an excerpt from One More For The People by Martha Grover
I work in the cheese department of a busy, upscale grocery store. We sell around $3,000 worth of cheese a day. If you figure the average price of cheese is about $5 a piece, that means we sell 600 pieces of cheese a day. I personally cut, wrap, price, and label about a quarter of that. That means I wrap about 150 pieces of cheese a day. Multiply that by the four days a week I work and you get the figure of 600 pieces a week.
I can do this work with my eyes closed. I can cut, slice, and wrap cheese with the precision of a machine. While I work, it’s possible for me to hold long conversations with actual people, or if no one else is around, the people in my mind. Customers come in with their cheese problems, questions, and complaints. Sometimes I can help them.
“Can I help you find a cheese?” I say.
“I’m having friends over tonight and I want this certain cheese but I don’t remember the name,” the woman replies.
“Can you describe it?”
“Well, let me think … it was Italian and was kind of like a Parmesan but fruitier.”
“Was it the Piave Vecchio?”
“Yes! That was it.”
And I feel good. But often I can’t help customers—we don’t have what they’re looking for. Or, as is often the case, they don’t really know what they want. Something sharp and spreadable? (It doesn’t exist.) Something to use in place of a Cheddar in macaroni and cheese, but that has flavor—but not too much flavor? I sigh and try to be helpful. But sometimes I can only point them in the general direction of a good melter (Fontina, Gruyere) or something their in-laws from Michigan will like (Cotswold?). They leave, not dissatisfied necessarily, but confused, almost melancholy.