Jobs, Part 2: Stocker/Bagger, Heinens Grocery Store

Stocker/Bagger, Heinens Grocery Store: Sometime during the Winter of 1989/1990, my Dad informed the family he was being promoted from his current job in our hometown of Buffalo, New York to a larger office Cleveland, Ohio. A year or two earlier my Grandfather had retired and sold his company, Protective Equipment Supply Co., to Figgie International, a multi-nation corporation that owned companies like Rawlings and Scott.

To say this was a blow is an understatement. I loved Buffalo, specifically I loved the Buffalo Bills and Buffalo Sabres, and it just so happened the Bills were coming off one of the most painful playoff losses in team history to the Cleveland Browns.

For those who don’t remember, the 1989 Wild Card game between the Bills and Browns is semi-legendary. The game gave birth to what would become the K-Gun offense, which featured quarterback Jim Kelly calling plays from the line in a hurry-up offense. You can read the recap here, but the gist is that the game lived up to its Wild Card designation with back-n-forth scoring throughout the game and incredible defensive plays. However, there are two moments that will forever live in Bills infamy.

The first was the legendary “Don Beebe catches the ball, gets hit, his legs taken out from under him, flips completely over and bounces on his head” play. In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: Don Beebe bounces on his head

The second moment was so painful, I couldn’t retype it, so I’m just quoting from the link above:

Kelly had Ronnie Harmon wide open in the corner of the end zone and floated a pass right into the RB’s hands. Harmon had the ball bounce off his fingertips, dropping the winning score. On the Bills last play, a desperate heave by a pressured Jim Kelly fell into the hands of LB Clay Matthews, killing the Bills hopes. Buffalo was eliminated 34-30.

In the Fall of 1990 I started my Junior year at Chagrin Falls High School. Chagrin Falls was and is a small, affluent eastern suburb of Cleveland. How small? My graduating class of 1992 had 92 people. Sure, it’s not shack with five kids in the Ozarks, but it was small enough. On the first day of class, when I was called on as “the new kid” and asked to introduce myself, as soon as I said “I moved here from Buffalo, New York,” a “Bills suck” emanated from the back of the room followed by some random snickering. A good way to start my experience at a new school.

Not too long after getting my drivers license in the early fall of 1990 did I start working at Heinen’s Grocery Store just down the road from Chagrin Falls in Bainbridge. While there, I had two main responsibilites: stocking shelves and bagging groceries. I actually liked both jobs, as they played into my light-OCD/need to organize. On occasion, I had to clean the store (either running a mop for spilt liquids or doing after closing clean-up), hop on at a register (very rarely) and work in the cart room. What, exactly, is the cart room?

At Heinen’s it’s policy (or use to be, I dunno, haven’t been there in years) that customers could not take carts into the parking lots. Next to the exit was a cart room, and anyone who had more than they could carry dropped their cart off to a waiting cart wrangler, who had a pair of plastic numbers – one would hang on the cart and one would go on the passenger window of the customers vehicle. They’d pull up, we’d take the cart over to their car and unload it into their trunk or back seat.

I guess the thinking was this would cut down on parking lot dings for cars and that Heinen’s was providing superior service than your average grocery store, and to be honest it wasn’t a bad gig since it was a nice area and most people tipped a buck or two. Even though it sucked to work in the winter, by far the best time to work the cart room was just before Christmas. It was not uncommon to snag a five, ten and even twenty dollar tip just before the holiday. As most of us were high school kids, the extra dough on top of our minimum wage pay was greatly appreciated, and to this day I try to tip well whenever the situation calls for it (i.e. someone is doing their job well).

Alas, there are some bad memories from my time at Heinens. I had two accidents in their parking lot, both occurring before within the first six months of having my license. I was almost ready to give up driving after the second one I was so upset. After high school, when we still lived in Chagrin Falls I went back for one Summer.

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