking my brain trying to remember the Produce Look Up number (PLU, for those not in the grocery biz) for cucumbers, while wondering what the hell that celery-like-but-with-feathery-looking-tops-and-a-giant-onion-bulb-like-base bunch of produce is coming down the conveyor belt in a green plastic blag.

"And what might this be?" I cordially inquire.

"Fennel," replies the customer, a bit incredulously.
Fennel, aka anise. Who knew?


We never sold fennel in Coon Rapids.

Naturally, I press the produce button on the register, then "F" for fennel.

Item not found.


Well, of course it's under "A", darling.  For "anise".


Meanwhile, I've somehow accidentally pushed the button that starts the conveyor belt that takes the groceries from the scanner to the end of the counter to the bagger -- who isn't there -- and the cute little coloring books I scanned just prior to the cucumbers and the fennel/anise debacle disappear under the metal plate at the end of the &$&%&@ conveyor belt and are seemingly eaten alive.

Crumpled coloring books. Lovely.

Note to self: DO NOT send coloring books -- or greeting cards, or anything thin -- down the &$&%conveyor belt.

Other things that make my neck hairs stand on end while trying to learn my new job:

*Cigarette and alcohol sales...back in Small Town Iowa, I knew everyone and their ages. A lot more carding required at my new job. It was while carding a customer yesterday, and trying to correct a wrong  number (thought a 6 was a 5), the $&^%#%  register froze. Pfft.

*Anti-theft plastic boxes containing things like expensive razors and condoms.  Unlocking the $&#&$&  plastic box with a special magnetic gizmo requires some manual dexterity, of which I have none. Still trying to get the hang of it. Grrrr.

*It's a matter of trust. Two dollar bills may be fun, signature mementos we love to give back as change at The Fro. But here in Big Town South Carolina, they're red flags. Need to take a closer look, apparently, when one shows up. Might be a fake. Innocence lost. :(

And it's just so weird not knowing any of the customers, having known most of my Fro customers for two decades.

One constant positive between my two grocery store jobs? The folks I once worked with and the folks I work with now. All very friendly and helpful. And patient.

This early in my new gig, of course, none of my South Carolina co-workers or customers are quite sure what to make of the nervous, albeit affable, Iowa gal who doesn't know fennel from celery.

Just an old grocery store dog trying to learn new, confusing cash register tricks, I explain, with a wink and a sincere Tall Corn State smile.

I think I might be growing on them.

Stay tuned.

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