Personal / Stories / Theme / Work /
Jan just offered me some eggs from her fridge, warning me that the Sell-By date had expired two months ago. I took them, finished eating them a minute ago, but had immediately told her what the egg expert of my teen years had told me. So long ago.
Fred told me that there was a principle in the dairy retailing business analogous to the one I was being trained in to keep the soda pop aisle organized: rotate the stock so you’re selling the oldest stuff first. Fred said that it was his responsibility to rotate the stock in the store’s storage refrigerators. Fred said that he was likely the only dairy man around who actually followed the prescription. The easiest thing to do running the department was to stack the incoming eggs on top of whatever was already in the unit: display the newest goods first, leave the oldest goods undisturbed. If the store stays in business long enough, it will be storing dinosaur eggs.
I told Jan further that Fred said that eggs could be stored indefinitely. Sure fresh eggs were best, but where were you going to find fresh eggs? not in any supermarket system. Keep you own chickens if you want fresh eggs: except the town fathers had outlawed chickens! and horses, and cows. The tax collectors were turning a once rural agricultural area into a suburb, everybody a lawyer, or a lawyer’s wife and kids, commuting by RR to the apple: no room for food, everybody has to be a robot for Metropolis. Moral: the eggs that are a decade old probably won’t kill you; the eggs that were shipped yesterday might be a decade old too: what makes us think the warehouse is any better run than the market?
Richie, my predecessor in the soda aisle, had been promoted to an area of the store where his hostile laziness and perverse incompetence might, it was hoped, do less damage to the store’s fortunes. Richie had dropped out of high school at his first chronological opportunity to join the store’s union, and then to vegepickle his life away, just like his family before him, in a drunken stupor. He lured me to bar hop with him in Brooklyn. He bought me a beer, then said it was my turn to buy, ordered a beer and a whiskey. He thought being a cheat, a predator, was charming, clever. Richie did though take tuneful care of his Mercury hot rod’s dual exhaust system: nobody in Rockville Centre’s rod sounded more mellow than Richie’s. The New Years Eve he spent crashing parties of non-drop outs, driving up on rich people’s lawn and stalling after crushing their shrubs with the Merc’s front end endeared him to no one, but that was Richie.
Sure enough: as I went through the soda aisle I saw that Richie had left the oldest Cott soda quart bottles in the back of the shelf. You could tell at a glance because the company had changed label designs twice side the bottles furthest back had been displayed. The label printing company had further changed ink prescriptions a couple of times: the purple print for the grape soda from two years ago didn’t match the purple print for the grape soda from four years ago.
Andy kept his canned veggies aisle a bit better. Still, if I tried, I could find cans of LeSeur peas way in the back with very old prices on them. The cans in the front were marked 32¢. If you rummaged you might find one or two for 31¢. And if you really dug you might find an ancient near-rusted can for 26¢.
These days super markets scan bar codes: any can with that bar code will ring up as LeSeur peas, 32¢. But in the old days of the 1950s the checker had to ring up the price on the can. Andy was paid to find the old labels on old cans, rub the labels off, stick updated prices on the old cans: put them in the front of the shelf. He sometimes did. He did better than Richie.
The store in question was the Associated Food Store on Long Beach Road at Lakeview Road in Rockville Centre, Long Island. It catered to Jews from the Bronx. I think the parent stores of the franchise were in the Bronx. Personally I never saw but the one: and let me testify immediately that Associated was the best super market I’d ever seen. Jack, the manager (whom I loved, and who nearly worshipped me) swung me around among the departments, so, even as a high school part-timer, non-union, I had a hand in stock organization, grocery arrangement, produce … checkout … as well as carry-out. The butchers, real butchers with their own loyal customers, worked in nepotist isolation, Jack never imposed me on the butchers. Fred handled dairy without assistance: so, I just talked to him, never worked with him. Best of all, Jack loaned me to the Appetizing department. Those guys were as specialized as the butchers. Except that the butchers could have butchered anywhere in America, from Cape Cod to Oklahoma; the Appetizers needed a good Jewish clientele. These guys could carve lox, your choice of a half-a-dozen kinds, in perfect slices so thin you could read through them. Associated was the first store I ever saw, ever heard of, that sold a dozen different kinds of bagels: all fresh.
I have to merge this material with or link it to previous tellings of my experiences working for the supermarket in high school. The fed knocked down all my previous work, Mac, designing computers that don’t run apps from previous generations nullify the software I used to use to search for things on my hard drives: I’ll just have to put up this and that, write this and that new, and then de-dup …
|Stories||by Age||by Theme||by Others|