The Witch of the Wine Department

Given that my life seems to be dominated by the prospect of impending death at the moment, it can be good to get away from the house at the weekend.

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…


  1. I think by the book is an understatement.

  2. Therapy is for Americans pubs are for Scots.
    Funnily enough I can buy a 12 gauge pump action murder stick at gold old Wallie-World but heaven help me if I try to wrangle a bottle of $3 vino without proper papers.
    Nice post wine man...
    PS. bung a bottle or 3 over my way.

  3. I feel awful saying this, but this story was hilarious. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Although I feel terrible for you having to put up with such an awful person. That woman is crazy! And clearly enjoys her power. This actually sounds like something you would see in a tv show or movie. Ahh, quite entertaining. I do hope your week is better though. :P

  4. Very funny piece of writing-gotta love the crazy wine manager.

  5. Very funny post! Enjoy your writing style.


  6. Oh boy. Sounds like someone needs to take that book out of her you-know-what! Ugh, I just hate people like that. All that stress of dealing with her surely earned you a free bottle or two ;)

  7. lol Oilfield - tis rather. No worries Sausage Fingers. Any time. As long as you can prove you are over 90. Thanks Jennifer, appreciate it. I think she needed to pull that broom handle out of her backside. Thanx Tim, we love to hate jobsworths. cheers Pearl; likewise. it certainly wasn't my most relexing sat Lifebegins at...

  8. I'm sorry to hear about your father in law's failing health. Most people would like to escape from dealing with that sort of thing if they could, I'm sure.

    This is a very amusing tale about the wine witch. My favorite part was the bit about not digging her out of the trash if she ended up there. HA! Well-written. Thanks for the smile.

  9. Sounds like she needs to have a long drink, for like a year or so. This reminded me of when I voluntarily helped at a food fest. I was assigned to serve alcohol. It was pure hell. 99% of my customers told me there was too much foam in their beer. I told one man, who was clearly tipsy, "Drive safely." This angered him so much that he came back later threatening to beat me up. Thankfully (for him), he didn't try to mess with me. Anyway, excuse my rant. Glad you toasted to the witch's departure.

  10. Thanks Daisy - it is escapism. Glad it made you smile. wow - sounds like some plasant customers at your foamy beer fest, Robyn - I'm sure you could have given as good as you got, tho.

  11. In a cruel way, I'm glad your paths crossed. It made for a good post, and possibly got your mind off FIL for a while. all the best to your wife.

  12. This is a pretty funny story. Thanks for letting us laugh at your frustration. :)

  13. I keep imagining the scene and find it straight out of a sitcom...I guess the fact that you didn't react much, pissed her off some more....sorry about FIL's failing health, don't know what to say....

  14. What a jobs-worth stupid cow. Amazing how one person can make a pleasant job a pain in the arse.

  15. Liddy Dole has a lot to answer for. As transport secretary she came up with the cunning plan of withholding federal road maintenance money from states that had a drinking age below 21.

    So now we have a nation of infantilized air-heads who become habituated to smoking pot in their teens.

  16. Oh dear. I hate her for you. I think she needs way more than a drink.

    As for the U.S. and alcohol, it's beyond ridiculous. The control that we try to put on alcohol has totally backfired and still we hold on to the age limits.

    And look at the DWIs and alcoholism in this country. Crazy-making.

  17. Don't feel bad David, The witch of the wine department is always there where ever I go. I can't seem to get away from her or him. You seem like my male counter-part. It's the seed of God in you that attacks the idiots of the world.

  18. Thanks Sue - the extreme characters I encounter are the best ones to write about. No worries Alyson, frustration is always funny. Thanx Rek, well there were times when i felt like losing it. Ha Sarah - jobsworth stupid cow sums her up. Indeed Suchio, I blame Liddy. For sure Deborah, it doesn't make much sense, maybe a hangover from prohibition. I know right, Suzzy, they recogise the seed of God in me and decide to make my life hell for sure...

  19. I would have reached into the garbage can for the corks and they would not have been for the wine bottles!


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