Monday, May 08, 2006
The Untold Story Behind The Creation Of Hand Sanitizers
My second place of employment during my teenage years was at the venerable grocery store, Kroger's, or K-Roger, like us "tragically hip"(cough) teens called it. I worked in the drug department as well as sacking and checking groceries during my stint across three different store locations. This is where the offspring of the middle class spectrum congregate in minimum waged toil because we know full well that there isn't a magical college fund waiting upon us completing high school. We're the group that's frequented many a greasy spoon but weren't lucky enough to be born with a silver one in our mouth. My Papi was a Kroger's produce guy when I met him but that's another story. I'm working on a theory of six degrees of Kroger separation because everybody I've ever met has been married to, friends with, related to, or dated a Kroger employee.
So, a fellow co-worker of about 19 or 20, named Jennifer, was assigned to sacking duties. While she looked perfectly normal on the outside, Jennifer occasionally acted slow, and lacked socially acceptable manners. You see she had a proclivity for feminine itching. Disgustingly, right there at the end of the checkstand while touching people's food items with the same fingers that moments prior had been scratching at her hoo-hoo. This store, located smack in the middle of country club suburbia enjoyed a very upscale clientele. The horrified look on customer faces as Jennifer nonchalantly scratched herself was absolutely priceless. I'm not a name caller but I found it amusing when other checkers and sackers started referring to her as "Scratch n Sniff". As a collective they gifted her with a box of Vagisil anti-itch cream wrapped in festive paper at Christmas. Mean but funny.
Jennifer's favorite tag line to every single solitary customer that came through my lane was, "OH! Is that watchoo havin fo dinna"? Even when obvious that the person was just picking up a few odds and ends. The worst happened as a stony faced lady of about 30 came through with only a case of beer and a box of tampons. I waited for it, and sure enough Jennifer rewarded me with a greeting to the lady followed by the, "Is that what you're having for dinner"? question. I couldn't contain myself any longer and I altered the newly minted Beef ad council slogan by saying, "Ummm yeah. BEER, it's what's for dinner with tampons as the appetizer".
The next time terror struck an unwitting Kroger's customer was the unfortunate lady who purchased a box of doughnuts. As I scanned the code on the bottom and placed it on the conveyor belt, the carton broke open and glazed doughnuts scattered everywhere. Jennifer pulled her fingers from the front of her pants long enough to come to the rescue. She authoritatively grabbed ahold of the box and delicately picked up each and every doughnut one by one and placed them back into the container. After they had been helter-skelter all over a filthy black rubbery conveyor belt. Yes, and after she licked her fingers clean between each doughnut retrieval. The lady's eyes just kept getting wider, and then Jennifer handed her the box and smiled cheerfully saying, "Here you go". I laughingly told the lady to just go get another dozen doughnuts and I'd throw this particular one away. To which I could see the immense relief in her changed facial expressions. I had earned her undying gratitude because she didn't know how to handle such a situation. I wonder if she wrote to Miss Manners to find out the proper etiquette when responding to a hoo-hoo scratching grocery store employee who licks her fingers, touches the food, and then gives it back. That would definitely spice up Miss Manners column.
People like Jennifer are more than likely the inspiration behind such marvelous products as Purell hand sanitizer and other personal anti-bacterial products developed over the past few years. We owe a lot to disgusting, uncouth members of our society because you see necessity truly is the mother of invention.