Friday, December 18, 2009

Elder Abused

I was at work this week, quietly filling up the shelves with Jello and syrup when a customer approached me. “There’s an old woman in aisle 13 who asked me to find someone to help her.”

It’s not uncommon for elderly customers to need some extra help shopping, and I was ready to help. I found the old woman standing in front of the paper towels. She was about four and a half feet tall, short white hair permed up, and looking angry.

“I want the Bounty with NO colors but NOT the extra strength. The extra strength is STICKY. And Kroger’s has let me down again.” Since there was nothing to say to this statement except agree and apologize, that’s what I did. Then I offered to help her find something else. And she proceeded to go on a tirade about how great Kroger’s used to be and how it now is terrible (and she growled her ‘r’s). She also used the phrase “spittin mad.”

So far, I was with her. It’s frustrating to go to a store that used to carry a particular product you want only to find it’s no longer there. It’s even harder when you’re older and need to rely on a bus service to get you there and home. You can’t even shop on your own schedule, and generally having to ask for help all the time makes you feel powerless. I was inclined to be sympathetic, so I used my social work skills to respond to her in a respectful and sympathetic manner. Eventually my offers to help her find other items brought her out of her anger about the paper towels.

“I need Tropicana orange juice. In the SMALL bottles. WITH PULP!” I told her where we could find it and offered to help her locate it. We started walking (at her slower, older pace), and she eventually just stopped, clearly assuming I would find the juice and bring it to her. I wasn’t adverse to this situation, and besides, she was probably tired. So I went to the juice aisle, found the smallest bottle of Tropicana and headed back.

She must’ve had a bionic eye because I was still half way across the store when she spotted me and bellowed “I DON”T WANT THAT ONE!” I apologized and offered to bring her a different option. “NO PULP!” was her response.

On the way back to the orange juice, I spotted one of the store managers. I informed him that I was working with an older woman who had some complaints about the store for a manager to hear. “I think I’ve heard her enough,” was his response. Then a woman interrupted us to congratulate me on being so nice to the “woman who is being so awful to you.”

At this point, I was feeling like a saint among sinners. I was unimpressed by a manager who was hiding from customers, and still felt sympathy for a frustrated woman. Sure, she had yelled at me quite a bit at this point, but it was no worse than Grandma yelling at Grandpa during a game of bridge. It was a bit more malicious feeling, but I figured I felt that way because I had never been on the receiving end of old lady anger before.

We located the right orange juice, and she decided to buy the bad kind of paper towels. She asked me to help her make it up to the front of the store for check out. As we were walking slowly along, she asked me to check her out personally, so that she wouldn’t make her bus late in picking up the other seniors. I’m not trained to work a cash register, but I promised to find someone who was.

As we were walking, one of my coworkers finished loading two very full carts (not shopping carts, these carts have a bottom that’s about 5 inches off the ground and are open on 3 sides) of cardboard and decided to pull out infront of the old lady and I rather than wait until we had passed to make her trip to the backroom. I’ve always found this coworker to be a bit inconsiderate of others, but I could understand her reasoning that since the old woman was moving so slowly.

We did not realize that the old woman was The Hulk in disguise. Suddenly we weren’t walking so slowly anymore. We were walking FAST. And I mean FAST. She rammed her shopping cart in to the carts of cardboard four times, until the cardboard slid off the cart and on to the floor. After we passed my coworker picking things up, the old woman said to me “I’m sorry. She pulled out right in front of me and I just couldn’t help it,” in a very helpless old lady way. It was then that I realized I had spent the last half hour being verbally abused by Satan’s nana.

I delivered her to the cashiers who all cringed to see her, but were willing to open a special check out lane just for her. One of the nicer team leads asked me to come to the back of the store with her for a “special project.” The special project was the two of us escaping from the old woman, who apparently comes in once a week to yell at the staff, demand special treatment and vows never to shop at Kroger’s again.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Fame! I wanna live forever!

A few years ago, my mom handed me a Minnesota Magazine. It was opened to a picture of some people having a picnic by Lake Calhoun. I thought it was a nice picture. And then I thought that one of the people in the photograph looked like my friend Jo. And another like my friend John…and then I realized I was on the photograph.

My friends and I remembered the picnic, but not being photographed.

Yesterday, I went in to the domestic violence center where I’ve been volunteering. One of the staff, Kim, and I have been planning their volunteer training. Kim told me she has started to research various educational films to show to their interns.

“There’s a video of you on the website promoting one of the films,” she told me.
I responded with a very articulate “Hunh?”

We looked at the site, and sure enough, there I am.

I remember going to the screening of the film, but didn’t remember the interview.

I wonder where else I can be found…

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Insane Troll Logic

Lots of my job is answering customers’ questions and helping them to find various items hidden through out the store. Sometimes it’s because items are hard to find, and other times people just have a hard time finding them.

Hard to find:
-Soy milk (located in a special section of the store)
-Car windshield scrapers (located by the recycling center)

Hard time finding:
-Peanut butter (despite the fact that the aisle is labeled “peanut butter”)
-Canned vegetables (I was asked where they were as I was putting them on the shelves)
-Aluminum foil (3 people have asked me while standing in front of the aluminum foil)

I admit that it’s hard to find stuff in the store. And I’ve figured out what the problem is. Things are perfectly logical, as long as you start at the same logic jumping off point as the store does.

For example, say you are looking for sandwich bags. You may think—plastic bags, those would be with the garbage bags, or perhaps with the Tupperware. You would be wrong. You started in the wrong place. Instead, you should look in Aisle 4: the baking goods aisle. There you’ll find cake mixes, flour, sugar, one use baking pans, plastic wrap (for keeping those goodies fresh) and sandwich bags (since they should be by the plastic wrap). Since that aisle has flour and baking mixes, it also has the pancake mixes. And where you have pancake mixes, you have syrup (did you think the syrup would be in the aisle with the breakfast foods? You were wrong). Aisle 4 also has vegetable oil for cooking. And since it has one kind of oil, of course it also has canola oil, peanut oil and olive oil. You might not use all of that for baking, but you can’t split up the oils. That would be illogical.

Learning the logic of the store is taking some time, but it gives me something to ponder as I stack the salsa on the other side of the store from the chips….

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today at work I made a friend. Blake and I were set to help restock the beauty and other non-food item aisles. This is not our job since we’re supposed to be only working with food items, but the non-food people got really backed up the last few weeks. Since we had so many small items, it gave us a chance to talk.

He went to a liberal arts college in Idaho and came here with his girlfriend. Majored in English and History. It seemed like things were going well. And then he said that he was planning on going to see a play in Minneapolis next week. I asked which play, and he sheepishly told me “A Christmas Carol. In Klingon.” I told him we were going to be friends.

We continued to talk all through our 8 hour shifts and even took our breaks together. I managed to lock my keys inside my locker, and my new friend helped me pry the locker open to retrieve all my belongings.

This was the best day at work yet!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


I think I’ll probably be writing a lot about work for a while. The job gives my mind a lot of time to wander, and it usually wanders in what my sister called “blog thought.” I start writing blog posts in my head through out the day about the odd things that happen, and hopefully I’m not too tired to post them once I get home.

Today I had a blog thought. Working at the grocery store is a lot like being pregnant.

-My back and feet hurt.
-My hands are swollen (mostly because I run into things)
-I expect to gain weight (my current schedule has me trying to eat dinner at 9pm and go to bed at 11)
-I look at the future with a mixed sense of dread and anticipation (anticipation about what direction my career could take, dread that this is the direction its already taken)
-I have strange food cravings. It seems like a good idea to purchase marshmallows, teriyaki sauce and pickles.

Hopefully I won’t still be there in 9 months to deliver any results.