Behind the Smock This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     “Woke up, fell out of bed, dragged a comb across my head.”- The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”

As I walked through the electronic doors, smock in hand, I could see why my co-workers dreaded this day. New Year’s Eve day is the busiest day of the year for a supermarket. Lines of impatient people, carriages full of last-minute requirements for New Year’s feasts, extended from the registers all the way down the aisles and disappeared near the back of the store.

As I punched in, I waved hello to my friends in the Courtesy Booth, the place for cashing paychecks and buying cigarettes, stamps and lottery tickets. I dashed between a few racks holding delicious-looking holiday pies and made my way toward Checkout.

As I walked to the front end of the store, I met my good friend Ryan, an assistant checkout manager.

I nodded hello, and said, “Sully.”

“MacDonald,” he replied, returning the nod. He was very busy.

I arrived at the manager’s desk, if you could even call it that: A wooden pedestal attached to the wall, and to the pneumatic tube that was used to send little red pick-up bags full of cash to be counted in the Courtesy Booth.

“Thank goodness you’re here!” exclaimed my boss, Mr. Beauregard. He was a plump, jovial, little fellow who reminded me of a young, clean-shaven Santa Claus.

“We need carriages, badly,” said my friend Sammy, handing me a reflective vest which served no purpose except cover the store should a customer back over me in the parking lot. Sammy was a college freshman with a violent temper that more than made up for his short height. As I donned the vest, I heard “Steve-O!” from Lisa, yet another assistant manager friend.

A few hours and dozens upon dozen of carriages later, it was break time. Thank goodness! I was getting tired, and it was getting cold, the sun long since having passed its zenith. Lines of customers, not shortened by the hours spent on carriage duty, presented a big problem to the idea of buying food for my break.

With a quick dash to the opposite side of the store, I plugged 30 cents into the machine the housed the supermarket brand soda. Faux Coca-Cola, yum.

I sprinted to the back of the store, past the deli counter, through the double doors posted “Employees Only” and up the short flight of steps. At last, the break room, and 15 minutes away from the drudgery and monotony and toil that is my supermarket. I drank my cola, read the newspaper, chatted with some co-workers and checked next week’s schedule, hoping for some time off. As quickly as it came, my break was over.

I trudged back through the aisles, making my way slowly to the checkout area. I dreaded going back to work. As I arrived at the manager’s station, I was greeted with the customary “Steve-O!” from Lisa.

“Hey, Steve-O, guess what?” she teased.

“What?” I replied, dreading that the answer would be some horrid task.

“You get to dry-mop the whole store, aren’t you excited?” she giggled.

My only reply was a remorseful “Wonderful,” though I really didn’t mind dry-mopping. It was easy, took a lot of time, and required little to no interaction with customers, save for the few who say “I hate to trouble you, but I need to find the ... .” It was just that today, with the aisles so crowded, maneuvering the three-foot wide broom through hordes of impatient, hungry customers would be a bit of a hassle.

I grabbed a dry-mop, dustpan, hand brush and cardboard box and went to the rear of the store, leaving everything but the dry-mop just inside the dented “Employees Only” doors. I headed for Aisle 15, planning to make my way back toward Aisle 1 and the Dairy Department, down the left side of the aisle, back up the middle, and down again along the righter most edge. Three passes to clean an aisle.

From the aisles to the Deli, from Deli to Dairy, to the area around the Courtesy Booth. Then you do the front and back main aisles, all the while making periodic stops at the box to shake out the dirt, dust and sawdust and empty out your pockets of the larger papers. Yeah, that’s right, they make us put trash in our pockets.

After the main aisles, you head to the Produce Section. Produce is always dirty because the floor gets wet from the sprinklers that keep the fruits and vegetables fresh, so they end up laying down a lot of sawdust to keep customers from slipping and falling. However, they also let a lot of lettuce leaves, potatoes and onion peels fall, along with many a squished grape.

Pushing my produce-laden broom to my box for the last time, I shook it out and collected everything into the box. I walked to the trash compactor, and tossed my box in. Gathering my tools, I headed for the front, my task done.

As I reached the front, I noticed it was almost 5 o’clock.

“Go home, Steve-O!” Lisa yelled. I quickly turned and headed for the punch card machine, untying my smock as I went. The store was still packed, but it was no longer my concern. I walked out the door, and looked for my ride. It had been a long day, and I was tired. But hey, at least I got paid time and a half.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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