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.


Julie said...

Um...I'm wishing now I hadn't just eaten dinner. Ewwwwww! (or should I say "spewwww!")

Okay, I have to, once more, put in a shameless plug to my brother's blog about handwashing here. Go read it at

Elizabeth-W said...

If I had written that post, you would have an amazingly witty comment. Insert that here [ ]. You are too much! You really need a wider audience. Maybe you could get these stories in a coffee table book [again, insert witty book title here].

Mimo said...

Once again EWL you have left me speechless. And I am sooooo glad I bag my OWN groceries!!!

wendela said...

Oh, elastic, why aren't you writing scripts? Seriously!

wendela said...

And, julie, your brother's handwashing post was GREAT! Found myself being a paper towel piler at the movies today. :)

Pisces Iscariot said...

In Scotland someone link that would be called 'minging' or 'a minger' (rhymes with sing).
I worked with a guy in Norway who only bathed once every two weeks and seldom changed into fresh clothes.
We called him 'Ming the Merciless'

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I'm thinking of writing a script for this. Can you imagine it?

At the open auditions for The Girl Who Scratched Too Much.

"I'm sorry miss but we're looking for people with natural scratching capabilities. Yours is just too exaggerated and phony. Next please"!

Pisces, Looks like "The Ming Dynasty" lives on in modern times!

Radioactive Jam said...

I'm getting a mental picture of Jennifer with husband and children. No matter what setting I put 'em in, the picture makes *me* feel like Edvard What's-his-name's The Scream.

And I bought donuts today.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

radioactive, we're going to open up a friendly debate here about proper spellings. Now, you say donut while I spell it doughnut. Who's correct. Is it ketchup or catsup? Leave your weapons at home, this is a friendly discourse.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

I was just thinking about the time us front end personnel tried to play matchmaker for Jennifer. We had an 18 year old sacker, Toby, whose many hobbies included picking his nose. We thought it would be a match made in heaven but Jennifer spurned his advances.

Theoretical Grammatarian said...

Poor spurned Toby. Perhaps Jennifer was afraid of getting his Green Gold on her hoo-hoo while scratching after a session of lunch break hand-holding?

Julie said...

You are really really funny!
Oh, by the way... I worked for Dillons which is a Kroger company here in Kansas!

omar said...

1) Ew. Ewwww ew ew ew ew.

2) It's ketchup.

3) Dunkin' Donuts has made "donut" acceptable. Just like McDonalds made "drive thru" acceptable. You can't argue with major fast food chains, it's un-American.

Pisces Iscariot said...

By the way, according to Calvin (Calvin & Hobbes) "Mothers are the necessity of invention"

Moi said...

Oh Elastic- I'm not sure what to say. I guess you could say I'm speechless. From now on, I will be watching the baggers at our local grocery store verrry carefully.
Julie, my husband worked for Dillons in Kansas too! Most likely not the same one, but just thought I'd add that. Not that you'd think I was cooler or anything, just that maybe you'd think it was great that we kind of had a Kansas connection. Not that i grew up there, but I did do time there for 5 years. Come to think of it, you're probably not even going to read the comments, and EWL will be ticked off that I hijacked her comment section, but what the hay.

elasticwaistbandlady said...

Theoretical that made me laugh. Perhaps even among ardent pickers, love is still a fickle thing. I've never taken the opportunity to tell you that Thomas is a gorgeous baby. I love those big blue eyes and chubby cheeks!

Ola Blueberry Mama! I wonder if your husband and carrot jellos have some intriguing grcoery store lore to tell? By the way, I found your blog and I like the artsy craftsy things you've showcased. Good job!

Omar, if I argue with fast food chains then the terrorists have indeed won. So I'm adopting the spelling of donut into my mental dictionary.

Pisces, when I first read it I thought you were quoting THE Calvin and that maybe you're a secret Calvinist. Calvin and Hobbes is a good source of wisdom though too.

I made carrot speechless. My day is now complete.