Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle
Armand Lobato, The Produce Aisle

I was rummaging through my desk, getting things together for a trip when Russ T. Blade hopped down from a shelf to join me. Rusty, as regular readers know, is the miniature, imaginary produce manager who occasionally appears to me.

Me: Rusty, good to see you. Hey, when you get a chance can you pack these flash drives for me?

Rusty: When I get a chance? Hey aisle-boy, the produce department inside your desk isn’t so imaginary. I’m having a busy day: Orders to write, a labor schedule to finish. And with a sick call this morning, I still need to help set up the wet rack.

Me: My, aren’t we grumpy today. Talking pretty tough there too. What, did you watch a Clint Eastwood movie last night or something?

Rusty: No need. I just had to take five and see how things were in the big produce world. But I’ll tell you what, I’ll pack those flash, thumb drives or whatever they’re called right now, put ’em in your man purse.

Me: That’s a briefcase.

Rusty: Whatever. Being this busy kinda reminds me of my days as a quality control person at the warehouse.

Me: You worked in the warehouse?

Rusty: Learned a lot there. With produce loads pouring in, in the wee hours. I was busier than a one-armed paper hanger. The warehouse manager, Cid — he ran the place with an iron glove.

Me: That’s a lot of clichés. So what was so special about how he ran the warehouse?

Rusty: Whenever something came up that had to be done, he delegated it out on his walkie-talkie on the spot. Someone needed a special load put together, bam! Out it went. The banana guy once needed a hand, and within minutes he had beaucoup help. Something spilled? Something got cleaned up.

Me: As in, right away? Good way to manage. So I guess you carried that over to your produce stand?

Rusty: I guess I had it before, but when I returned to store duty it became intense. I see other department managers, sometimes one of my produce crew procrastinate with everyday tasks. Most of the time it either doesn’t get done or it gets done last minute and the work is sloppy to boot.

Me: But sometimes a person is in the middle of a project that they can’t get away from ...

Rusty: Who isn’t? I figure if the boss thinks something is important enough to mention, like the lobby display needing attention, or whatever — then it’s important enough to fix right away.

Me: So why didn’t you stay at the warehouse and continue to work quality control?

Rusty: I couldn’t handle the commute. Besides, ahem … I’m a people-person.

Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions.

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