Saturday, November 5, 2011

Tales of Employment - The Pickle Jar

I wasn't always a teacher.  In fact, I've worked quite a few jobs before I ever took my current teaching position at the age of 27.  I've been meaning to write about some of my memories for some time now, and I figured that since I've been wanting to blog a bit more, this would give me some good material.

I'll start off with a story from my very first job.  I was a Courtesy Clerk for Safeway in Concord, California.  I worked there for three years, from when I was 16 until I was 19.  My last day on that job was one happy day, and perhaps I'll write about that some day.  This time though, I need to write about The Pickle Jar.

One of my duties as a courtesy clerk was to do "go backs".  This was simply putting items back in their proper spaces.  Sometimes people would take something like a can of corn and put it near the magazines.  Obviously, that would need to "go back" to where it belonged.  Other times, people would get to the cash register and realize that they suck at math and didn't have enough cash to buy both chips AND salsa, so one would have to be returned to the shelf.  There were even times when people had entire shopping carts full of stuff, and their check wouldn't clear, resulting in tons of stuff to "go back".  Are you clear on this "go back" thing yet?  I realize it's really technical, and you're probably pretty stupid, but I'm going to need to move on now.

I usually saved the job of doing "go backs" for the end of my shift when I was working from eight to midnight, as the store was pretty empty by that point.  Obviously, perishable stuff would go earlier, but pretty much everything else could wait until later.  One particular night, one of the lower-ranked managers, Will, informed me that there was a jar of pickles on the "back desk" that didn't belong there.

What is the "back desk" you might ask?  It's where we'd put damaged items so the store could keep a record of it for some reason or another.  It was called the "back desk" because it was a desk that was in the back of the store.  Again, please excuse all the jargon that I'm using here, as there just isn't any other way that I can put it.

Anyway, Will had a bit of a smile on his face, so I figured that there was probably something unusual about these pickles.  He was younger than most of the managers, and I had a pretty good rapport with him, so I figured he was just joking around with me.

Sure enough, when I got to the jar, there was something that just wasn't quite right about it.  For the pickle illiterate, "pickles" are cucumbers that are preserved in vinegar, usually a clear vinegar.  Well, this liquid wasn't quite clear.  It was a bit more on the murky side.  Also, there was something about one pickle in particular that caught my eye.

I realize that this can be really confusing, so maybe you missed the part where "pickles" are cucumbers that are...umm...pickled.  See, cucumbers are normally green.  When you pickle them, that doesn't really change.  Well, one of these pickles wasn't quite green.  It was more of a brownish color, and it was a bit on the flaky side.

My seventeen-year-old mind couldn't wrap my head around this.  How could a pickle go bad?  Doesn't the vinegar preserve it?  Was the cucumber rotten in the first place?

When I walked past Will, he and some of the other workers were all laughing.  I asked him what the heck that was - some kind of rotten pickle?

And that's when Will informed me of a horrible, horrible truth.  That's right.  Somebody crapped in the pickle jar.  Oh yes, a person pooped in it.  Defecation.  Fecal matter.  Shee-it.

From what Will told me, it was a woman who did it.  She had returned the pickles and got her money back, and it wasn't until later that the checker who returned the lady's money realized the caca in the jar.  Before you think that the checker was an idiot - do you really think you would have inspected a jar of pickles closely to see if there was a turd in it?  Of course not.  The policy was to give people their money back if they weren't satisfied with something, and the checker probably just wanted to get that lady out of there.

The thing that I wonder is what prompts this sort of behavior?  Did this woman plan this out for months ahead of time?  Was she just strolling the aisle, saw the pickles, and suddenly thought, "I could TOTALLY crap in this!"  Did she buy the jar with the full intention of eating all the pickles, but after eating one decided that she had to return them, only to be ruled by some sort of obsessive-compulsive need to not return a partially-full pickle jar, a poop being the only thing she had that came close to the size and shape of a pickle?

The world may never know.  All I know is that somebody crapped in the pickle jar.


Jasveena Prabhagaran said...

Glad to get connected with you here :))

Hugh North said...

Everyone should work a retail or a restaurant job for some length of time, so you can appreciate the sheer horror of what people are willing to do. Said work should include being responsible for cleaning a public restroom.

That way in your later career, no matte what, you can laugh at stressful situations.


"Sir? We need you to launch the nuclear weapons, on a densely populated city in your own country, because a lab messed up and the zombie virus was released in a grade school."


"Hahahahahaha. No problem. Did I ever tell you about the time somebody decided to poop in a pickle jar and return it to my grocery store?"

Seriously, career advantage.