“Clean up on aisle three. JB, clean up on aisle three.” The announcement over the intercom could not have come at a worse moment. Johnnie was just returning from helping deliver old lady Dugan’s groceries to her car and he needed to get back to the parking lot to gather carts. Saturday’s were always their busiest day of the week but this morning had been more hectic than usual, reminiscent of when a hurricane was approaching or folks planning for a home football game. All the bag boys had been scrambling to keep up with demand and no one had been able to take their morning break. Now a clean up on aisle three. “I hope to god it’s not puke,” thought Johnny as he hurried to the storeroom in the back of the store to grab the cleaning supplies.
As he turned the corner of the aisle to face his next project he was relieved that it was just a spilt soda, although it must have been extra large because the splash and spread was far reaching. “I’ll bet the person that dropped it ditches the cup and doesn’t pay,” he thought. He didn’t used to be this cynical but working at the grocery store for two years had opened his eyes to some surprising facts. People are pigs and people are greedy, looking for a handout and a deal whether it’s being offered or not. The realizations had been troubling at first but over time they had grafted into this thinking and were now as factual as cold ice and wobbly -wheeled grocery carts.
As he wound his way to the front of the store and beyond to gather carts, he heard his name being called. The store manager was waving at him and he had a nasty scowl on his face. Johnny hurried toward him and was met with the low hiss of anger and disappointment.
“Busby, the lot is overflowing with carts. If I’m not mistaken that’s your responsibility today, am I right?” Johnny began to answer but was cut off by the flushed face and emotional edge dripping from his boss’s voice. “Get out there and gather carts right now. I had a customer complain, for crying out loud. We can’t have that.” Johnnie hesitated, waiting to see if there was more verbal flagellation coming his way. “Well go! What are you waiting for?”
Johnny exited through the automatic doors and jogged toward the cart retaining area farthest from the store. “Piggy, greedy and deranged. Piggy, greedy and deranged.” He repeated the phrase in a rhythm, matching the tempo of his trot. He was learning a lot at this job.
This is one chapter in a series of nine, an experiment in weaving people’s stories into each other, showing cause and affect in how we treat each other regardless of how well we know each other. A casual comment to a stranger may trigger big things but we will probably never know…