Stories in from the cold, deep freeze, distant past, of work

Wayne Johnson
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Did we all enjoy the arctic blast that descended on us last week? Of course not. It’s never fun to have icicles dangling off your frostbitten nose, or Inuit tribes traipsing through your backyard hunting polar bears. But it was the perfect opportunity for our Bonehead-in-Chief, on the advice from his Friends on Fox and others in his party, to tweet about the global warming hoax. One day, after the glaciers and ice caps melt away and those folks are doing the dog paddle, I’ll be high atop Al Demeter Rock in his namesake park south of the library, chuckling away…at least while my head’s above water.

Far be it for me to be judgmental. This is America, where we’re all free to believe whatever we wish, no matter how stupid it is. There are the “flat earthers” who still believe the Earth is totally horizontal, spherically-challenged to be more politically correct, and only a few thousand years old. That seems to make sense. How can you get spherical in only a few thousand years? It must be flat. Other sentient beings believe human-type people have never landed on the moon, or the sun revolves around the Earth, or that black patent leather shoes don’t really reflect up. I like Neil deGrasse Tyson’s statement concerning all this: Science is true whether you believe it or not.

Speaking of the cold and science, I’m reminded a couple of cold-related incidents from my checkered-employment past (nice segue). Between Eagle and Dominick’s, I spent seven years in the food business in various positions from doormat to stock boy to assistant head cashier. Incident No. 1 took place while I was a stock boy. One hot July, the store manager planned a big Sunday half-price ice cream sale. Friday, after we’d stocked the customer freezers with frozen foods, a two-pallet stack of half-gallon cartons of ice cream was wheeled into the middle of the back room freezer. We piled more cartons on the wire shelves on each side. After closing that night, the assistant manager asked me to shut off the lights in the back room. Even though I’d never done it before, I felt I was highly competent and could recognize light switches. I made the rounds and we all left.

Saturday was a notoriously busy day and kept us up front bagging groceries and rounding up carts, so no one did any stock work. Sunday morning, before the store opened, we’d hooked up extra portable freezers and were ready to load them with 49-cent half gallons of ice cream (obviously, this was quite a few years ago, just after the giant meteor strike had killed all the dinosaurs). Three of us stock boys stood by as the assistant manager opened the back room freezer. We were greeted with a rush of warm, sweet air and a river of pastel colored cream running over our feet. If there had been a lifejacket handy, I would have grabbed it. Inside, the six-foot-high stack of pallets and ice cream was now a two-foot-high stack of soggy cardboard, mush, and wood. Some idiot had shut off the freezer. As the group tried to determine how and when this had happened, I did the breaststroke down the milky river to find a suitable hiding place. I learned it is a scientific fact that ice cream cannot remain frozen with the absence of frigid air.

In spite of Incident No. 1, I remained gainfully employed and later experienced Incident No. 2, which transpired when I was up in the office cube cashing checks for customers, fielding their complaints and, generally, pretending to be nice. A rather corpulent, endomorphic (okay, big, fat) lady in a housedress rolled into the store. She took a cart and picked up a few necessities such as Twinkies and Ding Dongs as she made her way back to the meat counter, where she dropped a frozen turkey into her cart. The assistant manager asked me to keep an eye on her from my perch up in the office. He was suspicious because she was behaving oddly, meandering, and occasionally looking over her shoulder. I saw her turn in an aisle and head toward the front of the store. When she waddled out of the aisle by the registers, her cart was devoid of one previously carted frosty bird. I figured she got hungry and gobbled the gobbler as if it were a giblet-flavored Eskimo Pie. But more rational heads prevailed and, with the help of a female cashier, the missing frozen fowl was discovered in a potato sack tied to the rotund lady’s waist under her dress and hanging down between her legs. Another proven scientific fact: Fat ladies should only hide frozen Cornish hens under their dresses.

Even though the arctic blast has passed for now and the temperature is better, the next polar vortex is surely on its way. I’ll get the snow blower tuned and ready. I don’t want my wife to strain herself when she tries to start it.

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