After I graduated from college I needed a job.
I had loans to pay off, rent to shell out, and parents on my back. I
just needed a job - any job would do.
I signed up to work for a temp agency, and they
immediately sent me out on my first assignment. I was going to work at a
wholesale food distributor (let's call it "Bostco") as one of those
ladies who offers free food samples in the aisles. I wouldn't exactly be
using my newly obtained university major in Greek Philosophy to its full
capacity, but they were paying me $8 per hour and I needed the money. I
was okay with it; although I am sure Socrates would not have been
I arrived at work the first morning greeted by
Debbie, a short and pudgy woman who reminded me of a female version of
Newman from Seinfeld. She was scheduled to give me a brief orientation
and also let me know what kind of food I would be offering. The temp
agency told me that I could eat as much from my sample tray as I wanted,
so I was excited to see what I would be peddling. A friend of mine had
once given away samples of chocolate bonbons so I was hoping for
Debbie walked me to my booth in the basement
where she informed me that I was going to be the sample lady for "Mmm..Mmm
Good Clam Chowder." Great-I am a strict vegetarian and get nauseous at
the sight of seafood. So much for getting to eat bonbons all day.
I was given strict instructions: when shoppers
walked by I was supposed to say, "Excuse me miss/sir, but can I interest
you in some Mmm Mmm Good Clam Chowder?" Every time I repeated the
mantra, I saw an image in my head of Socrates committing suicide over
and over again.
For some reason, I was placed in the frozen
food section. I am not sure who made the decision to put the lady giving
samples of free hot soup in the frozen food aisle, but all I knew was
that I was as cold as a sled dog in the Iditarod. On day two, I came
into work wearing my ski suit, boots and mittens. I don't think Debbie
Another disadvantage of being in the basement
was that there wasn't a lot of foot traffic. Most of the customers
wandered around the main floor where the more "high profile" bulk food
items were sold, like the 10 gallon drums of relish.
On the rare occasion that a customer actually
walked by, I would swallow my pride and say, "Excuse me miss, but can I
interest you in some Mmm Mmm Good Clam Chowder?" Most people were as
horrified by the thought of pre-packaged clam chowder as I was and
declined the offer. However, a few brave souls actually accepted. What
where these people thinking? Didn't their parents ever teach them not to
accept food from strangers?
In another Bostco oversight, I actually didn't
have piping hot Mmm Mmm Good Clam Chowder ready to dispense to these
trusting fools. I had to plug in the crock-pot that they had given me
and start heating up the frozen chowder on the spot. So I was instructed
to inform the tasters, "I'll cook up your clam chowder immediately, and
it will be Mmm Mmm Good and Ready in 40 minutes."
Did my employers really expect these people to
wait around for 40 minutes while I defrosted them some frozen chowder?
Well, if they did, they were sorely mistaken because after I relayed my
scripted response to the customer, I was usually greeted by a nasty
comment somehow creatively linked to seafood.
I wasn't entirely alone in the basement. There
was another sample lady named Teresa who was working the aisle across
from me. She was in charge of giving out pizza pops and had been doing
so for 8 months. Within about 2 minutes of talking to her, I could tell
that she was totally deranged. She was convinced that there was a sample
lady hierarchy at the company and was determined to make her way to the
top. She decided that the number one sample lady slot in the store was
the Swedish Meatball booth. She came to this conclusion because it was
located near the front of the store, and in her words, "those balls are
by far the tastiest item in the store."
Teresa also claimed that the woman who had had
the clam chowder slot before me, had just been promoted to be the
Swedish Meatball lady because of an affair that she had with the deli
manager, Harold. Teresa insisted that Harold wielded a tremendous amount
of power when it came to the placement of ground beef products in the
store. As a result, whenever he walked by, Teresa would stop talking to
me and begin flirting with him shamelessly. When I realized that my
co-worker, a sample lady for pizza pops, was trying to sleep her way to
the top of the sample lady world by having an affair with Harold the
deli man, I knew that I had hit rock bottom.
At the end of day two, I left the store and
rode the bus home, still in my ski suit. I made some quick calculations
and concluded that if I were to hang in for day three of the three-day
chowderfest then that would net me another $40. But if I were to cut
down on my groceries for the week and only eat milk, cereal, and the
complementary pizza pops that Teresa had given me, then I could get by
without the $40. I was more than happy with that trade off.
Even though being a sample lady was my first
paying job since selling chocolate covered almonds door to door in grade
school, I just couldn't go back. I was starting to have nightmares about
giant clams and Swedish Meatballs attacking me.
I didn't call the temp agency to tell them
either, I just didn't show up. They returned the favor by never calling
me with any temp jobs again. That's okay, I am sure Socrates would have
done the same thing. In fact, if they had clam chowder in ancient Greece
I am sure he would have committed suicide much sooner.