I see you as you grocery shop.
I hear your conversations as you open the doors to my lair.
You may have seen a vague shadow lurking behind the milk before.
You may have even wondered what’s causing all of the creamer to suddenly slide forward on the shelf.
Maybe you’ve never thought much of those things. Maybe you’ve really never wondered what’s further past the meticulously displayed products behind those mysterious clear glass doors.
But sometimes there is a moment when all is revealed. Those rare, fleeting moments when, in the gap where the organic soy milk normally goes (but which is somehow inexplicably always out of stock), we make eye contact.
Yes, I am the man behind the doors. I am the one stocking the dairy cooler.
I will spend my whole shift in the quiet confines of this cold concrete bunker. Chilled to 40ºF, the pallets of milk, orange juice, and yogurt provide my company.
Each day in the dairy cooler is an intense game of whack-a-mole: stock the specialty milk products and non-dairy substitutes before any of the popular milk gallons or egg cartons run out. The work never ends. By the time I finish re-stocking the fat-free milk, I can look back at the whole milk and see just how many gallons have found their way into a customer’s hands already. Indeed, I can judge how busy foot traffic is on the sales floor based on how fast the milk disappears. A busy day, and I’ll have to restock the milk gallons twice in a shift. I can go through more than two pallets of a single variety in a day—and that’s 288 gallons per pallet.
I can tell when the store opens based on when the slams of the dairy doors begin. Like an impending thunderstorm, it starts with a few sporadic slams before the deluge of banging doors betrays the intensity of early morning shopper traffic.
In between door slams, I hear snippets of cell phone conversations, commentary about our current stock, and intense deliberation on which product to buy. I listen silently as I work to replace what is running low. Most of the chatter is not intended for me, though I hear more than you are aware of. Most of you don’t know I’m back here working—or that I’m quite amenable to help you with your dairy.
But some of you know the secret. There are the bold few who pop their heads in through the door, eye me through the gaps in the dairy, and ask me to find a product. Milk, I’m an expert in. Cheese and yogurt I know a bit about too. But please don’t ask me about dry goods. I am happy here in my dairy cave. I feel a bit like a hermit crab out of his shell when forced out onto the sales floor.
My job is to keep you happy and to give you dairy. You may never see me, but if the milk is well stocked then you know I’m there, always eavesdropping and spying on you behind the dairy doors.