Now that you know a bit about my background, I think it’s time to take a step back before we continue to move forward. While I really loved my job at “I.B.M.,” I needed to earn more money in order to be able to raise my daughter in the fashion to which I wanted her to become accustomed. That fashion was to have food on the table every night and shoes that fit when she went to school. You can tell that I had modest aspirations. I was fortunate to get hired in the food service industry. That’s a highfalutin way to say that I got a job as the evening and week-end cashier at a local supermarket. I was able to work my way up to assistant head cashier due to my love of keeping the books, counting the money, and bossing staff around. The last of course was my main strength. I got so good at it that they decided that the “boys” in the meat department could use a little direction setting aka bossing around and so I got transferred. The best part about this transfer was not the crisp clean white coat I got to wear every day, nor the 45° temperatures and heavy lifting that kept me slim and trim, but as you can surmise it was the raise in pay. I was now a proud member of the AMCBW (Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen of North America). A dollar raise was a dollar raise and in those days a dollar raise went a long way toward raising my daughter.
It wasn’t long before I pined for my old job working with the stockers on the night shift passing our idle time waiting for those night owl customers to drift in from the street to shop or fill their pockets and waiting for the scheduled trucks to arrive and be unloaded. We had some fun those night stockers and I. How many of you can say that you joined in lobster races from the Deli to the Meat Department? I don’t think the Deli Manager ever knew why so many of her lobsters were less active in the morning than they had been the day before. Poor tired out things. The night shift brought out the animals in more ways than one, but I was younger then and fun is fun.
I learned that in the meat department when an immovable object (IO- the butcher boys) was confronted with an unstoppable force (UF- that would be bossy me), much heat and energy was created and something had to give or there was going to be an explosion. After a few weeks of having the IO of four load up the line with fresh meat and frozen products that needed to be shrink wrapped and displayed properly in the front meat cases by the UF of one (Me), I pondered on my dilemma as I worked at warp speed to wrap the line while the IO’s sipped their coffee in the break room and waited for the line to get cleared. This just was not going the way that I had planned it at all. I decided that in order to work peacefully side by side with these immovable objects I needed to determine how to wrap the UF in me around the IO’s and figure out how to get my way, which of course was the right way, and make it their idea! As you can imagine, this was no easy task.
It would be ideal if I could say that I was successful at doing this as soon as I realized I needed to change. But alas, that was not the case. I even got chased around the band saw by one of the IO’s brandishing a boning knife, fortunately I was faster than he was and all ended well. Over time I was able to tailor my approach to meet the needs of my audience and I can say that these were the most difficult IO’s I have had to deal with in my career. You could say that this was a lesson learned at the point of a knife.
My success became well-known within our division and I became a part of the new store opening team. My primary role was teaching all of the IO’s how to do things the “right way.” A few of these things still exist today, sunny side up for the meat in the tray, facing up the case before and after busy times in the day, and always answering the meat room bell with a smile and can do attitude even when it’s the 20th customer of the day asked for their 19 cents a pound frozen turkey be cut into four equal pieces.
Even today, I carry these knife welding, frozen turkey cutting images with me as I learn how to deal with all of the new IO’s I meet. Have you ever encountered an IO? Did you figure out how to make the UF in you have success when faced with this challenge?