During the summer doldrums any job dishes out, sometimes odd things happen. Whether it’s brought on by surprise, boredom, or pure cabin fever insanity, people tend to lose it a little. This lunchtime tale surprised me and others; and got my adrenaline racing at Mach 3 one sleepy summer day at work.
Like most summer mornings at work, I was woken up while the sun was still sleeping by our small dogs looking for food. It was about 5:30am when I started my day with my normal routine: dogs, small snack or just coffee, shower, dress, crate dogs, and off to work as the sun was rising. It was a Tuesday. On Tuesday I had to be to work by 7:00am to receive one of my larger orders for the week from a company that sold all the big production labels like Kendall-Jackson, Beringer, Sutter Home, etc. The large quantity deals, high velocity bottles that really didn’t make me a lot of money. As usual, the driver was already at the store waiting for me and had most of the delivery pulled from the truck and set to be checked in. The process usually takes about 30 minutes. It was around this time that a few other distributors would show up, some with deliveries, and some to write orders for a later delivery date. Though I was never to be busy with customer service on a Tuesday morning, I was busy with housekeeping and vendor relations. Around 10am one of my full time employees would arrive and take over most of the receiving duties from me while I caught up on emails and meetings with my management, the boring stuff. All in all, the day was going as normal. I probably could have done it with my eyes blindfolded. Around 11-11:30, I would always feel rumbles in my belly. It was like clockwork. I would usually have a snack of crackers or something that I kept in the back for a quick nibble, but I was all out. I went and got myself a breakfast sandwich and a cup of coffee.
I was allotted 30 minutes to 1 hour for lunch. I never took that long, because I eat quickly and I get bored just sitting away from the shop for lunch. I always kept a pristine backroom that wasn’t overflowing with extra cases of wine and other hodge-podge found in storage rooms. That kind of a backroom drove me insane. You could eat off the shelves in the storage room and I usually did (I used paper plates). I had a window out to the shop and could keep an eye on everything. Frequently, employees and vendors would come into the storage room to get some wine for the shelves or the customers, we would chat a second, then they would be on their way back out to the floor. This is still a very typical Tuesday. On this day, any sort of a normal lunch was about to disappear out of the back room as fast as the Looney Toons Road Runner.
A merchandiser (someone paid by the distribution company to come to the store and restock their products) was in the backroom while I was eating my breakfast sandwich. He is a very nice guy. He stands about 5’8” and is a bit larger in the mid-section than me. He is a black man and had a love for funky jazz like myself, so we always talked about it. As we were making small talk, he was pulling a few cases to his cart and opening them to be restocked. As he opened one of them, one of my biggest fears presented itself to me. At first, I didn’t see what had happened, but there it was, headed straight for me. The merchandiser opened the case and in a split second like he was moonwalking with both feet at the same and had the agility of a ballerina, launched backwards about three feet. I froze, watched, and laughed at his jump. Big guys like him don’t normally move like that. I don’t remember what I said to him, but my laughter quickly turned to fear when he pointed to floor and I saw a snake slithering right at my feet. It was only about 1’-2’ in length, but I didn’t care. It was a freakin’ snake! My two major fears in life are undertow and the deep ocean, and snakes. I don’t understand snakes at all. They move with no arms or legs, its madness. Just as the merchandiser leapt backwards, I leapt upwards and onto the very same shelf I was eating my sandwich off of. The snake continued right underneath me and under the shelving unit. We both jumped out to the center of the room and ran out of the backroom in a panic. My full time employee was there and saw us both burst out of the storage room and came running. He is a country guy and is accustomed to seeing snakes. To him, the whole situation was laughable. The snake jumped out of a case of wine that had made its way up from Argentina. It was a brown and black snake and moved quickly. My employee and another vendor grabbed the broom and an empty wine case and headed in to catch it. The merchandiser and I stood outside peering in through the window. The snake had balled itself up into a corner underneath the shelving unit. It took only a few minutes to catch the snake in the box. No one could identify what type of snake it was. I wouldn’t even look into the box, because I had already seen it jump out of one. The snake was a straight baller.
They took the snake outside to the side of the store where there was a creek and swampy area next to route 29 in Virginia. We all had a laugh about it, most of it at the expense of me and the merchandiser. We’ll never know if it was a poisonous snake or just a simple garden dweller, but it was a tough snake to live in that wine case for who knows how long. It took a slow ship from Argentina, through ports and customs. Dropped in a distribution warehouse where it sat until it was time for delivery. I ordered it and it sat with me until we were ready to open it. I can only imagine it was in the case for weeks to months and was still alive and probably really hungry and angry. I respect the toughness of that quick sneaky creep, but all I know if that ‘Snake Catcher’ was not part of my job description. Insert your favorite Launrence Fishburne quote here.
Sorry, there was no video footage of this. I would have loved to show you a snapshot of it.