Monday, October 15, 2012

The Faux Tebow Sob-Story

In light of a recent article by Les Carpenter, I felt the need to vent just a little bit about the supposed "poor Tim Tebow" coverage that seems to be never-ending:

Tim Tebow, by all accounts, is a great person. He does good things for people who could do for some good things in life. He sticks to his values and preaches them without shame. He is a commendable individual and that should not be overlooked.

He is not, however, a starting-caliber quarterback. He just isn't. The sooner people realize this when considering the other quarterbacks in the league, the sooner we can stop having this 'well, they're not giving him a fair shake' talk and move on. 

This "unwanted man" story? It exists because the media want something to latch onto instead of facing the fact that Tim Tebow is not a good quarterback. It exists because making Tebow look like the stepped-on guy that is being treated unfairly makes people feel like cheering for him means something. But this is not reality.

In reality, Tebow is being used more than adequately. He's receiving more press than he should as a player. He had a chance to be the starter, and thanks to a combination of luck and adequate performances from him and his supporting cast, he did as well as could be expected. But given the performances we have seen with scattered, inaccurate passes and what amounts to an ability to juke sometimes and how it compares to other starting quarterbacks in the league, he just doesn't have it. 

And you know what? That's ok. He doesn't need to be the starting QB that Skip Bayless idiotically dotes that he is. He just needs to be the man that he is. The sooner the media realize this, the better. Because I'm getting really tired of the "woe is me" media coverage for a man who I highly doubt victimizes himself as much as the media does on his behalf.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Misguided Aggression and the Penn State Scandal

For a long time, I've tried to give people the benefit of the doubt when it came to their opinions.

Disagree or not, the fact that most of us share differing views on the many topics that inundate our news-media at the very least means the possibility for discussion and, therefore, growth as individuals. 

However, that does not mean we, as individuals, should hold on to shoddy-at-best positions when facts of the matter are so close to our faces, we can see the sweat working its way out every of pore.  This, to me, is the epitome of self-perpetuated ignorance.

Case in point:  a few weeks ago, the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association),  handed down unprecedented  penalties to Pennsylvania State University (Penn State), for their lack of institutional control and the resulting inaction that allowed Jerry Sandusky to sexually abuse children for more than a decade.

Among the transgressions that reaped these penalties is the inaction of head football coach Joe Paterno - affectionately known throughout Happy Valley as "JoePa" - when it became known that Sandusky was behaving in a way unbecoming of a human being.

While one could argue that punishing the school now - with Sandusky in jail, Paterno dead and the majority of administrators with knowledge of the situation removed from the University - is unnecessary to the extent that it has been punished, most people tend to agree with the decision handed down by Mark Emmert, the president of the NCAA (you can find the penalties here), myself included.

That is why I was mystified when my cousin provided me a link to some of the public comments (via Twitter) that were coming out in response to the sanctions.  To give you an idea, I have posted some snippets below from the full post on (Editor's Note:  There is graphic language in the majority of the comments):

It would seem that the individuals in these particular comments cannot grasp the profundity of the actions that took place at Penn State.  What's worse, even as the days p ass and the sanctions have the time to sink in, people still insist that what has happened here is a great injustice to the Penn State football program.  Even the family of Joe Paterno is lobbying to have the sanctions against his former team dismissed on the grounds that he is being dragged through the mud like a criminal.

I honestly thought about writing a letter to these individuals - explaining as bluntly as possible why their idiocy is only hurting the plight of those who are trying to positively support the Penn State family through these dark and rough waters.  But what impact would that have?

There are really only a few things to say about the matter, at this point:

- Joe Paterno is no longer - and should no longer be - a hero.  There are people who would have you believe he is a martyr for a crime he did not commit, but this is not the case.

Despite the ability - and in my opinion, obligation as a human being - to report directly to authorities about what happened at the Penn State football facilities.  Indications are that he passed on word of an incident and then let it be.  However, further speculation supports the belief that Paterno and others decided to handle the incident internally and NOT report it to outside authorities.

A hero does not do such a thing.  A pedophile enabler does.  And that's exactly what Paterno made himself out to be by deciding to keep quiet.

-  You shouldn't be mad at the NCAA.  People are upset with the reaction by the NCAA, shown with the sanctions they have imposed, but this anger is misplaced.  Instead, it should be focused on the causes for the sanctions:  The administration and the atmosphere that proved so conducive to a "football is more important" attitude.  Joe Paterno's wins were taken because he earned them while deceiving not only the public, but his family and the fans and families of the university that has given him so much praise for so long.  I cannot express how much unimaginable disappointment there should be with what Penn State officials allowed to happen.


-  Football is NOT what is important here.  People don't seem to understand this.  This is not a "well, things happen, people need to get over it," situation.  The view of the world  for every child that was impacted by this - every child that was sexually abused by Jerry Sandusky under the guise of a celebrated football coach and foundation that was meant to benefit children who were underprivileged - was forever damaged.

To what extent, it's hard to say.  As a victim of sexual abuse myself, I take no solace in the fact that there are portions of my childhood until age 10 that I cannot remember because of repression.  Why?  Because it came at the hands of someone I was supposed to trust - and did, in my unassuming childlike state.  Just like the children that Jerry Sandusky took advantage of trusted him.

Anyone who believes that football, at this point, is the most important focus at Penn State after what has happened there is a fool.

The most important focus now for Penn State - and for the victims who were hurt under the visage of the Penn State football program - is healing, education and most importantly, a paradigm shift.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Life, Loss and Lyrics

I've always found it fascinating the way a song can impact your train of thought at any given moment - even for just a short period of time.

It may be the lyrics and how they represented you at a certain point in your life. Or, it may be the band and how they were a part of your life during a particular stretch. Often times, however (for me, at least), it's the connection the song itself has to times in my life.

The reason this fascinates me is that no matter when I hear one song in particular - "I wish you were here" by Incubus - I recall only one event that I can associate it with.

I was a freshman in high school walking through the hall near one of the entrances to the school - just near the administrative offices. A fellow classmate's locker, adorned with other notes, had the lyrics to the aforementioned song taped to its door. At the time, the lyrics represented more truth than anything else that could have been spoken in that school for me and my fellow classmates.

Despite coming into our own (characteristically speaking) at that time, death - for many, if not most of us - was something that we had really never had a lot of experience dealing with (I am assuming, anyway). So, when our classmate lost his life in the tragic car accident that also claimed others, mourning was something that manifested itself through tears and other outward displays, but also - at least for me - in an internal rift that left me wondering how I should feel.

That isn't to say I had no remorse. It is to say, however, that I was confronted with a feeling of sadness that I had never quite felt before. When you're 15 years old and you think about death, it's not usually something that is particularly familiar. You don't think about it because you're(usually) too busy worrying about what the girls at school think of you, or what video game you're going to get or what you and your friends are going to do over the weekend. You especially don't think about it affecting your friends; after all - you're all too young to die, which means when you come to school each day, the only reason you shouldn't see a friend is because he or she is out sick.

But this was different. This was having your expectations for how things should be and usually would be, shattered in front of you and instead replaced with a sense of mortality that, quite frankly, is usually an afterthought to what's on the lunch menu that day. Yet there we were. Confronted by something that we all just wished would go away. Something we wished was just a dark cloud of a dream that would eventually disappear and reveal the sunny days we all assumed we would have - for better or for worse.

To say "I wish you were here," is so incredibly true when thinking about that moment. Because if it were possible for him to be there, we wouldn't have to face the truth of our own mortality - and perhaps just as appropriately, our own frailty.

If I wanted to, I could simply delete that song from my music collection and distance myself from the feelings it makes me recall. But I think that would be a disservice to the memory of someone I grew up with; someone whose loss represented more than just the loss of a friend in the lives of so many people.

Instead, I will allow the song to serve as an unquestionable reminder of how we should not only cherish the time we have with the people we care for most, but also the time that we ourselves have on this Earth to experience the things that make an impact on us so we can make an impact on others.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hate Speech is Still Free Speech - And an Opportunity to Teach

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post is partially a response to a piece on regarding the Confederate Flag and its presence at a community event - The Sweetcorn Festival - in Urbana, Ill. You can find the original piece here.

I appreciate individuals taking to an issue such as racism and showing it for what it is: Unnecessary in the current society we live in.

However, there always seems to be an argument regarding this issue as something that is either black or white in nature – with no room for gray. I’ve always been of the opinion that, regrettably, this is not the case in issues dealing with racism or hate. While the opinion of whether or not it should be accepted is clearly black and white as to “absolutely,” versus “absolutely not,” the topic of interpreting intent and rights is much less simple and therefore (in my own opinion) falls into a gray area.

Unfortunately, what the writer doesn’t understand is that hate speech IS something that is protected under the first amendment (our right to free speech), save for instances of Obscenity, defamation or "fighting words" (words/statements/etc that are meant to incite violence).

In fact, historically, there are several instances in which hate speech has been upheld by the United States Supreme Court under the protection of the first amendment itself. Such cases include Terminiello v. Chicago(1949), Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969), National Socialist Party v. Skokie (1977), R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), Virginia v. Black (2003) and Snyder v. Phelps (2011).

While I am in no way supportive of racism or discrimination, I AM in full support of freedom of speech. Without it, this very piece would not exist. Though abrasive, anything that prohibits hate speech is unconstitutional. So the vendor - had he/she been turned away - would have had every right to question why.

It is a different circumstance entirely if standards set by the Urbana Business Association expressly prohibit the display of such symbols, which I suspect will become the case in the future (that is, if individuals who are serious about change decide to act instead of taking the typical American perspective of “someone else will do it”).

I don't disagree with the plight of the author. Meaning in symbols can be very different based upon your perspective (race, religion, etc) and your understanding of what the flag actually represents, which is why I believe there is a lot to say about education regarding what the confederate flag means. Many people merely associate the confederate flag with slavery. Others simply associate it with southern pride. Unfortunately, many of these same individuals have no idea what kind of meaning it actually holds - in both historical and social context - and I think that's where many problems start. Many people know exactly what the flag represents as well, but those individuals are either interested in the history of the period or interested in causing problems.

I do encourage people to try and change standards when it comes to things like this, though. Simply saying "someone needs to do something about that," isn't going to cut it, so if you see something that you believe detracts from the perceived values of a community, let your voice be heard about the issue (another benefit of our freedom of speech). That's not to say you will be successful at first, given that issues that promote change affecting freedom of speech and expression often walk a slippery slope (one change sets a precedent and freedom of speech is something that should be changed with the greatest of care and only if ABSOLUTELY necessary).

As for me, I wouldn't have let such a display ruin my time, simply because allowing it to do so gives it power, and giving it power is not something we should be doing as a people. The moment something makes us uncomfortable is the moment we give it the power to do so. The moment we see the need for change and focus on our goal for implementing that change is the moment we decide to take that power away.

Also, we should educate our children on hate and why it exists, not shield them from it in hopes that they won’t come in contact with it. Not so they can take part in it, but so they can be aware of it and strive to rise and be above it and what it stands for/does to our fellow citizens. Trying to hide the problem will not make it go away and – in my opinion – hinders our children from having the tools necessary to deal with it should they be confronted with it. My son needs to UNDERSTAND racism and discrimination and what it is so he can therefore understand why we fight against it and why we should. Trying to hide my son from the more sinister aspects of our world will not help him understand. Only making the effort for him to understand will help him understand.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Opinion: Gaming, Addiction and What You Can Do

Chris Staniforth
Chris Staniforth, 20, died from a blood clot from deep vein thrombosis. He reportedly
played his xbox for nearly 12 hours at a time. Photo Courtesy NY Daily News.

If you've been following the news in the last couple of weeks, you'll have heard about the young man from Great Britain - Chris Staniforth - who died after experiencing a blood clot following a gaming session that last several hours.

According to a coroner, it is likely the clot formed in his calf muscle before moving to his lungs, where it then caused the blockage that would kill him.

It used to be that deep vein thrombosis - typically caused by sitting in the same position for long periods of time - was a concern for people who were travelling on long flights. However, according to the article, it's becoming more of a concern that gamers could be affected by the condition.

As someone who enjoys gaming quite a bit, I can tell you that I have definitely had my fair share of long gaming sessions. I've had those days where I've had nothing to do, so I set myself up on the couch and played until I couldn't play anymore.

But that's not something I've done on a regular basis. I don't feel compelled to play my games for hours on end and I realize that doing so would not be good for my health.

However, there are individuals who are not so fortunate to understand this. They feel a distinct need to play and to do so for hours upon hours. They are addicts.

"As with any addiction, video game or "gaming" addiction is usually a multi-faceted issue. For starters, video games are designed to be addictive. Not "addictive" in the clinical sense of the word, but game designers are always looking for ways to make their games more interesting and increase the amount of time people will spend playing them," said gaming help site

It is thought that video game addiction often provides gamers similar highs - often via endorphin rushes - associated with some drugs. Whether it's from playing against yourself or other players for that high score for hours or playing online games that allow you to feel the power of being someone or something else via role-playing, players are given a feeling that, many times, they can't or aren't finding from their every-day lives.

If anything, Mr. Staniforth stands as an unfortunate example of what can happen when an addiction to gaming gets out of control. However, he can also stand as way to shed light on the fact that sometimes, people need help and that someone with a gaming hobby might be more than just interested in games, but addicted instead.

Some of the signs of gaming addiction in adults? Losing interest in friends and family or functions because you'd rather be gaming; feeling pressure from the slightest of things related to video games and guilt/grief when you don't achieve them, even if they aren't real; putting off or blocking out real responsibilities for the sake of completing levels in a game; finally, playing for more than four or five hours at a time when one or two is more than enough.

If you know someone who might be addicted to gaming, take a moment to talk to them about it. They may be resistant, but making them aware that you are concerned is at least a step in the right direction.

As for yourself, if you feel like you're walking a fine line, take some steps to back off a bit. If you've been playing for a while, save your game and do something else for an hour or two. Stand up and stretch/walk around if you've been sitting too long.

Are your friends bugging you to hang out? Turn of the console and indulge them - have fun with REAL people.

Remember, gaming is meant to be fun - not dangerous and invasive. As much as I love gaming, I love my life and the people in it more. There will always be time for gaming. Friends and family? Not always.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lessons Learned from Softball and Losing

Tonight concluded the regular season of my first year on a church league softball team.

In all our glory, we went out with a record of five wins and five losses, on the heals of a 20 to 8 drubbing by the team that beat us last week.

However, I am ok with this fact. And the fact that I am is something I feel the need to share.

For many people who don't know me, I will tell you that I am - more often than not - an incredibly competitive person. I'm not quite sure when it started, but whenever I would do something, I wanted it done well and I wanted it to be the best. When I would compete, I wanted to win and when I didn't, I felt like there was something wrong with me.

Believe me when I tell you, this has created a great deal of problems for me throughout my life. Broken everything-you-can-think-of (gaming controllers, walls, nearly knuckles). People mad at me. Lost opportunities for growing relationships. All of these things can be found in the record books of the competitive world of Jon.

One of my best examples would have to be bowling. I am by no means any kind of bowler. Whenever I would go to the bowling alley - whether with friends or family - I would feel some need to be awesome at bowling to the point that I would get incredibly angry when I didn't do well. And it showed. I had a terrible attitude more often than not and ended up alienating people I would play with. For a long time, whenever someone mentioned the thought of bowling, it made me nervous because I knew that I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself.

Over the course of the last few years, however, I've learned to manage the self-applied standards to be very low for myself when doing things like bowling or playing with friends. I felt like I had made pretty good progress and that was something I felt good about.

So imagine how excited I was when the opportunity came to sign up for a softball league through my local church. I figured it would be a good way to get to know the people in my church, get a little exercise and have something to look forward to at the beginning of each week. But that wasn't the only thing I was feeling. There was also quite a bit of nerve.

I was nervous that my temper would flare at an inopportune moment while trying to swing for the fences. Or that I would let my frustration affect not only my mood, but the mood of the people around me and leave a poor impression of who I am as a person (I am typically unapologetic as a person, but not being able to handle losing is no excuse for poor behavior).

So, I went into the season with the goal of trying to have as much fun as possible. And I think I was able to achieve that and learn a little bit in the process.

Losing sucks. I don't like to lose. But I also don't like not having fun, so if I have to choose one over the other, I'm going to take having fun over winning the match.

When applied to tonight's softball game, during which the opposing team scored 15 runs in the first inning (yeah, it stung), it was a matter of trying to keep the mood light and enjoy being with the people I was in the dugout or on the field with. It meant turning up the banter and trying to get a smile out of people even as we were getting our butts handed to us. It even meant sacrificing personal pride for the sake of a laugh at my own expense (because hey, if people think you're a goof, won't it make them feel a little less awkward about being goofy too?).

So that's what I did. I made jokes, I cheered on a losing effort with a smile, I bantered with a little bit, I even teased my friends with shirt removal if they could get a double (it was scary enough, he scored a triple instead!). And it was awesome! We lost and it was awesome.

I know some of my teammates were upset that we lost and that's ok. It's normal to feel disappointed in a loss. I know I would have preferred to win, but I can't change the outcome now. I simply hope that if you were there with me tonight that you know how much I enjoyed being there with you guys and that over the course of this season and your putting up with my goofy jokes and bantering, you've helped me enjoy competition in a way that I haven't enjoyed it for a long time.

Anyway, I suppose part of the point I'm trying to make is, as much as losing sucks, leaving after the game feeling like you wasted your time is worse. Enjoy every moment you get with the people you enjoy being around - especially in a team setting. You don't lose or win as individuals - you lose as a team. That said, you might as well enjoy being with your teammates even if you lose. And if you can't do that in church league softball, where can you?

Thanks for a fun season, folks. Wins AND losses alike.

Friday, May 13, 2011

10 Things I learned While Working at County Market

I've always believed we can learn a great deal about ourselves and the world we live in with each new thing we experience.

This can range from the seemingly mundane things to the more necessary things in life and even (in my case) the things we would have called you crazy for mentioning had you said we'd be doing them a year ago.

In December, I completed an eight-month stint as a grocery clerk at a County Market grocery store in Champaign. I began working for County Market following my lay off from the News-Gazette in January 2010. Though I wasn't sure what to expect at first, I quickly found myself in a place where I was enjoying myself and the people around me.

That said, I'd like to share a few of the things I've learned in the short time that I've been with County Market:

1. Working at a grocery store is not as easy as you think.

I don't normally enter any job situation thinking "I've got this," due to my fear of quickly finding myself thinking "I've got no idea what's going on." However, I thought to myself, how hard can it be? Believe it or not, the amount of work that takes place at a store on a daily basis would boggle the average mind. On top of the fact that we got a truck on what seemed like a daily basis - which we had to remove, sort and stock - there was the ritualistic facing of the grocery, frozen foods and dairy sections, clean-ups, the continuous refilling of red dots (backroom items) and holes, the always interesting customer queries and various other tasks.
To give you an idea of what kind of pace this store operates on, I typically filled the natural foods section on Thursdays. It generally took me about five to six hours to do this. No, I didn't know one little section of store could hold so much either.

In all seriousness though, with each department you enter, you find several individuals who know quite a bit about their respective departments and what each product has to offer. This is not something that just kicks in once you start working at a store - you have to work at it. You have to take the time to know the product and invest some actual effort into ensuring the customers get what they want from someone who knows what they're talking about. When a customer leaves unhappy, it makes everyone look bad, and no one wants that.

2. You need good shoes.

Most people average about 2 miles per day (or less, if you have a desk job) walking in the workplace. At our store, you'll walk triple that amount on a given day. How do I know this? Thanks to the handy piece of technology known as the pedometer. On average, the associates at my store (myself included) walk(ed) 7.5 miles per day throughout the store (and sometimes outside of it). When I first started, my feet hurt so bad after the first week I thought I would need some new shoes. Thankfully, some less expense padded inserts and foot soaks did the trick... three weeks later. On the plus side, I got quite a bit of exercise walking around the store and my feet eventually stopped hurting.

3. Grocery workers get less respect than they deserve.

Some might read that and think it applies to the first item. However, this is an item I actually wrote about a while ago: Respect. Every single day I worked, I encountered individuals who pulled no bones about their lack of respect for me and the job I was working, based solely on the fact they considered it to be beneath them. And you know what? I was ok with that. I would rather be happy knowing I am open-minded enough to accept the fact I work in a grocery store than let some uppity, self-righteous imbecile tell me I'm worth less because of where I work. Here's a newsflash to everyone out there who believes where you work determines your value as a person: You're an idiot. No, really. You're an idiot. I would really hate to have the level of self-loathing you possess to believe that you must work a very high-paying job and have lots of power to be worth anything.

Recalling a line from the aforementioned piece about respect, a professor once told me "you are not your job and your job as not who you are." We are professionals in what we do and we are individuals in who we are. If you believe someone's profession should dictate what kind of respect they are given (within reason here, people), you need to reassess your perspective of the world or get a new one altogether. You don't have to believe in God or read the Bible to agree with the statement "Treat others as you yourself wish to be treated."

Conversely, I also understand that people don't deserve to be treated like royalty without getting to know them. The point is (without getting too deep into it) is to allow that person the respect they deserve as someone who is doing what he/she must in order to survive. If you want to learn more about that person, do it. But don't disrespect someone without them giving you reason to do so.

4. I will never put something where it doesn't belong again.

Day after day, as I walked the aisles of the store checking for items that needed to be filled, I was constantly greeted with those friendly, but often annoying reminders of customers who had passed through the aisles before me. Anyone who has actually worked in a store knows that this comes in the form of items that do not belong in the particular aisle in which they are found. Whether it be a steak, frozen solid in the ice cream freezer, bags of pasta in the milk cooler or eight bottles of Gatorade hidden behind the organic oils, the reaction is the same: Disappointment in our fellow men and women that putting an item back was far too difficult compared with putting it on a random shelf where it - more often than not - goes bad, is ruined and therefore becomes unsellable.

I'll be completely honest, I was as guilty of this as anyone who had come through my store. But no longer will I be someone who says "you know, I don't think I want this steak anymore and taking an extra 60 seconds out of my shopping experience would be too much to handle, so I'm just going to stick this here with the ice cream because I'm sure no one will notice."

Trust me, they notice.

5. The knock off brands are pretty much the same as the name brands.

I'm sure there are people who would disagree with me on this one, but I can't for the life of me see myself paying more money for something that is - arguably - the same product as the cheaper brand.

Take the milk, for example. We have the Prairie Farms milk, which is close to $3 and we have the store branded County Market milk, which is just under $2.50. Fifty cents doesn't seem like much at first glance, but when you're shopping for a heaping cart full of groceries, the nickels and dimes begin to add up.

Trust me when I say this: If there is a cheaper brand, grab it. You're getting what amounts to the same product, more often than not.

6. The organic section will not necessarily make you healthier.

I've come to the conclusion that many people believe eating organic foods will make you a healthier person. However, just because an item says "natural" or "organic," does not mean it will be the healthiest option. According to a piece on, "You can make organic cheese, beef and bacon but that doesn't mean an organic double bacon cheeseburger is very good for you." Additionally, many people forget that a lot of these foods still contain a great deal of carbohydrates that, if not managed properly, can lead to weight gain.

Another thing I think people get caught up on is the idea of eating something "natural." Natural does not always mean healthy. Sure, the organic section holds naturally made potato chips, but that doesn't mean they're going to magically lose all the calories they have in them. Nor does the fact that the naturally made brownies are going to be any less of a brownie. Or the ice cream, the pizza and... well, I think you get the idea.

If you honestly want to eat better and believe you can do that by purchasing food from the organic foods section, do your homework before stepping into that area. Find out what foods will maximize your diet plan or hinder your goals. Similarly, don't buy something just because it looks healthy. Who knows, you may not even like the taste (believe it or not, some of the organic food tastes pretty bad unless you've acquired a taste for it). The point is, don't spend a bunch of money on something on a whim. Organic food is expensive, and if you just buy at random, you may be disappointed with your results.

7. Grocery workers are surprisingly good at analyzing customers

This one took me a while to figure out. There were times when my colleagues and I would be walking the aisles and one of them would point someone out to me, explain what he/she was probably going to pick up and then proceed to grin from ear to ear when the assumption (observation?) turned out to be correct.

Eventually I determined that a great deal can be learned about customers based on their body language and - if they are regular shoppers - their habits of walking through the store. One example that stands out for me is a woman who would come to the store at least three times per week and just walk around with a cart. She might grab a couple of things here and there to make it look like she was shopping, but what she was really doing was looking for people to simply notice her.

Believe it or not, the people in these stores are paying attention to you (most of the time).

8. Cleaning up messes annoys the grocery clerks

I always used to think that people who dropped things in a grocery store and broke them - usually spilling the contents of the jar or packaging out onto the floor - just had a spot of back luck with an unfortunate end.

However, after working at County Market, I have NOW come to the conclusion that, if you find yourself holding a jar of olives or barbecue sauce less than a foot away from the shelf on which it is displayed and you can't put it in your nearby cart or back on said shelf without dropping it, you should have your grocery shopping privileges revoked.

After all, what is that (or at least some of us) learned when we were growing up and wanted to be big kids with our drinks? That's right, use two hands to hold it OR be very careful with it if you can't fit your entire hand around it and insist on holding it with one hand.

Now, I understand that sometimes, accidents just happen - and that's fine. If you've got a toddler in your cart that reaches out and knocks something off the shelf or you turn without realizing what it is you're turning into, there's really not much to be done. But for goodness sake, if you've got something that is bigger than your single hand will allow you to hold, don't tempt fate by saying "well, I can do it"; use both hands and save the stockers some time. They would thank you for it if they could - Trust me.

9. We appreciate when customers make an effort to engage us, but hate long-winded exchanges.

It's really not too hard to understand that we, as humans as well as employees of a grocery store, enjoy human interaction with others.

That said, I really would have appreciated more small-talk with customers during my time at the store. I'm not talking about a 10 minute conversation or even a five minute conversation, but more than just the typical "hi, how are you? Good, and you?" exchange.

Believe it or not, walking up and down the aisles multiple times per day/night got incredibly boring. Human interaction helps with this quite a bit. It passes the time, makes for a more interesting shift and allows you to bring personality to the store to create a connection with typical customers.

Now, with the good comes the bad: We don't want your life story, nor do we care to hear you tell us random stories about relatives as though we know who they are by giving us their names. A 20 minute conversation about how you decided you like to eat cereal using coffee creamer instead of milk is not something that interests me. Keep it short, sweet and to the point and we do the same.

10. More often than not, we do as much as we have to do or as little as possible

I'm sure this surprises no one. Actually, I think this makes the distinction that we are like every other person who goes to work every day. At first, you work your tail off to learn the system and impress the bosses. However, at some point it is realized how everything works and just how much you have to do to pass off your activities as "work."

I could lie and say it was never like that when I was at the store, but lets be honest - I'd be flattering only myself. Don't get me wrong - I did plenty of work - but knowing the system and how to cut corners without sacrificing quality (too much) was a way of life at the store. After all, do you want to spend the entire shift counting every single item and filling even the smallest of holes or do you want to take care of the major stuff and spend time talking with your coworkers/friends and enjoying the work day because of a good mix? You don't have to answer that question because we both know the answer.

Some of you might take this as laziness, and that's fine - it's your choice to assume things without experiencing them for yourself. But I do know I worked plenty at the store and so did my coworkers. We helped customers, kept the store looking good and still found time to goof around in the back room (oh the back room).

* * *

These are just the things about my time at County Market that stood out to me as I sit here and thought about my experience. I'm sure if we were talking about it, I could name more.

Overall, I was glad to have the experience of working in a grocery store. It provided me a great perspective of the working world and insight into an industry that helps a great deal of people on a daily basis. I was able to make friends and meet some genuinely good people from the community while learning further learning the value of the money I was making (due to the large decrease in amount from the newspaper to the store).

So for those of you I worked with - thank you for the good times and the experiences. It was awesome.