Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Trader Joe's Moment

It goes without saying that the employees at the local Trader Joe's are an interesting, bright, colorful, fun, upbeat group of people. Last September, I was hired to work for this wonderful company, and I felt lucky. On one particular day, I celebrated what I call a Trader Joe's Moment, and I must share it with you. This little excerpt gives you a peek into the fun that I called "work."

I'm sitting in the break room which consists of a small, single room at the back of the store. I'm sharing a table with a co-worker of mine named Bee (names have been altered). We are happily eating lunch. Bu, another co-worker, is preparing his lunch at the other table in the room behind me. Food is always a conversation piece in the break room- What are you eating? Did you bring lunch? I'm craving a bagel from Towson Hot Bagels. What are you heating up in the microwave? That smells good.

Well, on this particular day, I'm eating my standard cream cheese on toast, with the all-healthy bag of chips, a can of root beer, a bowl of cinnamon apple sauce, and a granola bar. Bee is eating yogurt, as usual, and that's all. So, I begin my regular conversation with him about how he should eat something-ANYTHING more. He laughs and scoffs at me. Then I smell it...this funky, gamey, vinegar smell. Someone throws open the door and yells, "Oh my God! What is that horrible smell?"

I turn around to see Ti and Tay walk into the break room. Tay walks over to the bank of lockers where employees keep their swag and grabs a toothbrush and toothpaste. This is when I notice Bu's lunch, and it's hard to ignore. Ti moves in close, leans over Bu's lunch, and takes a big sniff. "Boy, that is an awful stink! What is that hot pile of meat you're eating, Bu? You frighten me." Bee laughs and so do I. Bu, not bothered by this remark, says, "I'm eating a bison meatball sub. Duh." This particular meatball sub consists of 6 bison meatballs sitting atop a piece of white bread with a slice of yellow American cheese and then an additional 6 bison meatballs finished with another slice of yellow cheese and the final piece of white bread. Remember the scene in The Breakfast Club, where Ally Sheedy's character eats a sandwich with Cap'n Crunch and pixie stix sugar? This is a similar situation.

In the meantime, Tay applied toothpaste to his toothbrush at the sink in the corner and began brushing. He walked around the break room and hummed as he brushed his pearly whites. Both Bee and I watched as Bu attempted to take a bite of his 10" sandwich. It was scary to witness. Both Bee and I wished Bu all the best, chuckled and went back to eating our minuscule lunches. Ti commented on Bu's impending indigestion and sauntered out. Tay finished with his teeth, put his cleaning supplies away, and left the break room smiling with fresh, shiny teeth.

Now this episode may not seem like much to others, but it was special to me. I can't explain it, but seeing everyone in their comfort zone around me made me feel "inside" and included, like I was a part of something great. It was a lot like being at home. It reminded me of when I was in architecture school at the University of Florida. I was surrounded almost exclusively by guys, and they are SO different than girls, especially if they feel comfortable around you. I felt lucky to experience this chance moment at work. Maybe you've had a similar experience at some time?