Nicole printed off some e-mails for me the other day. I must say it is nice to know people are thinking about me. There is no excuse for not writing in so long. Ok, there is. I’m in the freaking
What a long strange month it has been. Shortly after my last post, the store offered me the company house where Nick and Anna had been living. That same morning, Nicole was flying home to be with her grandmother, who was sick. For the fifth time in ten months, I packed up our stuff and moved it up the road.
Our new house is great. Our oil, electricity, water and basic phone are all paid for. What this house lacks in character, it more than makes up for in things like insulation, a working fridge, and a dryer to go with the washer. And the pool table in the basement is a nice addition as well.
I was on my own with Mackey the dog for three weeks. With the real manager back from his vacation, the hours suddenly got a lot longer. We worked a lot of fourteen hour days. A twelve hour day suddenly became a luxury.
One Saturday, I started work at 8. Around two o’clock, the freight plane came with about 200 cases of frozen food for the freezer. This shipment included everything from ice cream to frozen pizzas and TV dinners. We put most of it to bed by the store’s closing time of six. Then we worked another two hours trying to put more from our walk-in freezer out on the floor. At 8, I was loading up on groceries to come home. While grabbing some potato salad from the meat cooler, I noticed it was unusually warm. The digital thermometer read 22 degrees. I yelled for the boss. Two coolers had given out. We spent another hour and a half throwing meat and milk into carts and parking them in our walk-in coolers. Then we took a load of cardboard to the dump. Then we had to deliver a couch. As we were driving home from the delivery, the 10pm curfew siren sounded.
After a day like that, most people would go to bed with dollar signs dancing in their head. An emergency came up at work and suddenly you’re making time and a half. Not so for me. I’m on salary. You can’t just say “to hell with this” and go home when your employer is also your landlord. Yet I am strangely smitten with the grocery business. As my boss put it, “I never come into work and say ‘gee, I’ve got nothing to do today.’” There are always at least three things that need to be done. Customers are constantly asking you for one thing or another. If I get bored of paperwork, I can grab a cart and load it up with anything you can imagine to go out on the shelf. If it gets busy around supper, I go out on the till and talk with the customers. And at the end of the day, when I feel run off my feet, I can sit down and do some more paperwork.
I am already the acting grocery manager. It is my job to place most of the orders. If we run out of milk or bread, it is now my fault. There are a million little details to remember. When half the town left for vacation, I had to cut back orders. School will be starting soon, so I’ll have to increase my bread order, as well as snack foods. As the weather turns colder, I can start to change my produce order: less salads and berries, more apples, oranges, and things like squash and sweet potatoes. There are always prices to consider, and deals offered by suppliers.
There is a strange satisfaction that comes from keeping the shelves full. There is a secure feeling when you’re in the warehouse with seven feet of flour and sugar towering over either side of you. It reminds me of the fall, when the firewood is stacked. And fall is coming. They say it comes early here. Last night was the darkest I’d seen it in months. I had to stay up until midnight to see it, but it was pitch black, and cold too. We came to Tulita after the ice had broken in the river. We’ll soon see how idyllic this town is when it’s forty below.