Deep in the Hymie’s archives there’s a post about working at a gas station, something I’ve done on a couple occasions over the years. The third shift is not bad work if you like to read, and you can tolerate a methhead now and then.
It’s also not the kind of job you’re going to miss when something better comes along. In fact, my entire pre-Hymie’s career in the underbelly of the American service industry could fit that description. Janitorial work provided the most consistent uninterrupted opportunities to read and I’m still thankful for that, but the job I remember most happily was the one I had at the …
(“Supermarket” by Willie and the Bees)
Just think about that word: Supermarket. Super. Supermarket.
Look up next time you’re buying groceries, up across the aisles and aisles of product. The ceiling of the grocery store is mind boggling. The size and scale of it’s ventilation system alone will make you feel insignificant. There’s a reason you can’t see from one side of the grocery store to the other: It’s a magnificent microcosm of the world!
And I loved working there, although I didn’t really spend a lot of time inside because I was a cartherd. That’s not really a word that’s caught on yet (I learned it from Cul de Sac in the daily comics) – It’s a guy that goes and gets the carts. It’s not glamorous work, but let’s be honest, we all owe that guy a little credit. After all, the cart’s always back inside the shop for you when you need it.
I was sixteen when I worked in a grocery store, and at the time I thought I kicked ass as a cartherd. I also loved hanging around the back of the grocery store with all the weird characters who worked there. Today I mostly recall the two managers I worked under:
Mark: Day manager. Tidy mustache, wore the store-issue blazer and never slouched. In fact, I worked for this guy for nearly a year and I never once saw him sit down. I avoided Mark like it was my job but I also loved it when he noticed my work.
And Paul: Night manager. Paul was single and he liked to use his job to meet women. He used snuff and spit it into garbage cans throughout the store. Paul wore as smock and, on one occasion, the same kind of shoes I wore. It was a lot of fun working with Paul but after a while he was kind of depressing.
(“Lost in the Supermarket” by the Clash)
So what I do now isn’t depressing, and I would be wise to be thankful for that. The thing that made meeting Mick Jones so meaningful to me this summer was that he said that he really liked the shop. He even told me we were doing a good job.
The parking lot I stalked for carts isn’t there anymore. When they tore down the original store they built the new one on the parking lot and put the old one over the grocery store. There’s probably a guy out there who made a million dollars just by thinking that would save a lot of dough. I wish I could go back there because I think it would help my brain reassemble memories of my cartherd career. Little things remain – I love the pungent sweet smell you get in places like the loading dock of a grocery store because it reminds me of my first experience tackling seemingly insurmountable tasks like unloading a whole truck’s worth of pallets piled with boxes. And I loved the break room. I even wrote about it once before.
This month I watched a bunch of episodes of a TV sitcom called “10 Items or Less“, which is set in a grocery store. Most of the antic center around goofy promotional schemes. I wish we could get away with the kinds of silly things they do.
I guess I should also warn you that I am always enchanted by stupid sitcoms. The less things change from episode to episode the more I love it. I usually watch them when I’m overstressed, and I don’t think you have to be a psychoanalyst to figure that out. A couple years ago I watched every single episode of “Joey” (Way funnier than “Friends”) because we were expanding the record shop.
(“Supermarket of Love” by Ichabod and the Cranes)
The characters in “10 Items or Less” never change in spite of the all the things that happen, probably because they perfectly formed from the start. That’s the way I saw Mark and Paul and all the other people I worked with at the grocery store, probably because I was sixteen. Yeah, there’s a lot more depth to the microcosms of the world but those of us who just go there to get peanuts and noodles aren’t going to really see that.
I’ve always had this dream of setting Irene loose in the grocery store, and pretending that I can’t catch her. I know if I told her to stop and come back she would, because Irene has always been a good dog (although she’s home from the shop this week with a rough case of fleas). I like the idea of the chaos a dog in the grocery store would cause, and that it would give fifty people something to talk about that night at the dinner table or bar or whatever.
(“Abominable Snowman in the Market” by Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers)
I couldn’t find a couple of songs ( really wanted to share with everyone today – Especially “Too High for the Supermarket” by the Uninvited and “Supermarket Fantasy” by Screeching Weasel. Take better care of your tapes, trust me. If you’ve got the time this last track makes up for it…
(“Supermarkets” by George Carlin)