Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today I was thinking about one of my previous jobs and realizing how different things are now, eighteen years after leaving that job because of its closing. The store was exactly like the one in this picture, and although the pay was slightly more than minimum wage and I had to work for a couple of years before getting on full time it was there that I learned to work. During my time there I did a lot of hard manual labor, a lot of work requiring me to use my brain, and a lot jobs that had to be finished in a timely manner, so speed and accuracy were required. There was rarely a lull where there was nothing to do, as we were constantly changing aisles, displays, and whole departments to keep up with seasonal changes or the whims of the head honchos in the faraway New York office who would decide things needed switched around every so often. This was at a time when there were no UPC labels and scanning checkouts, so every item coming through the cash register had to be rung up by hand, and very often long lines developed as an item would come through with no tag on it and someone would have to be called from the department where it came from to check the price. I worked in every department in the store except for the clothing department. The two years I spent in the Automotive Department really helped me learn a lot about fixing my own cars, and the last three years in the Home Improvement Center was where I acquired a lot of skills that I use all the time working around the house.

Back then all the workers were expected to perform at their best everyday, and the store manager was a strict disciplinarian who instilled fear into our minimum wage souls. Just to get hired there was a privilege because you had to have qualities to be able to greet the public everyday and work with your coworkers in an environment that was often stressful. The employees there gained a reputation as some of the hardest workers around, and when the store closed down it wasn't hard to find other employment for most of the people there.

It's sad now to see a lot of the people, younger kids mostly, who come into work at the grocery store and do very little all day and get paid almost double what I made back at Nichols. The idea of loyalty to their employer is a foreign concept to most of these kids, but back then we did things with a pride that was shared by all the employees who made it through the Christmas rushes and long, antiquated inventory counts, emerging on the other side ready to start all over again.


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