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Sunday, November 22 2015

It was nearly 40 years ago I moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan.  After I arrived I went to a local employment office looking for a job.  I was interviewed by a woman who saw my work history and told me that there was an opening at Meijer Thrifty Acres.  I asked her what was "Meijer's Thrifty Acres"?  She then said to me "You don't know what Meijer Thrifty Acres is?"  I told her no. She said it was a large retailer in Michigan.  So I accepted her offer and took her information to the "Meijer Thrifty Acres" store and met with the store director who looked at my resume and offered me a part-time job.  

Everybody was hired as a part-timer at Meijer and I was to work in the grocery department.  I was told that once I gained some senority I would be able to bid on full-time job openings the occasionally come about when somebody quits, gets transferred or retires.  Before I knew it a full time night crew position was available and I put in a job bid and received the position because nobody else had shown any interest in it and bidded on it.

I had never been inside a store like Meijer's.  In fact, it was the most impressive store I had ever been visited.  It was just huge.  Nobody on the West Coast, where I was from, had ever shopped in a store like Meijer's.  These were beautiful stores that were over 200,000 square feet and I felt privileged to work inside one.  They paid union wages and sometimes they would have manditory double-shifts because of the amount of sales that this particualr store would have and I was very eager to work hard for 16 hours in a supermarket I felt proud to work in.  I was told early on, by another employee, that the grocery department alone did a million dollars a week in sales and that didn't include meat, bakery, produce, etc. And this was back in 1977.  The grocery department included frozen, deli, and grocery food items. Just unbelievable.

I was a very hard worker and because I was also a very good runner, I would run to where ever I needed to go.  If I needed to get groceries from the backroom, I would run to the back room to fetch them.  I was constantly running because I loved to run and work hard because I had this incredible amount of energy.  However, it didn't take long before the workers on the night crew developed a dislike for me.  

While employment at Meijer's did start off as a part-time worker there were many opportunities for me to receive extra hours when somebody called in sick or when the store needed to put extra labor into the store because of the amount of business that this store did.  I was always available to work any hours or 8-hour-shifts needing to be fill and never turned down any hours offered to me.  On many occasions I was called into work extra hours in the frozen food section as I had experience in other stores working this department.  

While at work one day in the frozen food section, during the afternoon shift, a real muscular young employee came up to me and told me in a very unfriendly way that I was making everybody in the grocery department look bad because I ran to get my job done and nobody appreciated my style of working. I told him I wasn't trying to make anybody look bad.  I told him my running and working hard was just me and I didn't care how him or any of the other employees worked.

His name was Hoger Newbauer (misspelled I believe) and he too was a part-time employee and I also believe he was also a student at the University of Michigan.  He basically told me that I could get myself hurt if I continued to work the way that I did and made the crew look bad.  I then I asked him if he was threatening me.  He didn't say anything after that point and just walked away.  So on this day, in the back of my mind, is sitting this vague threat and the reality that the other workers didn't like the way I hustled while on the job and this caused them to build up a dislike for me.  Wow, I never could have imagined that working hard would be so offensive to other workers...

After Hoger's bold talk with me, it became more obvious that the other workers just ignored me.  Except there was a super nice guy named Erv Shroeder (misspelled) who became my only friend at the time and he had been working at Meijer's for many years. In fact, he allowed me to live with him for some time inside of his mobile home....just a super nice guy who really assisted me while working their at Meijer.  He eventually became a runner too and entered marathons...

Then one morning, after working the night shift, a clique of night crew workers, who made it a point to make me to feel excluded while working, were going over to the University Union building after their all-night shift.  The University Union was where students and others could play pool/billiards on the third floor.  

One of the guys, whom I believe was named Tim and didn't like me, asked me sarcasticly if I wanted to go with them and play some pool...as he was thinking a guy like me surely didn't know how to play pool.  Unbeknownst to these guys was the fact that I was an excellent pool player and so I told this guy that I would like to play some pool with them and appreciated the invitation.  A response I believe surprised him and the other workers...now, understand that this night crew consisted of 17 full-time people... So I went with about eight of them to the Univeristy Union to shoot some pool with.

Once inside the pool hall I could see all of these beautiful pool tables that were well taken care of and surprisingly leveled.  This calm atsmosphere I found on the 3rd floor of this building provided me an opportunity to play some of the best pool I have ever played.   They were astonished on how well I could play and just like if I were on a track preparing for a run, these guys were suddenly aware they were now on my turf. 

 
Above photo is from 
https://uunions.umich.edu/article/billiards-and-games  It is located on the 2nd floor, yet I remember it being on the 3rd floor back in 1977-78-oh well, the tables could have been moved in the nearly 40 years since I was there. Hard to tell by the picture if these tables are still leveled properly and taken good care of.

I have always been prejudged in my life and so when these guys realized how good of a pool player I was, it didn't take long for them to drop their prejudice towards me and make me feel welcomed into their group.  I was now considered "one of the guys" because I passed the pool playing test.

It is also interesting that I learned to shoot a good game of pool, back in 1969, from an ex-felon from San Quentin who had spent time in prison for drugs.  Had I shown this ex-felon, the same kind of prejudice that the night crew workers at Meijer's had shown me (and for no reason other than they felt I made them look bad), I would have never learned to shoot a game of pool as well as I did.  

Below is a vimeo video of a 233,000 sq ft Meijer's from Progessive Grocer.

https://vimeo.com/146650787

Meijer's is privately owned and these stores had the lowest prices anywhere.  Makes me wonder if Wal-Mart tried to copy Meijer's format as these huge supercenters existed long before Wal-Mart.  However, looking at how mismanaged Wal-Mart supercenters are, they did a poor job copying if that is what they tried to do. 

Anyway, it is possible after that morning trip to the University Union pool hall did these night crew co-workers feel I had, once again, made them all look bad. 

The bottom line is that I never expected that my ability to shoot a good game of pool would be the tool I would need to break the ice with a bunch of co-workers who developed a dislike for me only because I worked hard.  

 

Posted by: Frank S. Nordby AT 03:31 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

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