SO WHO KNEW GROCERY STORES COULD BE THIS FUNNY?

(Editor’s note: Today’s post is dedicated to what I hope is a new fan for Cap’n John, a smart, savvy, hard-working young associate of mine at a Publix grocery store here on the West Central coast of Floriduh, home of the Super Bowl LV winning Tampa Bay Buccaneers and frozen iguanas that fall out of trees and bonk you on the head (see CHICKEN OF THE TREES…I GET LETTERS_VOL VI). In addition to all the above smart, savvy stuff, she’s also a Major Cutie. Ms. Julia, this one is for you.)

So there I was, deep in the throes of summer in the Year of Our Covid 2020, with time on my hands and thoughts of literary fame (and riches) on my mind, when I said to myself, there being on one else here at the time, self, you should write a book. (On a personal note, being a) old, b) almost 90% deaf, c) a person who lives alone and d) old, I not only talk to myself at home, I answer myself…oh yeah, I have whole conversations about shit, and you know what? I’m a really interesting person to talk to.)

Anyway, last summer I thought that I would write a book about my experiences at the Publix Super Market where I have my other part-time job (aside from being the Captain and Master of the R U Kidding) as a Front Service Clerk. (Not sure who does Rear Service, and I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.) Now “FSC” is nothing more than Publix’ corporate jargon for “bagger”…27 bucks worth of title for a three dollar job. And in the process of bagging people’s groceries, and no, most of us don’t ask “paper or plastic” anymore (although every now and again one of our cashiers will ask a customer “Is plastic okay?” and mostly they say yes, to which I always mutter under my breath, down at the far end of the conveyor/checkout lane, good, ‘cause that’s what you’re getting), helping them out to their car, bringing in carts off the lot and running errands around the store, I hear a lot of funny stories and see a lot of things that make me laugh. (We have a lady who comes in frequently who has a third eye in the middle of her forehead…she always makes me laugh. NOT BECAUSE OF HER THIRD EYE, FOR CRISSAKE, SHE’S A LOCAL COMEDIAN…YOU GUYS ARE AWFUL.)

So I sat down and starting making notes about all the funny shit I’ve seen at the store or things I’ve learned about the company in the almost five years I’ve been working there, the stories of knocked-down midgets (sorry, Vertically Challenged Persons), lost hearing aids, chicken pot pie being three of my favorite things, Bird’s Eye Frozen Llama Spleens, pitchforks on Aisle 9, three-legged pigs, the reason why the Diary Department is always at the back of a grocery store (pretty simple really…they keep the cows in back), what the term “BOGO” REALLY means, and it’s not anatomically impossible, believe me, ESOP’s Fables and lots of other amusing anecdotes about life on the cutting edge of canned corn. (No, I didn’t misspell Aesop…Employee Stock Ownership Plan.)

I did a bunch of research and learned tons of interesting things about Publix, its origins, their corporate structure, their management and their claim of being “a great place to work” (to which, every time I hear this bit of propaganda around the store, I typically think to myself, yeah, compared to the salt mines in Siberia or being the guy at the zoo who has to give the hippos an enema, yeah, for sure) and other fascinating bits of trivia, to further enhance the stories and tales of Shoppers Gone Wild in the Meat Department.

I also expose to the world for the first time stories of Publix managers who sell and use drugs, dangerous chemicals like STP and AARP, orgies back in the Produce Department (“hand me a cuke, Farmer Bob, I’m going back to the farm”), of corporate corruption and malicious mopery, of multiple charges of senior abuse, of which I personally have been a victim (I asked the Store Manager the other day if he felt bad about making an old guy like me work so damn hard, and he said no, then I asked the Customer Service Manager and our Team Leader the same question, and they both said no) and other reports of fuckery so dire as to defy description.

Of course, none of these claims are even remotely true (well, I did ask my bosses about the “hard work” thing and that is how they answered) nor in any way accurate; I’d call them “bare-faced lies” but I’m wearing my mask right at the moment. No, I was just emulating our former President…

FLASH! FLASH! FLASH!

We interrupt this blog post to bring you a Breaking! News! Story! from the RUKME News Desk…

Dateline Mar-Ma-Lardo Resort, Palm Beach FL

At a bizarre press conference held in the ornate and completely tasteless Men’s Room of this posh resort, a spokesperson for the loser of the November 2020 Presidential election, Donald “No Longer Tweety Bird” Trump, today announced that a new foundation dedicated to political chicanery and named for the country’s Big Liar will soon open its doors here in Florida. The Donald Trump Memorial Home for Chronic Liars and School of Spin and Hype will begin operations just as soon as a few wealthy suckers, sorry, donors can be found to pony up the necessary money to establish the foundation, said CEO Jay Walke, and that the DTMHCLSSH should be profitable immediately, given all the goofs that will rush to part with their money in return for the bragging rights of having an affiliation with the former President. When asked by RUKME Florida Correspondent Coral Gables if the now ex-President would be teaching at the school, given his complete and utter inability to ever tell the truth about anything, Mr. Walke gave Ms. Gables the finger and ended the press conference.

More on this breaking story as it becomes available.

We now return you to you regularly scheduled column.

I haven’t actually decided if I’m going to publish “Paper Or Plastic: Tales From the Checkout Lanes” or not, since it’s going to cost some money to produce and promote, but I’m giving the idea careful consideration. (The R U Kidding is currently suffering from a severe case of pecuniary strangulation.) If some wealthy sucker, excuse me, “patron of the arts” would like to “donate” the money to cover the start-up/advertising costs in return for a miniscule percentage of the profits (like .25%), or I could get lucky and catch a publishing house in a weak moment, that would be great…contact me at your convenience.

So without any further ado, here’s a brief excerpt from “Tales”, taken from Chapter Three, “IF THEY’RE ISLES, HOW COME THEY’RE NOT SURROUNDED BY WATER? OH, AISLES, SORRY.”

Please let me know what you think…about the excerpt, I mean.

“Being a very neat and organized person (anal retentive), I find myself almost constantly picking up things and returning them to their proper place in and around the store; it’s something I got from my old man, who always told me that I was welcome to use his tools any time I wanted, but heaven help me if I didn’t put them back where they belonged. (My parents moved our family several times when I was a kid…it was only the last time that they didn’t tell me where they were going.)

I was walking through the store one day recently when I saw an “abandoned” cart sitting, alone and forlorn, in the middle of one the aisles…some customer had probably left it and departed the store without buying anything or one of our stock guys had been using it and had forgotten to return it to the lobby just inside the front door where they’re kept. No big deal, but it looks, I don’t know, unorganized and it blocks easy passage up and down the lane (anal retentive). As I always do when I find one of these misplaced carriages, I grabbed it and began rolling it back up where it belongs, like Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker did in “An Officer and A Nuclear Physicist”.

As I was walking down #3 (canned goods, International items, pasta and chain saws), I heard someone behind me call my name. (Surprised I heard them.) I was just at the end of the aisle and about to come to the “T” with the main aisle that runs across the width of the store just in front of the checkout lines and, since there aren’t any stoplights to govern the flow of traffic at that intersection and since I was looking behind me to see who had called my name, I bumped into something moving crossways to me. I quickly jerked my head back around to see what I had hit, but there wasn’t anyone there, just a cart half-full of groceries.

Then I looked a little closer and realized what I had done…I had bumped into this little guy that was, well, let’s just say he was “vertically challenged”, shall we? (Back in the days before we all became so incredibly PC, he would have been referred to as a “midget” or “dwarf”.) I had knocked him spang onto the floor, and there he was, struggling to get back on his feet.

I hurried around the carts to help him up, apologizing profusely as I did.

“Sir, sir, I am sooo sorry; are you hurt? Are you okay?” I asked the tiny man. I felt really terrible.

“Well,” he says, looking up at me, “I’m not happy.”

“Oh,” I said, “so which one are you?”

Hey, Julia, Nick says hi.

Love and Pulitzers,

Cap’n John

Post Script…the “tiny man” story (above) was gleefully stolen from comedian Larry the Cable Guy.