Oct 16, 2005

Volkswagon

It's German for "folks car," and the line was created by none other than Dr. Ferdinand Porsche. Yes, Dr. Porsche, he of the 'go fast' cars with the cool names. Ever notice the resemblance between the Sypder that James Dean wrecked and a Karman Ghia? There you go.

Anyway. Volkswagon was also the name of the very old, very thin black gentleman who, when I was a boy, was Head of the Baggers at the local Military Commisary on the air base. I know, bear with me.

We were a military family. My father mustered out when I was about 2, from a stomach ulcer. We moved here to be near the family and the base's medical facilities, and stayed. Plus, there was everything at the base we could possibly need, and being military we were allowed unlimited use of the facilities. Which we did. Including the commisary, which stocked everything a regular grocery store did, but was cheaper. And since this was way back in the dim mists of antiquity, when I was a weerelephant, they still had baggers.

You see, this was the time when the minimum wage was about $2, and working for tips only was actually a fairly nice job to have. Volkswagon was too old to do anything but be a foreman of sorts, and he was likely an ex-military man himself, so it was logical for him to have the job of watching over about a score of 15-18 year old bag boys. And the job of bag boy was nothing to sneer at, either. You stayed plenty busy, and if you were neat and fast you'd earn yourself a potentially healthy tip for every seven minutes of work: three minutes bagging, two minutes hauling a cart full of bags out to a car, two unloading them into the trunk, then back inside for seven more minutes on the line. On a busy day you could feasibly make quite a large wage on an hour's worth of one dollar tips. Plus, it was plainly stated everywhere at the checkout lines that the baggers worked for tips only, and enlisted familes particularly were always good with the tips.

So, I wanted to be a bag boy when I got old enough to reach the canned corn on the top shelf of the Vegetable aisle. And I applied; I talked politely to Mr. Volkswagon, showed him my Husky physique, and got my name on The List. See, since was no Federal job. It wasn't even a job proper, not involving any sort of taxed civillian payroll at all; it's openings were filled in a first-come-first-served order, and you were paid whatever cash you could earn, after paying a small percentage to Volkswagon. To be allowed in you had to wait for another boy to get a 'real' job or go back to school or *gasp* get asked to leave the hallowed position of Bagger before you got your shot, and there was a whole military base full of eager young boys on that list in front of you.

So, I never got the job.

But, I have always prided myself on being a hell of a bagger. When out shopping I stand in the checkout line mentally preparing myself for the task ahead. I strategically stack the items out of the cart and onto the conveyor in order of type, size and style so that when it comes time to bag I'll have that advantage: cold things with frozen, bread and eggs and chips in with all the other delicate items, gallon of milk in with the butter, that sort of thing.

And when the time comes to bag, I'm there, waiting impatiently for the checker to start sending items down, my knee jammed into the "conveyor belt advance" button, bag gaping open and ready for the first items. On a usual shopping trip I can have the bags loaded and in the cart before the wife is done getting her receipt. So why is it that people insist on being stupid?

Why do people park their cart cross-ways, so as to block both halves of the checkout, whe it's obviously designed to hold two carts side by side, to ease speed of loading?

Why do these mouth-breathers leave their cart in the walkway leading to the end of the belt and load from the walkway, while I stand behind them muttering curses, ready to slam my own cart into theirs so that they'll get the hint and get the hell out of my way, while watching with pained eyes while my own purchases pile up haphazardly.

Why do these cow-eyed cashiers insist on leaving their conveyor advance on when no one is down at the end loading, or worse, when I AM there, at which time it's more than obvious that I have a master's control over the speed of food item delivery, and have the timing of a genius?

Ah, but it's all made worthwhile on the days that I can stand there triumphant, buggy filled with two hundred dollars worth of neatly stacked, impeccably bagged groceries while the cashier is still rooting for a pen in her smock.

Victory is sweeter than a can of Carnation Condensed Milk.

7 comments:

Regal Monkey said...

I have actually had cashiers at grocery stores THANK me for my organisation of the groceries by genre on the conveyor belt. J usually laughs at me for it (though now he even does it, too... I think he's just seen me do it enough that he knows to do it the same way I do...). Not only do I line them up by genre, but in my typical OCD-ness I line them up tetris-piece like on the belt, careful to not put too tall items on the side where the check writing mini-table is... they'll get knocked over, of course. Ah the joys of attention to detail. :)

Irrelephant said...

VINDICATED! *lol* I knew I wasn't the only one that did things like that, but seems you've taken it one or three steps further. I'm gonna have to try that Tetris thing next time.

Vulgar Wizard said...

*whew* I thought I was the only one who put things on the conveyer belts in an organized fashion so as to keep the cold things together and the delicate stuff for last. I'm not OCD!!!!

Damn, was RMB at the grocery store in front of you? No? It was some other mouth-breather you say? Why haven't we bred these bastards out of the human race yet???? Why?!?!?!?

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Jennifer said...

Wow, and I thought everyone did their groceries like that. You mean there are people who think it's odd to sort your groceries? wierd.

Vulgar Wizard said...

Excuse me!?!?!?! You took the afternoon off yesterday and couldn't manage to update your blog? Geeeeez......

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Donna B. said...

Just FYI, the bagger system at commissaries hasn't changed all that much, except it's not teen-aged boys now. It's wives/husbands of enlisted personnel and even enlisted personnel themselves on days off.

My husband bagged on a 30 day leave once when he was a Marine and managed to earn more than his regular pay. That was um... 30 years ago, or more.

I sort of organize my groceries. I'm watchful of fragile items and keep chemicals away from food, but I haven't been to store where I did the sacking in over a decade.

Irrelephant said...

Donna, thanks for the update on commisaries! That's very cool to know...I have such good childhood memories of that place--everyone seemed to know everyone else, and I always froze in the meat aisle...*lol*