Clean Up On Aisle...Whatever

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I was born because of Fred Meyers. My parents met at the Fred Meyers in Eugene. My parents still work at a Freds to this day so you might say that I’m still alive because of that ubiquitous west coast grocery store, and yet, nothing on this Earth has made me want to kill myself more then Fred Meyers.

Obviously because of my “ins” at the store, it was inevitable that I would work there. I finally caved –– it would only be for a summer. Two years later I found myself clocking in for the day. I slide my cheap plastic card through this evil little machine that somehow imprisons me within this satanic grocery store. As it makes that same beeping noise it did everyday, an internal clock begins in my head. Five hours and fifty nine minutes left. I step outside to fulfill my meager restitution by completing the main aspect of my job –– cart retrieval.

The motion censor door opens; a wave of heat slaps me in the face. On the blistering hot tarmac, I’m surprised that the rubber soles of my shoes do not melt immediately upon contact. As I walk to a group of carts I begin to feel the constriction of my dress code enforced khakis as they suffocate the lower half of my body. The weight of my itchy brown polo made all the heavier by the sweat from the back of my neck. Pushing and pulling through the crowded parking lot, I eventually bring in a group of carts. I then watch hopelessly as they are removed from the neat little rows I have made and cast back into the vicious cycle of shopping, which always ends in me pushing.

Then I hear it –– my employee phone rings. A pitch so high, every dog within a five mile begins to close in on my position. This vile sound has burnt into the deepest realms of my brain to the point that I wake in the night thinking I heard it. I’m quick to silence the incessant noise but then obligated to talk to one of my “superiors.” With names as simple as their intelligence, I know it had to be either Al, Ron, Ted, Mark, or Jon. What do you know? It’s Ron. As if to make himself feel that he is doing something, he relays a message to me stating, “Hey buddy, apparently a women’s electric cart ran out of juice down on aisle twelve, so if you could go ahead and drive a new one out to her and try to remember to plug those in from now on, that’d be awesome, buddy.”

Only five hours and fifty six minutes left.

I make my way to aisle twelve and I see where I’m headed. A large women, sits impatiently on her dead cart in the middle of the aisle. I force a smile and trade her carts. “What took you so long?” she croaked as she poured herself into the new cart. She slowly pulls away, as the poor cart chugs along, groaning under the breach in weight requirement. I then have one of the most surreal moments of my life, as I drive her old cart away. Feeling the relief of a smaller rider, the electric cart practically flew back to the rest of its colleagues. Apparently the women had mistaken a dead battery for being clinically obese. I make sure and plug in all the carts and check my watch.

Only five hours and fifty two minutes left.

The rest of my shift follows a similar tune. The usual fleets of blue-haired women line up before me with overwhelming bags of dog food and promises of twenty five cent tips –– which I can’t accept. Then there’s the occasional war vet who takes my question, “Hey, how has your day been going?” way too seriously. But as I bring in the last of my carts, I double-check my watch. Somehow it’s happened, I have reached the end of my shift. I make my way back to that evil little machine with what little soul I have left. But as I slide my card through, effectively freeing myself, that demeaning device still gets the best of me. As I hear that demonic beep for a second time, another timer starts in my brain.

I have to be back at this very spot in exactly thirteen hours and fifty five minutes.





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