My first real job was working in the deli of a supermarket. (I won’t reveal the name of the supermarket here—though I have said it before. So, get to sleuthing if you really care that much.) I was in charge of slicing meats and cheeses to order, making sandwiches, scooping salads, and roasting and frying chickens. I was 16 and only just figuring out how to exist as a semi-responsible human in the world—or, at least, I was trying to. I got to work mostly on time. I used the slicer regularly without cutting myself once. I was friendly enough. But there were definitely some missteps. And those missteps have weighed on me for a couple of decades now. So, allow me to unburden myself and confess:
I did not clean my shirt enough at all
I am a slob. In my heart of hearts I will always be a slob. But over the years I’ve learned how to hide it (somewhat) by doing things like washing my clothes on a semi-regular basis. When I was 16, I didn’t do that. So my shirt was regularly caked in chicken grease. I am sorry to anyone who was ever down wind. And I am not at all surprised that the cute boy from the pizza place next door never made a move.
I colored my shoes in black marker as a loophole
The uniform called for black sneakers. But I was still pretending to be a punk/ska kid so I refused to wear anything but my converse, which were mostly black. To make them all the way black, I colored in the toes with a black Sharpie. It was very obvious—especially once they got oily and the ink smeared.
I want only seasoned roast chickens
If there was a protocol I was supposed to follow when seasoning the chickens after sliding them down the pole of a rotisserie, I was unaware. There were three or four different seasoning blends. I shook each one over a row of raw chickens until each bird was flavor-blasted. The dust went everywhere—including onto the other chickens. I’m sure some people were big fans of my lemon-herb-BBQ roast chickens.
I purposefully sliced extra meat and cheese
Oh, you wanted a quarter pound? Sorry, I heard a third of a pound. Oh well. Guess I’ll just have to add that Alpine lace cheese to the pile of other meats and cheeses I have going on the side. I never brought a lunch to work. Instead, I would over-slice customers’ orders and then feast on the bounty of scraps in my car. For dessert? A sample cup of ambrosia salad—a mix of marshmallow goo and canned fruit that I absolutely adore and literally no one ever ordered. It’s very possible I was eating the same batch of ambrosia salad in August that I started eating in May.
I cleaned the ovens the only way I could—by getting inside of them
I’m still not sure how I was supposed to clean the industrial-sized ovens in which we roasted our rotisserie chickens, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t meant to get inside of them and huff professional-grade cleaner. But the ovens got clean and that’s what matters—not this constant cough I mysteriously have. (Kidding. *Cough.* Oh no!)
I poured oil on a plant every time I closed
During my training, I was told to dump the fryer oil out back. Easy enough, I thought, assuming the place to dump the oil would be obvious. So, my first night closing, I rolled the giant vat through the stock room and out the back door. I saw a big dumpster and some other containers—but nothing that screamed “oil container” to me. And I definitely couldn’t lift the massive oil container high enough to dump it into those dumpsters even if that was where it was supposed to go. So I poured it all onto a plant. It was a small bush—nothing remarkable. I did this many times. No one ever noticed. No one ever said anything. By the time my tenure at the grocery store was done, it was a very shiny, very aromatic bush. And on my last closing day, I finally saw the receptacle into which I should have been pouring the oil. I think about that plant a lot.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I feel a lot better—and a little bit hungry for chicken.