Service With A Smile

This fall, I’m volunteering with Core Sound Seafood, our local CSF (community-supported fishery — kind of like a CSA, except with sea creatures instead of vegetables).

Yes, I live in a very foodie town. The foodiest, according to some.

On Thursday afternoons, I go to Guglhupf, set up my little table and giant cooler, and hand out bags of fish to shareholders. I greet people with a smile, mark their names off the list, ceremoniously present them with their weekly catch, and answer any questions they might have about the seafood, its origins, and the CSF program itself. Also, there’s swag — like magnets and stickers and suchlike.

It’s actually pretty fun. However, sometimes I feel like a QVC pitchman — for example, when customers bark, “What the hell is African Pompano?” and I’m forced to quickly improvise:

“You can grill it! You can broil it! You can pan fry it! You can marinade it and $#!+ (…or whatever!) It’s so shiny you can use it to wax your floors! Moist and meaty, it easily absorbs all your counter-top spills!* Why, there’s nothing this amazing fish can’t do! It’s got your vitamins, it’s got your minerals, it’s got your antioxidants! It’s like swordfish, only better! Pair it with bread and prepare to be amazed! EAT AFRICAN POMPANO: THE MIRACLE FISH!”

Obviously, this entire spiel is bull$#!+, because all I really know is that a.) it came from the ocean and b.) it is edible. But a surprising number of people seem to expect something more than “Here you go, enjoy your fish.” So I oblige.**

Anyway, it’s far more pleasant than most other service jobs I’ve held, where people yell at you or threaten you or hit on you or decide that you’re their confessor because you cannot physically leave the premises or are Canadian***

In exchange for my efforts, I receive a free half-share (about 2 lbs. of fresh, sustainably caught seafood). This week, I got paid in Vermillion Snapper, which I’m guessing is a more pretentious version of red snapper, as well as the notorious African Pompano.

Yep, that’s me. Bringing home the bacon of the sea.

*Please DO NOT rub raw fish on household surfaces. This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Just to be safe.
**Lord knows this isn’t Medieval Times, but all of my retail experience suggests that, for whatever reason, if I don’t put on just a bit of a show, customers just sort of hover and then it gets real awkward, real fast.
Me: All right, here’s your fish! Enjoy!
Customer: [says nothing, just stands there]
Me: So have a great evening and all.
Customer: [stares].
Me: Uh, help yourself to a bumper sticker, if you want. Or a regular sticker. Or a magnet. They’re free and informative.
Customer: So…fish.
Me: Yep. Fish.
Customer: Looks good.
Me: Yes, doesn’t it? Bet it’ll be delicious if you go home right now and cook it.
Customer: Yeah… [trails off, long pause]
Me: [bracing myself for inevitable WTF moment]
Customer: My wife is out of town, but it’s ok because I have a pair of her mittens. [pause] So do you think this fish will freeze well?
Me: And there it is.
***Ah, slum tourism. You know how affluent Americans sometimes Eat, Pray, Love themselves off to developing nations to see “how the other half lives”? Well, Canadians travel to the U.S. to gawp at Americans and politely shake their heads in astonishment at the senseless brutality and squalor of our lives. What, you think they were visiting Target retailers in Dickson City for the quality of its merchandise? Or its helpful sales associates?
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