We joined the food co-op. I worked my first shift the other night (after work work). You choose from available shifts and sign up for the kind of work you might want to do. I chose cleaning. I had been somewhat apprehensive about working the shift, not because it was work, or even that it was work I wasn’t willing to do or anything, but moreso that it was a New Thing to do and it had been a while since I had done a New Thing.

When I showed up for my shift at 8:30 pm, it was after shopping hours were already over, so luckily all the shoppers were gone and it was just workers in the store. I would have been especially apprehensive if I had to work around shoppers because I wouldn’t want to get in their way. (However, when I am the shopper and there are workers, I am also apprehensive that I am getting in their way, so riddle me that.)

I started the shift by reporting to my shift manager, a friendly man with a ponytail who showed me around and assigned me to mop floors and clean surfaces in the kitchen. It was pretty quiet since it was after hours, and I was reminded of my first job in high school which was also in a kitchen and also involved mopping floors and cleaning surfaces.

Being a knowledge worker by day is the best way for me to leverage my current skillset in order to make a living and provide for myself (which is necessary because capitalism), but also that means that moments of instant (or near instant) gratification, like the kind you get after you mop a previously dirty floor and then it’s clean, are fairly few and far between. So I found it very refreshing to be able to have a task that was predictable, finite, and led to a sense of accomplishment.

(I realize in typing this all out that at best I have incredible privilege to be able to marvel at the feeling of satisfaction associated with voluntarily mopping the floors of a grocery store, and at worst I am totally out of touch with what it means to have to do manual labor for a living. Both truths may coexist.)

I don’t miss many things about general surgery but one is that it was nice to be able to have a job that incorporated both intellectual and physical labor. Maybe “nice” isn’t the right word—I just noticed when I didn’t have it anymore.

During my co-op shift I also got to use a hand-held vacuum to clean the registers, and to wipe them down with cleaning solution (vegan and eco-friendly, of course). When I went to the co-op today to pick up a sandwich and some other groceries (I’m planning on doing tacos because the cilantro and limes looked especially fresh today), it was a good feeling to look at the shop floor and registers and think, hey, I cleaned those!

At the end of my shift, I made small talk with my shift manager (the man with the ponytail) and found out that he was a graphic designer, and that two of the other people on shift with me were architects, which was pretty neat.