My week in cheese.

Not long after I decided to pursue food seriously, I saw an ad posted on Craigslist. Seems my favorite cheese store was hiring, so I made a call. A few conversations and a handshake later, and I was the newest employee. I was excited, I was nervous, and in the back of my mind, I was pretty damn unsure. It wasn’t just that I didn’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of cheese or that I didn’t think I could do the job, I just had no idea what it might be like to step back behind the counter, interacting with customers, something I hadn’t done since college.

And the first couple days it was great. I was exhausted by the end of the day from eight hours of being on my feet, in a good way. I made sandwiches, I talked about cheese, I sampled cheese, I took advantage of my 20% discount. I found myself drawn to the meat counter, eager to help people pick out and sample from all the great cured meats we had to offer, hoping they’d want to sample some Iberico so I could snag a little slice too.

Despite my brother’s overt wariness (“margo? Customer service?”), I really liked engaging with the people who came in. They were in the store because they liked good food. The same reason I was a customer there, the same reason I became an employee. I set myself a goal: if someone comes to the meat counter, see if I can get them to walk away with one more type of charcuterie than they came there for. It was fun.

But there were other parts. Retail means when you’re working, you’re working. No email, no internetting, no writing during downtime. I didn’t like being told when to take my (unpaid) break, especially when the wage itself was pretty meager. And then the hours themselves were the opposite of everyone elses. I was to work evenings and weekends, my off-days were broken up during the week.

It wasn’t working. The bads were quickly outweighing the goods, and I had to make a change. So I did what any reasonable person would do: I inadvertently stabbed myself with a knife and got four stitches in my hand.

On the day I had planned to chat with my boss about reducing my hours, I was making a sandwich for someone. While pitting an avocado, like an idiot, the knife slipped around the pit and between my first and second fingers, essentially slicing open the webbing between the digits.

Yeah. It was as bad as you think it was.

So I was out of commission. Stitches, workers comp, the whole thing. And even now that my hand has healed, I’m not going back to the cheese shop. Maybe on call when he needs me, or maybe if he needs marketing help, or maybe if he ever takes me up on my ideas to make the meat counter even better.

So, just like that, I’m going back to advertising. But it was a nice little sabbatical. To see how the other half lives, and to know that right now, it’s not for me. I miss the office life, the regular hours, the people and the work. I love food, and I’m going to love keeping it as my hobby. But for now, if you know of anyone looking for a copywriter, my pencils are sharpened. But not too sharp. I’ve had kind of an accident-prone year.

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