Monday, January 24, 2011
The Witch of the Wine Department
If you are escape motivated like me you get anxious to get away from most situations. Probably I am unsupportive and insensitive and not grown up enough to deal with the imminent death of my father in law. My wife tells me I’d be different if it was my own parents, but I’m not sure if I would.
It’s an unspoken family policy that we bottle things up, eschew emotion and then jump off a cliff 20 years later. Therapy is strictly for Americans.
So it was with more enthusiasm than usual that I headed to my part-time job demonstrating wine on Saturday. Usually I manage to operate in splendid autonomy. I pick up my bottles, I set up my table. I talk to members of the public for a few hours while plying them with wine. I make enough sales to satisfy the distributor and get to take home the samples to guzzle for the rest of the week. It’s a win/win.
But on this occasion it was a different store and a different set up. Instead of picking up the wine from the distributor (we usually do it under the cover of darkness in the parking lot of a daycare), I was to be supplied it by the wine manager at the store.
I rolled in, slightly late as normal, and was setting up the table when I caught the eye of a short fierce-looking woman in the wine section. I assumed she was the wine manager. She had a name tag that read: “Wine Manager.”
“I had forgotten you were coming,” she said in a tone of voice that suggested this was my fault.
“Oh,” I replied noncommittally. Oh is usually noncommittal, I find.
The ramification of her oversight was that the bottles weren’t chilled. I didn’t have the heart to tell her most of the people who sampled my wine didn’t care about this.
But she went on to tell me ice alone wouldn’t do. I’d have to create a slurry (I’m sure she said slurry, even though I winced at this word, usually understanding it to mean liquefied cow crap). She said I’d have to fill half of the bucket with ice and the rest water.
I headed behind the deli to find some ice. I had filled up half of my bucket and sensed a small but rather angry presence behind me. “You aren’t wearing a hat mister. You have to wear a hat back here,” she yelled.
I assume she was referred to the shower caps that I had missed by the entrance. Now I wasn’t overly concerned that a head lice the size of a hamster would jump from my head onto the Brie because even if I had head lice (which I don’t) they wouldn’t be that large.
I spared her the wisdom of my logic and reached for a shower cap.
But my problems were far from over. It’s an unfortunate characteristic of mine that whenever someone starts yelling at me I become even more useless. Under her withering gaze I tried to manufacture slurry only to find I was totally incapable of working the complex tap system.
By the time I got to the relative safety of my table, I was already feeling my Saturday was going badly.
Sales were low. I made a point of telling the wine manager how sales were always better at the rival superstore and how much I liked working there.
I was in the safety zone for a while until I asked a young guy if he wanted to sample. “I’m 23 but I don’t have my license,” he said.
“No problem,” I said. He sampled and took away a bottle of Cabernet to buy.
Unfortunately the wine manager from hell was back on my case again.
“If they say they don’t have ID they are normally underage,” she instructed me.
I basically told her I didn’t care as he was buying a bottle with his girlfriend who looked about 50-years-old and probably had ID.
Of course I wanted to say…OK if this guy happens to be 20 is his life really going to go downhill because he illegally sampled two Milliliters of Merlot? Will the cops quit chasing down the murder suspects on the mean streets and lock down the supermarket over my actions?
What is it about the US and alcohol anyway? Wal-Mart has a policy to check the IDs of anybody buying alcohol who looks like they are under 40. Since when did 39 become the legal age for drinking alcohol?
I decided not to tell the wine manager about the pub in my home town that relied on 13-year-old drinkers to stay open. I often wonder if the Rose and Crown endures.
Our swords didn’t cross again until an hour later when she frogmarched me to the drain where I had to dispose of the sweet wine and told me the other samples could go to the deli to be used for cooking.
“I normally get to take them home,” I blurted out. Bad move #22. She halted mid march to glare intently at me again. “They let you take them home? Well you do realize these wines are the property of the store rather than the winery’s?”
Even partially polished off bottles apparently. Note to self. Go out back with aforementioned bottles and drink sloppily straight from the bottle.
Shortly after 3 p.m. it seemed she was about to depart. I looked around for some party poppers and silly string.
“OK. Where are your corks?” she asked me out of the blue
“In the trash.”
Cue disaffected sigh from Napoleon Pants.
“I can get them out of the trash.”
Her hands sunk even more deeply into her hips. “I do hope you are joking.”
“Of course,” I responded. Actually I was only half joking. I wanted to follow up with the observation that nothing would tempt me to dig her out of the trash if she ended up there. I desisted.
Finally she shuffled off, muttering about something inaudibly.
The fortified lemonade taster shuffled over to my table. “She’s kind of by the book,” she said.
“That’s one word for it.”
So we decided it was time to reacquaint ourselves with our products, for purely educational and marketing purposes.
And to toast the departure of the Witch of the Wine Department…