This week I completed my initial on the job training for my part-time produce job.
It has been seven years since I have had to start a new position and something like twenty-five years since I have started a job not in this industry, so the process has been an interesting one. As you may recall, I had an initial round of on-line training over the last three weeks or so, which involved about 8 hours of videos, a combination of company history, safety practices, introduction to the department, and a small dose of personnel related training.
After that, it was out to the floor to work closing.
Produce, as it turns out (perhaps not to my surprise) is not inherently a terribly difficult job It consists of facing produce and moving it up in the shelf/bin, replenishing stock that has been sold, culling produce that has damage, putting new stock out from the cold box, cleaning, and customer service. In that sense, even an unfortunately over-educated individual like myself can thrive in such an environment.
Transferring and culling is to my mind the most difficult, as I had to make decisions on what stays and what goes. I am not at all good at interpreting when fruits and vegetables are "past their prime" beyond demonstrated issues such as mold and soft spots, but I started to learn (for example, apparently if avocadoes feel like a bag of wet sand, they are past their prime and apples which feel more waxy are nearing the same point). If one has shopped for produce in the past, it is helpful: knowing at home where the issues are with fruit and vegetables, I can more easily identified them at the store. I know what the start of mold in strawberry packages looks like, or soft spots in tomatoes or the beginnings of wilt and slime in leafy greens. In other words, do unto customers at the store as you do for yourself at home.
Customer interactions - something I tend to dread as an introvert - were really not that difficult or challenging. Most people have questions about out of stocks or where to find something or occasionally the price of something, questions that are pretty easily answered and I am sure I will get better at.
Out of Stocks: There seems to be no rhyme or reason. In the two days I worked, we were out of red onions (1 day) and grapes (3 days). Why? Who knows. If they are not on the morning truck, we do not have them. Not sure if it is a localized store issue or wider, but that would be an interesting metric to track to see if seasonality or other issues are factors.
For the first time in I cannot remember, how long, I had a mandated 30 minute lunch (unpaid) and 15 minute break (paid). 30 minutes, as it turns out, is more than enough time to eat, check things on your phone, and be a bit bored.
The works was not terribly strenuous, as the boxes and bins themselves are not too heavy, nor did I find myself particularly sore the day after. It has been a considerable amount of time since I have been on my feet for that long, something which is probably good for me (and one reason I contemplated such a job in the first place).
How did I find it overall? Honestly, not that bad. Other than the concern in my mind about missing something that was going bad or not moving older fruits and vegetables up front (grading avocadoes may be the death of me), it was just the right amount of busy: there is a schedule and work to be done, but it is not highly mentally demanding and it keeps the hands busy and my biggest decision to date was whether to cull something or not, not thing like "How much have we spent on a $20 million project" or "Do I need to reject this material that cost us $1 million to make?". The lack of stress, at least there, was palpable.
My intent is to keep this job regardless of the outcome of my current job search and, even if I find an industry job, to keep it as long as I can. It makes for a good palate cleanser. I like getting 15% off house brands (and I have already used that to good effect). It has me actually being active. And frankly, even if the money is not a great deal, I honestly feel more proud of the two checks I have gotten so far than my earnings for years (which is surprising to me as it is obviously much less).
Martin Luther argued for the dignity of work, whether lay or clerical. Sometimes there is nothing like a manual sort of job to remind one that all work has dignity based not on the importance or salary, but simply on the fact that it is productive labor.