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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Dairies To Daisies - A Change Will Do Me Good

The theme of this week's Thursday Diary entry is change. I'm about to experience a change in my own personal career path (not a huge one, mind you, but still a change), and along with that change in career comes a change in how I look at the world, and the people in it. Don't worry though...I've been “declawed”, and I'll be nice...mostly.

April 11, 2013

I've decided to be a little bit different when it comes to today's Thursday Diary. Normally, I would be typing this entry in blue font to try and mimic the printing style that I normally use when I write in a notebook or a journal with a pen and paper.

Today, I'm using green.

And yes, there is a reason behind my choosing green as the colour for today. I figure that since I'm going to be spending the next three months or so in an area where I'll be helping people exercise their green thumbs, I thought green would be an appropriate choice.

By now, most of my closest friends and co-workers know this news already, but for the rest of you out there, I thought I would share with you my news.

For the last seven years, I've been working at a retail store in the grocery department. While I've worked at least one shift in every area of the grocery side (excluding deli and bakery), my specialty is dairy and frozen foods. I can help you tell the difference between lactose-free and sugar-free ice cream. I can help you tell the difference between homogenized and skim milk. I can provide you with coffee creamer in eight different flavours including Vanilla Toffee Caramel, Irish Crème, and Mint Chocolate Truffle.

Heck, I'll even help you find chocolate milk, marble cheese, and containers of “I Can't Believe It's Not Butter”...three items that always drive me closer to insanity the moment they go on sale.

Well, beginning next Saturday, I'll be saying goodbye to the milk, cheese, butter, eggs, yogurt, and orange juice, and trading in my cooler jacket for a pair of shorts, because I'm heading outside.

I'm movin' on the West the deluxe soil compound nearby,
Oh yeah, I'm movin' on the West Side. To the Garden Centre post outside!

(Well, okay, it's not quite as good as the iconic Jefferson's theme song, but it works for the time being.  And, no, that is NOT a picture of my store...but it is a reasonable facsimile for the real thing.)

I'm going to be honest with all of you though. Going out to the seasonal department after spending seven years stocking groceries is going to be an initial shock to me at first.

My original area of the store was always climate-controlled and I got so used to being in that area that I could walk into the walk-in cooler (which hovers around the 0 C/32 F mark) in just my short-sleeved T-shirt...

...and pants...I always wear pants at work! Get your minds out of the gutter, people.

My new area will be one that is almost entirely outdoors, which means that I will likely face the following; extreme heat and coldness, sunshine, rain, fog, sleet, strong winds, thunder and lightning, and considering how weird April has been lately, we might even get frost, snow, and ice rain on top of that!

And, you know what I say? Bring it on!

You know, I'm going to confess something to all of you. Some of you may already know this about me, but others will not. When I first started at my current workplace, I didn't always work in the food department. I started off in a position that was called “store standards”. The official description of the job was to make sure that the store ran efficiently and that we kept up the standards of customer service, as well as the appearance of the store itself.

What the job description REALLY was, was essentially grunt work.

This is only a prediction here, but I'm sure most people out there would NOT enjoy a job where they have to brave the elements to collect shopping carts from outside, or clean up any spill that might occur in the store (which unfortunately involves bodily fluids on the rare occasion), or make sure that the bathrooms were always sparkling and shiny, or cramming giant television sets into a Mitsubishi, Volvo, or even a SmartCar.

Yet for the first year I worked at the store, that's exactly what I did. And, what a thankless job it could be at times. You basically had to run around the store doing grueling, back-breaking work, where the only reward was that you got to do more grueling, back-breaking work outside in the parking lot. If you were lucky, you might get a thank you from a gracious customer instead of a complaint because their car was too tiny for me to shove a giant barbecue inside the back seat.

Still, no matter what I did, I gave it my all, even though there were some days in which I wanted to either walk off the job entirely, or pass out from dehydration/exhaustion/frustration/any adjective ending in -tion. And, that hard work paid off because I was moved to the food department after a year on the job...where I've remained ever since.

Well, at least until April 20th when I begin the next chapter in life.

Even though it's only a temporary move, I'm looking at the seasonal area as a new challenge for me. In many ways, working out in the Garden Centre area has some similarities to store standards in that I'm going to be outside most of the time. In all honestly, I've a feeling that I'll be doing a lot of slugging and lugging out there loading up bags of black earth, cedar trees and patio sets into people's vehicles...but I'm okay with that. A lot has happened over the last eight years, and the Garden Centre job will allow me to work my muscles while getting a tan in the process.

Hey, if anything, it might give me the opportunity to lose those 35 pounds I gained after my 2011 surgery. No, seriously! One of the pitfalls to working the dairy/frozen department was doing price changes on items that would tempt me like fattening ice cream and high-calorie sugary snacks. Going out to the Garden Centre will eliminate those temptations for me! Out of sight, out of mind, right? Because let's face it...the last time I ate dirt, I was two and a half...and even then I didn't develop an insatiable appetite for it.

I'm also fairly optimistic about venturing to the Garden Centre this year because I happen to know most of the people who will be working outside with me there, and as far as I'm concerned, they're a good group of folks. The main thing that I'm all about is teamwork. There's no way that I'm going to be able to lift up a 300 pound patio set all by myself. I'm going to need people to help me! Fortunately, I don't see that as much of a problem, as many of the people that I know are team players.

Of course, there are going to be some challenges that I'll have to face while I am out there. I know absolutely nothing about gardening, and I'm positive that any house plant that I've ever owned, I brutally murdered. I don't know the difference between a geranium and a chrysanthemum, I have no idea how often one is supposed to water a plant, and I really couldn't tell you which fertilizer would work the best when planting azaleas.

(Though, I suppose knowing how to spell azalea and chrysanthemum is half the battle, right?)

And, I should admit this before I continue on with this blog entry. I've filled in for Garden Centre shifts for a one-off, and the last time I was out there, I accidentally chopped off a garden nymph's head while I was pricing them. So, if the department managers of the Garden Centre are reading this right now, you may want to keep me away from the statues for the first week.

And, of course, there's always the possibility of having to get cash training so I can serve customers out in the Garden Centre area. I've been petrified to learn how to use a cash register since I started at my job, and I've managed to avoid the registers for eight and a half years...and I'm kind of secretly hoping I can keep avoiding them for the time being because I know that I would be awful on them. But, if the opportunity presents itself, I'll bite the bullet.

After all, when I first started on the food side, I never thought that I would feel comfortable using our electronic pricing guns (also known as a Telxon or Gemini), but now I can do price changes and count requests like a pro. I thought I would have a nervous breakdown the day that I began doing orders for the department, and now I can do them without any worry (though admittedly, ordering organic milk is always a crapshoot for me).

So, if I learned those new skills by swapping departments, there's no reason why I can't learn other skills in other areas of the store. It'll help me update my resume with more information, and make me a more well-rounded person in the process. And, while I will admit that I will probably need a couple of weeks to get familiar with a new area, I think that if people are patient enough with me and will work with me, it'll be easy peasy.

And, that's the most important thing of all. I need people to work with me to help me understand how things work and who are willing to show me. And, most of all, I want people to have a positive attitude with me. A lot of the frustration that I experienced in my job in the past has been related to the “Nucleus of Negativity” I spoke about two weeks ago in this very space. When people are generally in a good mood, and are optimistic about how things are going, it rubs off on others, and if others are happy, there's a good chance that I'll be happy too.

On the flipside, if I'm in an area where everyone is in a bad mood, and where everyone is super-stressed, and where everyone around me does more complaining than anything else, then that too will rub off on me.

What can I say? When it comes to feelings and emotions, I'm like a sponge.

Of course, I'm not saying that anything like this has happened in any of the departments I worked in. I still have warm fuzzies for my dairy and frozen peeps, and I have love for the people who I have worked with in some of the other food departments I worked in as a substitute.

Even on store standards I had people who...well...actually, come to think of it, most of the people on that job kind of screwed me over, which lead to my wanting out of store standards in the first place. Okay, bad example!

The point is that I'm really looking forward to the change. I think that while I will be out of my comfort zone for the first few days, I'm sure that nobody will leave me completely stranded either. It'll take time, but I have full confidence that I will embrace my new role in my new department in a matter of days.

And, if not, I have other options on the backburner! But, those will have to remain hidden for another time.

Hey, a diary's gotta have a FEW secrets, right?

I start over there April 20...I'll let you all know how it's going in the April 25 entry, all right?


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