I worked part-time in a supermarket once.
What an experience.
It was when I lived in the States. They paid pretty well, actually. Even for the mind-numbing job of scanning shit and bagging it. Not to mention the fucking uniform I had to wear with a Hi! I'm (penned in) PEAS. If We Don't Got It, Try Wal-Mart badge.
How unbelievably embarrassing, and more so when my mates came in to buy their groceries.
Jesus I got mocked by my house mates.
I learnt more about middle class America during my two hour shifts in Clarke's Market than anywhere else.
Firstly, I didn't tell them I was at university. They were in awe of the fact that I was one of those 'other' people that had actually finished high school.
They were characters alright. The staff at Clarke's Market.
Stuff out of a book.
Kelly from the Deli. 'Deli' being a loaded term, since all it sold was a tray of three-day old fried chicken that demanded turning by Kelly every few hours. Kelly had a moustache and lived in a trailor in a neighbouring town. Thing is, Kelly loved her life. She thought it just couldn't get better than a trailor and an alcoholic husband with a penchant for wondering off in an amnesiac state for weeks on end. She'd blow the moustache as she'd tell me, dreamy eyed, how they'd found her catatonic husband “strolling aimlessly on the side of a highway in Arizona,” and she was excited to have him home.
Bubba from the Bakery. A staunch, right-winged hick from Alabama who, although complained about the cold in Colorado, said he wouldn't come to South Africa because there were too many 'niggers' there. He really said that. Straight-faced. He had Ku Klux Klan stickers on his Dodge.
Mike. A manager. Who couldn't string a sentence together. He just mumbled shit and packed boxes. He also blushed whenever I asked him for something. Secretly, I think he wanked away his shift in the store room. He seemed like a compulsive masturbator.
Jake. (Position unknown, he just walked around talking to himself). He wrote his name on his fountain soda disposable cup in large letters in case somebody 'stole it'. Also cashed in his $2 000 season ski pass for a $150 rifle. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking he might've been a professional raccoon hunter, until I saw him shooting cans off his grandmother's Buick on bricks. They lived in a “loft apartment” above Acme Liquors.
Then there was Dan. Fuck was he special. Dan had Taurettes Syndrome. He'd since been fired from every place in Crested Butte except for the supermarket. To get fired from the supermarket, you basically had to bomb the building. It was otherwise impossible to get fired from Clarke's Market.
But one day, they'd had enough. The locals turned a blind-eye to Dan as they were used to his foul mouth. But when tourists flocked in for New Year, and got the shit frightened out of them by Dan's interesting vocal prowess, he was finally fired.
He used to tell dirty jokes over the speaker system. Not 'knock knock' jokes – but jokes involving jock straps and little children.
He also once made an announcement about the Kotex Maxi Pads being on special:
“Buy one, take two for free!” Customers were helping themselves to sanitary pads by the armful, and exiting the shop without paying. Final straw, Dan got fired.
They were all very nice to me, if not a little cautious, because I was “from Africa, and that's just weird, man.”
Granted, even though they were wholly ignorant, they'd ask questions:
“Where in Africa is South Africa?”
“Why are you a white person?”
“Do aeroplanes fly to Africa?”
I had a whale of a time telling them how customs made me take the bone out of my nose at JFK Airport.
The manager liked me so much, he let me take home whatever food I wanted at the end of a shift.
Looking back, he voluntarily let me shoplift, but whatever.
At least the digs loved the daily tubs of Ben & Jerry's I'd bring back.