For six months, I was a loyal
employee for Foodarama, otherwise known as Shoprite. For six months, I slaved
away 4 hour shifts to total 16 hour weeks in Shoprite pharmacy, where the only
person I was in contact with was the pharmacist in charge. Collect
prescription, retrieve bottle from shelf, count pills, pour into bottle, slap
label, have pharmacist check, bag, dispense to customer. Over and over and over
again. The routine—as exciting as it may sound from the outset—grew mundane
quicker than you may think.

            From my
perch in the pharmacy, I would look at the employees who stocked shelves. I’d
pay attention to the inane conversation between two employees slacking off
merely because my own position was just that mind-bendingly boring. I was
strangely jealous of them. And I couldn’t explain it, either. They just seemed
so…happy. Smiling and laughing with each other as amiable friends enjoying a
simple conversation. I had none of this to call my own. Conversation with the
pharmacist in charge was forced and awkward, and the fact that three of them
rotated throughout the week didn’t help to cement
bonds, per se.

            Break time
was my chance to escape the isolating confines of that sterile, medicinal
prison. As I’d walk to punch for my break, I’d also take the time to gawk at
the cashiers. Here, the aforementioned bonding seemed tenfold. Every one of
them seemed to be smiling jubilantly as they scanned fruits and vegetables for
customers who seemed equally jovial.

            And then I’d
get up to the break room, where I’d be lucky to catch a gaggle of employees on
break, enjoying their lunch and smiling at each other as if their lives were at
that very moment perfect.

I began questioning my job, and my
reasoning for keeping it.

            “What am I doing here?”

            “Why should I stay here?”

            One day, I decided that I’d had
enough of the pharmacy and I declared my resignation. As I was about to turn
and leave this Godforsaken job forever, a voice from behind me spoke.

            “Wait,” it boomed.

            I glanced behind me, acquiesced,
and sat down to hear what the metaphorical embodiment of Shoprite had to say to
me.

            Apparently, I was what Shoprite
considered a “good” worker. I was prompt, efficient, and dealt well with
people. So Shoprite offered me a position as a cashier.

            “Oh daisies! Oh happy day!” I
thought to myself, “I’m finally gonna be one of those people who smile and
laugh with friends!”

            I started my training, I got my
apron and my nametag. I was glowing.

            Several days later, I began my
first shift. As I’m working, I look around and see the cashiers. Only, there’s
something wrong. They’re not talking to each other. They’re not looking at each
other. They’re just scanning item after item. It’s like watching drones covered
in flesh and skin. The same mechanical motion of grabbing one item with the
right hand, scanning it, and passing it to the left hand as the item gets
deposited into the mountain of useless products that customers with disposable
incomes burning a hole in their wallets buy.

            “Today must be an off day,” I
reasoned. But it wasn’t.

            All that a cashier did, for every
minute of his entire shift, was scan items. That and the all too fun game of
“What’s the Product Code on That
Fruit or Vegetable I’ve Never Seen in My Life?” I swear, the kinds of produce
these people buy is nothing short of incredible. Who eats yams? What’s a Kirby
pickle and why does it look exactly like a cucumber? And while you’re
struggling to determine the product code of whatever alien food your customer
desires to consume, you might sometimes be faced with a customer who is, shall
we see, less than patient. This is the customer who wants to leave as quick as
possible and you are the only obstacle standing in their way. The customer
begins to mutter, which escalates to seething, which further develops into
snipping, and finally into unadulterated shrieking, which can be defused by
nothing short of the intervention of a manager.

            Break time is like being offered
entrance into God’s heavenly arms, and then promptly being thrown back to the
disgusting reality that you’re a worthless cashier, and that there’s a line of
customers waiting to make your life just that much more miserable.

            Payday, which is normally the day
to collect the fruits of all your labor, was anything but fruitful as a cashier.
As I tore open my check, I actually contemplated cashing it, and giving it to a
homeless man in change. To think that I spent so much effort to collect such
meager wages was more than I could bear.

            I tolerated the position for about
a month before I was done. I resigned for good this time, and never looked back
since. 


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