Last Saturday night, I went to work for the second time at my new dream job of assistant cashier at our local convenience store. I am so bad at this job that the manager of the store will not even put me on the payroll but instead tolerates me coming for a few hours every Saturday night to help during a really busy time. As some of you may recall from a previous article, I am a minority investor in the new convenience store.
    What better way to get to know this business than to work behind the cash register? How hard can that be? Well, for a 60-plus-year-old who has never worked retail in his life, it is challenging. The only jobs I ever had beside farming for myself were hired farm hand and part-time farm accountant assistant. I have run a cash register before (40 years ago) at the county fair in the FFA food stand where I knew the prices of all eight menu items, added the food purchased in my head, pulled the big lever with my right hand and made the correct change of $2 from a $5 bill. Cha-ching.
    The new cash registers at the gas station look easy with bar code readers, pictures of pizza, coffee, sodas and bakery items right on the lighted screen in front of you. I watched the head cashier, Austin, for a while, and he made it look so easy. I told Austin I could do this, so I did about 10 sales while he watched me, and it went quite well. Then Austin said he would really like to clean the bathrooms before closing if I could watch the till. Easy can turn difficult with one push of a wrong icon or key.
    The screen has a cancel button and a delete button. What is the difference? Some guy walked in, spoke a language I never heard in my life, handed me $100 and wanted me to code pump No. 4 to pump gas. He said he would come in and get the change later. I turned on prepay for pump No. 4, put the $100 in my pocket until Austin came out of the ladies bathroom and could tell me how to straighten out my big mess. Thankfully Austin came quickly, solved all my problems, and we soon dispersed the long line of people waiting to pay for their pizza. When we had a break in the action, I thanked Austin and told him I could artificially inseminate a cow easier than I could ring up a bag of potato chips. He looked at me like I came from another planet.
    Next, Austin wanted to mop the floors and vacuum the rubber mats. I told him that is a job I can do and not screw up. So, I got out the mop and bucket of water, and started mopping. Suddenly the main manager lady walked by me and asked me where my yellow wet floor caution signs were. I immediately knew she was right, and found and placed the signs so people would be aware of the wet slippery floors, but my mind thought this is not how we do it on the farm. Our office, break room and bathroom floors have been mopped twice a week for 18 years at the dairy, and we do not even own a wet floor sign.
    The best story of the night happened about 8:30 p.m. when I was standing behind the cash register. In walked my four-man night milking crew to buy some snacks on their way to work. The jaw dropping look on their faces to see me cleaned up and working there was priceless. They laughed and asked if the snacks were free. I told them no, but go get a lot of milk from the cows.
    I have a new appreciation for anyone who tackles a new job and does it well. Skill sets do not always come from parents or a college education.
    The manager of our convenience store came from another convenience store and agreed to help us for one month to get going before she went back to her hometown and her own store. She hired good people to assist her in our store and picked the best one to become our new store manager. Our new store manager was previously a rural route mail carrier for six years, but I am confident she will be great in her new position because she works hard, is smart and is great with people.
    As for me and my new dream job, I plan on going to help every Saturday night that it works for me. I enjoy greeting the customers and working with the other employees. If I put more time and effort into it, maybe after three to six months I could almost run the cash register flawlessly.
    For now, I will stick with cows and farming which was my dream job since I was 5 years old.
    Vander Kooi operates a 1,800-cow, 4,500 acre farm with his son, Joe, and daughter-in-law, Rita, near Worthington, Minn. Send him feedback at Follow him on Instagram, @davevanderkooi.