Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bananas are code 11

Not to sound to critical of the produce selection at our local market (the only market in town), but growing up in LA, I admit to being a bit spoiled when it comes to having access to a wide selection of good, fresh fruit and vegetables.

Not so here.

But we adapt and deal.

So when I heard through the plum vine that current shipment of red plums were actually decent, I told C (who loves plums more than broccoli -- and she loves broccoli. Seriously, she loves broccoli) that we were market bound.

So here I stand, holding an ever expanding plastic produce bag, as my two girls fill it up with plum after juicy, luscious red plum.

Then I notice something. This plum has a sticker on it. This one does too. They all have stickers on them.

These stickers in fact.Back in the day, when I was a checker at my local Alpha Beta making $13.85 an hour, part of our training would find us memorizing dozens upon dozens codes for every single piece of produce our store would carry.

Bananas were code 11. Plaintains were 12.
Head lettuce was 25. Romaine lettuce was 26.
Red plums, 35, Black plums, 36. Pineapple, 42.

You get the idea.

The more years you put in behind the register, the more codes and types of produce you would find yourself remembering.

I could tell the difference between a red onion and a red shallot.
Red delicious, Jonathan, McIntosh, Rome Beauty - all red, all apples, all different codes.
Tangerines, tangelos, mandarins, navel and juice oranges - all sweet, all orange, all different codes.
3 lb. bag Russets, 5 lb. bag White Rose, 10 lb. bag Yukon Gold - code, codes, codey-code-codes.
Water, Winter, Musk, Cantalope, Honeydew, Casaba, Cranshaw, Canary, and even Santa Claus - melon - code, melon-code, melon-code.

It was a learned art form which many lesser checkers never quite mastered.

This was in the days before bar coded packaging, scanners, repetitive stress disorder, credit cards, atm / debit cards, keypads or identity theft.

I learned on an old Sweda cash register (you remember those don't you? Big, brown, mechanical and you needed to have fingers of steel and a strong punch to add the totals up -- tink, tink, kachunk, KACHUNK!).

By the time I was made a full checker, I had graduated to an S18 5-high computerized register. Enter the need for codes.

Every checker had to visually approve all checks and verify the ID and phone numbers
And if you wrote a check, be sure to have your ID ready or you can get one off our check cashing cards (which would pre approve your check up to $250).

Every grocery item had a price tag on it. Every piece off produce had a corresponding code.

And every plum was pure.
And every plum was virtuous.
And every plum felt no fear of it's skin being invaded by a gummed up sticker bearing the cheat sheet code for the checker to ring it up with.

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