Posted by: tlnemethy | January 15, 2017

Twas the night before when hell broke loose

The morning before Christmas eve (our busiest day before Valentine’s day) I got to work an hour earlier than usual. We had a lot of arrangements on the board for the day, and many more would be coming in soon because no one plans anything out and obviously Christmas eve is not enough of a memorable event to remember to order arrangements early. Grumble.

I immediately started clearing out overnight orders from the printer, a stack that was daunting enough that no one else really wanted to touch it. It took me nearly an hour to input all the orders into our own computer system, but everyone else was already in the back bustling around. I could hear vague snippets of chatter coming from the back, but didn’t bother to listen too hard since it wasn’t meant for me anyways.

Finally when I made my way to my work station and set up shop there I noticed a weird tense silence where there’d once been at least a small hum of talk. Only the radio remained, playing the same list of Christmas songs that played every day.

Sometimes there’s just a weird tension though, so I shrugged it off and started planning what arrangements to tackle first. When I opened the door to the walk-in-cooler though, I realized why there was tension everywhere. The walk in was ungodly hot. It normally hovers around the upper thirties. Chilly but not freezing. But this was like walking into a jungle of humidity. I don’t know how long the cooler had been dead but it was long enough to build up heat that made me uncomfortable, heat that made a stench grow from within. Not the nice pleasant smell of flowers, but the warm, humid smell of long hidden mold growing exponentially. It was cloying.

Taking one passing glance at the shelves piled high with thousands in premade orders, I grabbed my work bucket of greens and entered the silence once again.

I don’t know if you know this, but temperature extremes generally kill cut flowers. Roses blow wide open in the heat like they’re fanning themselves with their petals, lilies turn sheer and frail, alstromeria wilts. Let me tell you, every single on of those premade arrangements had at least those three ingredients.

The repair man did not come quickly.

We moved what we could to the already-packed front coolers and continued as if nothing was wrong.

When he showed up it turned out to be a quick and relatively cheap fix. We internally celebrated as our fingers continued to jab stems into centerpieces. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Within moments the cooler regained a chill, within the hour it was brisk. Though it seemed to be even colder than usual. I used to take my time in the cooler, picking a stem here and there to add to my bouquet. Now it seemed too cold to be in there for any length of time. I grabbed bunches at a time just so I wouldn’t have to go back. I debated putting on my coat. I blew bursts of air from my mouth when I exited. It felt cold.

The next morning, Christmas Eve, I grabbed a bunch of alstromeria from a bucket, quickly jerking them free, but instead of easily coming out I dragged the bucket off the shelf. I stopped, bewildered, pulling once more. Nothing came free. The bucket was frozen solid.

Everything in the cooler that had survived the heat wave had now been frozen.

Not the best time for catastrophic failure at all. But I guess if you’ve got to work Christmas Eve, you might as well work through an apocalypse as well.

Posted by: tlnemethy | January 2, 2017

Holiday Greens

This weekend was the first weekend in a long time I haven’t spent working. You might be able to tell purely because I haven’t posted in quite some time and you were pretty much done even hoping for a notification in your inbox about this site. I apologize for that. Juggling hasn’t been working out for me lately. But because things are dying down a bit lately I figured I’d fill you in on just one little bit of my not so distant past.

Christmas.

img_20161213_134617582In the florist shop there are holidays and then there is the holiday season. Thanksgiving for example is a bunch of work all slowly leading up to the culmination of one day. Same thing with Mother’s Day. You would think that, following that pattern,  christmas would also be a big ramp up with a mildly jarring day but doable. I’m here to tell you that Christmas arrangements take up a solid month. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. No slow, gradual increase in arrangement sales. It is a cacophony of arranging. The big time of arranging, not piddly little vased things but delicately crafted centerpieces.

First off, we work in evergreens during the month of December. Evergreens, in case you don’t know, are prickly and sappy, and come in branches that involve way more work to arrange with than leatherleaf for example. Ever damn centerpiece that gets ordered takes close to half an hour to green up. We have to get a floral foam and soak it in water and shape it to the plastic design tray and tape it in and stab candles through it and only then can we begin to actually green it. This is the fun part. I say fun in the same sense that torture can be mildly enjoyable. Have you ever had bamboo shoots rammed underneath your finger nails?  Well, I would imagine cedar feels just the same, and once it happens it has a way of finding your vulnerabilities again and again.

I thought I could just avoid cedar, but then that gives me fir. Where cedar is brutal, fir seems to be actually malicious. Fir feels like a porcupine in stick form, that you’re brushing against the grain. Hold it gingerly with just your fingertips and you’ll be fine, but as soon as you need to poke it into foam you’re done. Skewered. A kebob. No one in the shop had undamaged hands  this month. But at least we went home smelling of a Christmas tree farm. I particularly loved my lumberjacky sap coated arms and shaking needles out of my hair. It’s better than glitter I guess.

 

Posted by: tlnemethy | August 20, 2016

Shop Elders

I work, on average, with women I would consider old. Granted, I’m lumping everyone into the category of older than me is old. I mean, the youngest part timer at the shop is in her late forties, so not that old, but a motherly type of age difference between us. There is of course, Doris, who I believe is in her late 70’s or early 80’s. While I was interviewing with the manager, Doris came up behind me and touched my mohawk and whispered how much she liked it. That was the start of an unexpected friendship.

She insists on calling everyone kiddo, even people who are very much adult, so this isn’t just a label reserved for the millennial of moi. She’s very hip to today, she’s down with the youthful outlook on things though in ways she’s also very ancient. On one especially slow day she had me manually input all her phone contacts from one flip phone to a new flip phone. She is barred from answering the phones in the shop, not because she isn’t pleasant, but purely because she cannot use the computer to input anything into the system. On a day we were slammed I witnessed her handwriting a customer’s information and credit card number down for someone to input once they became available. This sounds like a plan  except for the sheer quantity of information we require. Also, if you get a credit card number wrong the computer will tell you, but if you write it down wrong there’s no warning and then you have to call back the customer to get it right. I should also say that she’s blind in one eye and a bit hard of hearing so the details of that order were not exactly right. That might’ve been the day she got banned from phones, honestly.

Anyways, Doris was really the one who taught me how to arrange flowers. She had a knack for it and since we worked so closely for weeks on end, I got a bunch of stories out of that whip of an old bird (ranging from her cross-country motorcycle travels and sweet talking cops to vagina poison ivy). She’s a complete hoot to work with, the only problems I ever had with her were technology related and minor at that. I once tried to teach her how to look arrangement recipes up on the computer and told her to click something, pointing at the link simultaneously. Instead of moving the cursor over to the link she took her finger and tapped the screen like it was an iPad or something. I think I started crying with laughter. She also repeatedly asked me for a “tablet” one day and I just blankly looked at her until she described what she meant. Apparently a tablet is a notepad. Personally, I think that word comes from the good old biblical days in which schoolchildren carved on stone tablets instead of writing on paper notepads. I took that opportunity to razz her age. She was not overly amused, but played along.

I’m not sure if I was just cooped up without workplace interaction with older people or what, but they sure are a funnier bunch of nutjobs than I would’ve expected. Funnier and yet still unbelievably familiar. I feel like a baby bird being nurtured by them all at once. I mean, Doris makes it a point to feed me multiple times a day even when I protest. Whether she’s feeding me half her corned beef sandwich or lobbing chocolates at me from across the room, she seems to be always on the lookout for new foods to force into my hands . Why bother protesting at this point?

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