You Never Truly Retire From Grocery-Bagging

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Man Pushed Off Plate Of Chicken Wings By Larger Male

WARMINSTER, PA—Looking on as the intense display of aggressive behavior played out over several minutes, sources at Flannigan’s Bar & Grill confirmed Thursday that local man Pete Samuelson was pushed off a plate of buffalo wings by a much larger alpha male.

Grandma Guts It Out Through Lunch On Sunny Patio

MALVERN, PA—Making the audacious decision to dine outdoors with her family despite a noticeable lack of umbrellas or awnings, grandmother Diane McGilvery, 83, reportedly gutted it out through lunch Friday on the sunny patio of a local restaurant.

Man Proud Of Food He Ordered

DEDHAM, MA—Noting how the man grinned with satisfaction after his Buffalo Chicken Ranch sandwich with a side of spiced panko onion rings arrived at his table, sources at Chili’s Grill & Bar confirmed Tuesday that local diner Matt Schoesse ...

Café Adds Heartbreaking Little Lunch Menu

EUGENE, OR—Noting the new food items in a small boxed-off corner of the overhead chalkboard, patrons at local coffee shop Fairmount Java told reporters Monday that the café had apparently added a heartbreaking little lunch menu.

How Michelin Rates Restaurants

For decades, the French company Michelin has published a restaurant guide that rates restaurants on a scale of one to three stars, giving them a coveted Michelin star status.

People Apparently Been Using Rest Stop Barbecue Pit

GREENVILLE, SC—Scrutinizing the ashes of charcoal briquettes inside the weathered firebox, motorist Matt Palmeri reportedly deduced Thursday that people traveling southbound along Interstate 85 have apparently been using the rest stop’s barbec...

Man Who Stopped Dieting Already Seeing Results

MIDDLETOWN, KY—Noting that his new look had really turned heads among friends and family, local man Steven Jensen told reporters Wednesday that he had recently stopped dieting and had already started to see results.

Fast Food Customers Less Appealing Than In Commercial

GREENVILLE, SC—Expressing his disappointment shortly after sitting down for lunch at a local franchise location Wednesday, area man Peter Strauss told reporters that the customers at Burger King were actually far less appealing in real life than the...

Restaurant Gives Totally Unwanted Twist To Mexican Cuisine

BERKELEY, CA—Claiming that the eatery was already generating a buzz among locals with its “East Meets Mex” flavors, owners of the Bento Burrito location on Shattuck Avenue explained to reporters Tuesday how their new restaurant offers a ...

Scout Returns With News Of Quicker Checkout Line To The East

SALINAS, CA—After venturing forth into the vast, unexplored territory beyond the battery display, a scout is said to have returned from the farthest reaches of the Safeway cashier lanes with word of a quicker checkout line to the east, sources confi...

Cake Left Out In Break Room With No Instructions

MINNEAPOLIS—Leaving dozens of workers unsure as to whether they were permitted to consume the enticing dessert, sources at the offices of Highwood Insurance told reporters Wednesday that a cake had been left out in the break room without any instruc...

Local Oaf Not Sure What Part Of Counter You Order At

FAYETTEVILLE, NC—Appearing visibly confused as he scanned back and forth from one side of the establishment to the other, a local oaf was reportedly unsure which part of the Hilltop Deli counter he was supposed to place his order at Tuesday.

Lunch Barely Misses Area Man’s Vital Organs

CHICAGO—In what doctors are calling nothing short of a miracle, local man Jared Fox narrowly averted catastrophe Wednesday when the bacon cheeseburger he ate for lunch managed to pass through his body without hitting any life-sustaining organs.

Middle-Aged Man Having Best Snacks Of His Life

MORTON, MN—Marveling at the increases in both quality and satisfaction that have come with decades of experience, local 51-year-old Doug Kearns told reporters Tuesday that he has lately been having the best snacks of his life.

The Pros And Cons Of Going Vegetarian

While the vast majority of Americans are meat eaters, USDA statistics show that a growing number of Americans are becoming vegetarians and vegans to adopt healthier diets, ensure food safety, and practice ethical eating habits.

Man Regrets Straying From Sour Cream And Onion Potato Chips

COVINGTON, KY—Expressing a deep sense of regret regarding his decision to take a chance on jalapeño, local 36-year-old Mike Willhite told reporters Wednesday that he now sees all too clearly his folly in straying from his beloved sour cream a...

FDA Recalls Food

WASHINGTON—Saying it was vitally important that citizens avoid consuming any of the affected items, the U.S.

Male Gaze Falls On Buffalo Chicken Bites

BINGHAMTON, NY—Patrons at Thirsty’s Tavern and Grill confirmed Monday that the objectifying male gaze has fallen upon a $6.95 plate of buffalo chicken bites, resulting in the menu item being treated as if it serves no purpose beyond providing ...

Man Feeling Guilty About Chowing Down At 9/11 Museum Café

NEW YORK—Eagerly digging into a Southwest chicken wrap after touring the site for two hours this morning, Michael Frydland admitted to reporters that he felt a little guilty about totally pigging out at the National September 11 Memorial & Museu...

Takeout Bag Feels Light

OAKLAND, CA—Moments after picking up his carryout order from local restaurant Hunan Palace Monday evening, area man Alden Welch, 31, reportedly experienced a sharp sense of unease upon noticing his takeout bag felt unusually light. Unable to effecti...

Determined Restaurant Patrons Tough It Out On Chilly Patio

CHICAGO—Steeling themselves against the occasional breeze and the cold of the wrought iron table and chairs against their skin, a group of determined restaurant-goers reportedly braved the slightly chilly temperature Thursday and dined on the outdoo...
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Food

Outback

You Never Truly Retire From Grocery-Bagging

Long before I got my fancy degree to build residential structures and office parks, I made a name for myself in a different trade. I spent seven long, hard years up to my elbows in some of the filthiest—and yes, bloodiest—brown paper sacks you'd ever want to see. It taught me a lot of hard lessons, some I'm grateful for, some best left unmentioned. But I won't ever forget them. Grocery bagging, like all the other dirty little jobs society requires but pretends don't exist, is easy to get into. Getting out is something else. It's like embedded shrapnel. Like a phantom limb.

I first strapped on the apron at a little eight-aisle place in downtown Tempe—a dusty hell of a city where the damned stalked the aisles. But just because it's a godforsaken sandpit doesn't mean its cans aren't placed on the bottom and cartons of eggs on top. And for the next few years, that was my life.

It was a quick-and-dirty intro to this shadowy and disreputable world. And I saw it all: From shabby little shame-filled deals in shabby little smoke-filled break-rooms over who would "take care" of the old lady with four bags full of new groceries and a colostomy bag full of old ones, to the late-night wet-work cleaning up the mess my less-meticulous comrades left behind, to the last-minute drop-off in the trunk of a blonde housewife's sedan before she takes off into the wind. It's a world most suspect but few see—and fewer own up to.

I was one of those few.

But not the proud. That's a different uniform altogether—one with honor and tradition, not one hidden in plain sight. Friend, odds are you wouldn't have lasted three shifts in my world. I wasn't even sure I would myself. It comes at you like a blur in training: This is a pallet-jack, mind your extremities; this is my brown paper bag, there are many like it, but this one is mine, with its own intricate calculus of weights and stresses which must become second nature if you hope to fill it in under 25 seconds; and this slim, simple, sinister tool is your box cutter. Today, everyone thinks they know what that means. Believe me, they don't. Not really.

And it pulls you in. Whether you like it or not, that adrenaline starts flowing the instant the PA system switches on with a hollow electric click like a thin glass rod snapping. Before the cashier even has time to call for carry-out, you're off that milk crate you were standing on (it's best not to ask about the milk crate), walking briskly, unconsciously, toward the registers. Next thing you know, two brown bags are on the counter in front of you, your catch-hand thrust against the far side of the bag, your dominant hand tossing canned goods and packaged meat off the crook of your elbow and into the catch-hand, which arranges it all in a complex, compact, orderly matrix that belies the chaotic shadow world in which you, the bag boy, operate.

It had to end for me—I always knew I wasn't a lifer—and I left under a cloud, though it wasn't as acrid as the cigarette haze in the break-room. Guy named Macon was running things that day, that hot, humid day. Macon found me in the meat-freezer trying to cool off with a Coke, said the place stank like a slaughterhouse. Anyway, I couldn't explain the Coke, not without a receipt, and with only a month left until the first day of school, I decided to walk away.

All those people are ghosts now. You say you'll stay in touch, but you never do. Bagging was the only thing you had in common, and bagging was the one thing you could never discuss. It was a job that needed doing, and we did it, and now it's over.

But there are times, Sundays mostly, when I take the car down to the ValuSave in the town where I live—you don't need to know which town—and when I hit the checkout, I'm there all over again. The greasy tread of the conveyor belt, the beep of the scanner, the rustle of the register detail tape, and, most haunting of all, the sharp crack of brown-bag paper, all make me realize I'll never be truly free of it. Never.

And, God help me, I don't want to be.