Returning bottles and cans to the grocery store is about as much fun as watching paint dry.
Yes, I understand it’s good for the environment, saves energy, etc. But honestly, for all the hassle—sticky hands, machines that always seem full, waiting in lines, dingy rooms, etc.—walking away with just enough cash to buy a coffee just doesn’t seem worth the trouble. Most of the time I forget to cash in the receipts anyway and find them in my pocket weeks later. Duh!
The atmosphere at these facilities is usually uninviting. Noisy, sticky, messy places with barrels of non-returned bottles and cardboard boxes—you get the picture.
But a few weeks back my attitude toward this task changed for good. As I headed into the bottle and can return room at my local grocery store, I noticed the place was empty and clean. There was just one person in the enclave of old cans and bottles. She greeted me with a happy smile, and as I fed the electronic can and bottle monsters, I watched her work. She was cleaning the machines, sweeping the floors, wiping the marks on the walls, and spiffing up the joint with an energy and enthusiasm that was delightfully energetic considering the usual environment of the can dungeons.
I was really impressed and told her so before I left. She simply said, “I love doing this. I like making it look clean. They assigned me here on my first day, and I just loved it.” I thanked her for doing such an excellent job and headed in to redeem my receipts. As I did, I thought of the Jimmy Buffet tune called It’s My Job which begins:
In the middle of late last night I was sittin’ on a curb
I didn’t know what about, but I was feeling quite disturbed.
A street sweeper came whistlin’ by, he was bouncin’ every step.
It seemed strange how good he felt, So I asked him while he swept.
He said, “It’s my job to be cleaning up this mess
And that’s enough reason to go for me.
It’s my job to be better than the rest
And that makes the day for me.”
When I cashed in my receipts I mentioned my encounter, and the supervisor smiled and said, “Oh, you must have meant Jennie. She is something special, isn’t she?” The supervisor offered me a customer comment card and a website for sending it in. Later that day, I completed the card and sent it because of the impact Jennie made on my day.
A few weeks later I was at the same store buying flowers. As I watched the preparation of my purchase, the person doing the work was upbeat, joyful and anxious to get my flowers just right. When she turned around, I saw her nametag, recognized her as Jennie, the “bottle and can lady” and greeted her. She beamed a smile and said, “You’re him! You’re the one that wrote that compliment card and sent it in!” She thanked me and said that she was told about the message, and how proud and thrilled she was to have been recognized for doing her job well.
After these two chance meetings with Jennie, I knew our readers would be interested in meeting her. Let me introduce you to Jennie Kiner, customer service person extraordinaire. She is another of the quiet and faithful servants who make up the fabric of our town, performing important tasks that we take for granted.
Jennie Kiner has been a Granby resident for four years, living here with her husband and young son. Originally raised in Hartford and West Hartford, she attended local schools and for a time lived and learned in New Jersey. She and her husband and son moved to Granby just before COVID hit, and Jennie found work at a local grocery store. Starting at the bottom she worked her way through many positions, learning more each day about the business. She hopes to become a specialist in the floral department to show off her craft skills and creativity. Along the way, she has utilized her positive approach to life, and takes pride in mastering and performing whatever she undertakes.
I asked Jennie how she manages to be so positive, much like Jimmy Buffet asked the street sweeper. She told me, “I like to find something good in situations and in people. There needs to be a little bit of light and when I find it, and share it, I get it back tenfold.” She also told me that living and working in Granby feels like being a part of something, and that resonates with Jennie. It’s clear that her employer is lucky to have her, and that she will find success in her quests because she values the simple message in Jimmy Buffett’s ballad. It’s her job to be the best at whatever she undertakes, and that makes the day for her.
If you haven’t already met Jennie around town, I hope you will soon. She’s surely someone I think you’d like to know.