First came the little old man who lived up the street and always liked to question why the milk and bread and everything else for that matter were so expensive. He’d hold up a loaf of bread and ask out loud if I thought the bread was worth whatever the grocery store was charging. I’d look at him sheepishly, scrunch my shoulders together, and say I didn’t know, I was a cashier and didn’t have anything to do with pricing the items. On this day though, something else must have been on his mind, because he was focused on paying his bill and getting on with the rest of his day.
Next, came a flurry of other customers. I scanned their items as quickly as I could. As fast as they placed items on the conveyor, I raced them through the scanner. We were getting socked with customers, so I was on the go. The long line of customers were stocking up before the Independence Day Holiday and we were short staffed by three cashiers. Despite the briskness, I was glad. To my way of thinking, better to be busy, then to have things slow and boring.
I had applied several weeks earlier to work at the grocery store and I was surprised when the manager had called me back. He hired me on the spot. I started the next day. I started out stocking shelves, helping little old ladies load their cars with their grocery bags, and collecting the carts in parking lot. Within a few days of starting the job, though, I was learning how to work the cash register. I felt like I was on top of the world. I was nervous about messing up, but I liked being in control of the situation. The job paid little, but it was still nice spending money for a kid in high school.
Despite my worries about making a mistake on the cash register, the manager liked me immediately. What wasn’t to like? I didn’t spend a lot of time talking to the other workers and I kept my head down and worked. Little did the manager know that I didn’t talk to anyone because I hated small talk and the other kids, who worked there, went to the opposing high school, it was best for me to keep my head down and pay attention to the customers.
And work I did.
When I looked up on this night and saw the line of customers finally start to settle down to a manageable number, I let out a sigh. My shift was coming to an end. I wondered where the time had gone. One minute, I was clocking in, the next I was done for the night. As I shut my lane down and started to clean up, the manager came over and handed me a can of soda and a bag of chips and thanked me for my hard work. He told me that he appreciated my attention to detail and focus on the customer, especially when we were in a jam.
I drove home later that night feeling appreciated and proud of myself for making a small difference. I’ve had a ton of jobs since that first job, many with much more status and prestige and certainly a few more dollars signs in my biweekly check, but I’ve always appreciated that the manager took his time to recognize my work. He didn’t have to, but he went out of his way to say thank you. The manager wasn’t much older than me, but he could teach a few managers a thing or two about appreciation.
I’ve changed over the years, but my work goals haven’t changed a whole heck of a lot since that first job. My goals remain very much the same: to work hard and to make a positive difference. The feeling of doing a good job has never gotten old.