"We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." ~Maya Angelou

Monday, December 12, 2016

Spicy Days At The Shop


     During the month of December, the spice shop business quadruples, or more.  People stream in the doors in groups, searching for a different kind of gift to give to that special someone...or for everyone in the office. When this happens we usually say, "The Tiger is running!" That means everyone steps up their game and helps everyone else, takes extra shifts, stays later, and: Does. Not. Complain. We never catch up. We place huge orders and fill orders for corporate customers and meet and greet all day long.
      The pictures of running tigers didn't really do anything for me this year so I decided on this one of a herd of running horses instead.  This is more like what it is like in the shop. I particularly like the dust.  Spices are powdery and they tend to fluff up into the air because of the ceiling fans, settling in your hair or on the tops of jars or all over your clothes.  When you come home from working all day at the spice shop you smell delicious but you really, really want to take a shower immediately.  One year I went straight from the spice shop to the OCU Christmas Vespers music concert. I sat down next to my friend Pat and she did the super slow-mo head turn, smiled at me and said, " You smell very spicy, my friend."  All I can ever say to that is that there are lots of other ways I could smell that wouldn't be nearly as nice. There's that. 
     You see all those horses in the picture? That's spot-on too.  Most of them are heading in the same general direction but each of them is running their own race. That's our happy group of spice merchants.  Someone is usually in the back, jarring something, topping off the Big Jars, receiving an order, wandering the stacks trying to gauge whether we need to order that spice this week or not, washing the dishes, wishing someone would wash dishes...but not wanting to do it themselves, scavenging for something to snack on, sweeping/mopping the floors, breaking down cardboard boxes, taking out the trash, jarring extracts, putting spice into jars for back-stock, or this: standing in the spot that faces what we call "the orphan shelves" just looking, not moving.  This is what you do when you're looking for that one special kind of spice that doesn't belong on any of the alphabetized shelves.  The orphan spices are the ones of which we either have a very small amount or a huge amount (like black garlic or freeze dried corn).  Each of the orphans has to be in sight all the time, so everyone can find them easily, so you can't really go in there and move things around willy-nilly. You have to search with only your eyes (this is an excellent time to take a good long drink of water.....something you will most likely have forgotten to do).
    That's going on in the back of the shop.
In the front of the shop, there are also spices being jarred, labels being run off in the office, phone calls being taken, customers being helped, shelves being back-stocked (ALL DAY LONG), spices being jarred an ounce at a time and a pound at a time, spices being boxed for shipping.  We also have to keep an eye on the customers so we can notice when they look as if they might be becoming overwhelmed. Then we can wander over that way and help them out with a few open-ended questions and some suggestions of blends to try.
        It's very busy in there; lots of walking around and around and around, lots of straightening rows of bottles and squatting down to get more jars out of the cabinets below, the labels are in big deep drawers that pull waaaaaay out, right in front of you. There is an ongoing dance type of thing that goes on in the space where we jar and label bags and bottles for customers. I think it would be fun to watch the video of a busy day in the shop, but run it in fast motion.
     People change their minds and leave jars sitting here and there. They always pick up the gift sets and leave them facing backward...ALWAYS. (I have no idea.) So we are continually spinning jars around the right way, turning sets around, returning wandering jars to their correct place, bringing big jars of spice to the island to bag something and then taking them back to their homes. Like I said: it's very busy.
    However, now and then there are moments when not a single customer is in the shop. In those moments we sometimes stop and look at each other in surprise.  We try to clean up the jarring island, someone or maybe a couple of someones takes a lunch break. But, if we fill up a bowl with spice, in preparation for filling a box full of jars, people will once again surge through the doors. It never fails. We try to keep a bowl or two of spice sitting around as "people bait" most of the time.  They seem to kind of like to watch us jar and label, for some reason. Probably because it is an antiquated practice and it blows their minds to think we still do the jarring by hand.  I'll be honest: it kind of blows my mind too, but that is company policy.
      The spice shop, in December, is a mad house....but I love it (except for the fact that my feet are usually killing me).  I  wish I could work there more often, but I can't. (My kids have informed me that they wish I wouldn't work myself to death. They apparently want to keep one of their parents around for a little while longer. Okay then.)
     

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