Something unclear saved my life one afternoon, years ago, when I worked in a supermarket deli.
My station was at a cutting board outside the rectangular island of shelves, counters and refrigerator cases, next to the gyros machine. I prepared the day’s gourmet food samples for customers before the lunch rush began at around 11:00 a.m., then worked behind the counter taking sandwich orders and getting salads and anything else customers wanted until the rush was over again around two o’clock. I could usually stop once during that time to refill my samples with bits I’d cut and stored in the refrigerated case, but it was understood that I’d be needed back behind the counter quick.
The big boss was the only person who thought they could get along without me. That always struck me as strange. If he thought my main job description as the sample person was so important, it would have made sense to make sure the deli had the budget to hire another person for the lunch rush. Of course, their needing me might also have been due to the fact that I hustled behind the counter. I’d even had a couple of good ideas for efficiency, after about three weeks when I knew the prices and had a better feel for the place. Still, when the big boss was in the store checking up on things, my coworkers had to fend for themselves. He had threatened me with my job if he ever saw my samples empty again. He scared the hell out of me and everyone understood that.
On a certain morning, I filled the samples and got behind the counter fast, forgetting to prepare extras for the middle of the rush. My coworkers were happy to see me waiting on customers so soon, taking the opportunity to get things set up which was hard to do when you didn’t have one person to just work the counter.
During an unexpected break, a coworker suggested I run and fill up the samples.
“Why?” I asked. “Have you seen the boss?”
“No,” he said.
“Then I can watch the counter while you take care of whatever you need to do in the back.”
He said, “You don’t need to tell me twice,” and ran off to wash pots.
Another coworker and I waited on a slower but steady stream of customers until it was clear that I could work the counter by myself, but she suggested that I fill the samples before she went in the back to help our coworker get things washed and filled and put back in the case. I remember smiling. I felt really good that day while I told anyone who asked that it’d be okay, they should go ahead and do whatever they needed to do. I had the counter covered. She argued with me a little bit and mentioned that I could get in trouble, and that felt strange to me. It not only made my stomach feel funny, but I swear it made the inside of my brain itch. I can’t think of a better way to explain it. I think she could tell something was up. Her response to the look on my face was like an apology. She threw up her hands and said, “All right, all right!” and added, “Thanks,” as she walked out the opening next to the gyros machine, went around the salad section of the case and across to the swinging doors that led to the back room.
After two o’clock, while I was still happy helping customers behind the counter even though my sample plates had been long empty, a coworker ran up to tell me that the big boss had just come in. I was filling an order and said okay, but my brain got weird again. She promised to get behind the counter after she filled the pesto pasta salad. I told her to take her time. I said it loud and slow. She looked at me as if I’d lost my mind.
A new customer popped up behind the last one and began to ask me the prices of salads by pointing to them. She had an accent, so I think she was a tourist, but my head was in the case trying to find the one she was pointing at, when I heard what seemed like the sound of a six-foot row of metal shelves, including cans and jars, falling and smashing to the floor. I looked over to see what had happened, but all the shelves were as they should have been. My customer was asking what had happened as I stood inside the deli island staring in the direction of the noise.
I watched as the big boss showed up and started staring at something by the gyros machine. My customer had to get my attention so I could finish her order. She chose something. I got it packaged and wished her a good afternoon, then walked to the opening by the gyros machine. The big boss and the assistant manager were looking up and pointing, then looking down at my cutting board. With another few steps, I saw the thick center piece of one of the store’s huge overhead fans on my cutting board, with about ten inches of it jutting out from the counter. The thing was about nine inches high and maybe twenty inches around, and looked like it was made of iron. One of the propeller blades was where my feet would’ve been.
When I realized how I’d felt every time someone tried to get me to go back to my cutting board that day, I got upset and wobbly. Before I realized I needed to sit down, one of the guys who’d gathered around to look at the debris, said I’d own the store if I’d been standing there when the fan fell. A guy next to him said, “You mean her relatives would own the store. She’d probably be dead.”
I remembered this story last week when I visited a site offering free intuitive readings to writers. When it comes to this sort of thing, clairvoyant sorts of things, I neither believe nor disbelieve. I guess you can see why. I asked a question. You can read the answer I got here at Three Kings. I thought it was pretty interesting. Say what you will about it, for or against, but any reading that’s positive and not trying to scare a person out of whatever they have or string them along, is fine by me. I can take it or leave it, no aspersions.
The universe hasn’t made clear to me whatever was happening in my mind that day at the deli, but I’d have to be an idiot to think it was pure coincidence. If I’d been about to quit and didn’t care anymore, maybe, but I assure you that was definitely not the case.
You should’ve seen how the big boss avoided my eyes that day. He didn’t mention that my sample plates were empty. They moved my station inside the island after that.