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Get to Know Norma Jean, the Face of the Market

Starting the day

You can find me in the Student Union Market in my trustee grey uniform and my name tag that says “Norma Jean”. Some call me “Norma” and some call me “Normie” but don’t forget, “Jean” is half the name!

I start my morning by getting to the Market at 7 a.m. to stock items so my customers can have the best options for snacks and drinks. I have to check the temperatures of all the fridges, so the food stays good and fresh. To kick off my shift, I treat myself to a monster or Red Bull energy drink. Sometimes you just need that caffeine boost to keep you awake through the day, you know?

After stocking the store, I make sure all the prices are correct and wait for the customers to roll in. It’s kind of like I babysit the store. I try to keep busy, but there are only so many times a day you can clean the same things!

Now, I’m supposed to watch people (with the help of cameras all over). I used to be the cashier, but that part of my job was replaced with an AI self-checkout named “Buddy”. I don’t like these machines at all…especially because you can’t take selfies.

How it started

Almost forty years ago, my neighbor who was a Boise State professor told me that Boise State needed people to work on campus.

I was 24 or 25 I worked for $3.25 an hour when I started at the Snake River Grill (which is now Chick-fil-a) – it was way good! That’s where I met Shaquille O’Neal when we had our first March Madness In 1984. He was pretty cool; I got to meet all kinds of neat people.

I left in 1989 when I had my youngest child and came back to work in 1994. I’ve seen my kids grow up and graduate and I’ve been working on campus ever since.

In all that time I’ve worked at the Student Union Building I’ve seen it totally transform. Before the Market existed, I worked in the dish room for the dining hall that used to be located upstairs.

Where the food court is now, we had a cybercafe with a deli and thai restaurant (on real plates, not just grab-n-go style) with computers at tall tables with barstools. You could have lunch and “surf the web”. Colorful LED lights lined the walls and there were stained glass windows. One thing I miss the most, is the beautiful fireplace that used to be where the information desk is. It got covered up with sheet rock and made it into offices, but back then, it was a cool place to hang out.

Why I do what I do

Even though I grow older, and things change before my eyes, seeing students never gets old. My favorite part of this job is interacting with everyone that comes into the Market. I rarely see anyone in a bad mood and every student that comes in is sweet and honest. I love seeing my regulars come in, get their favorite snacks, and tell me how their day is going.

The students lift my spirit and treat me well. One student randomly gave me a gnome made from a sock filled with rice and gems for eyes and dolphins for eyebrows.

Parents come in with their kids who give me big hugs and brighten my day. One little girl from the daycare who comes in says ‘I love your silver hair’.

My customers have taught me that a little kindness and fun can go a long way to make someone’s day. So, the least I can do for them is create a fun atmosphere by playing some upbeat music K pop music while they shop.

Lessons I’ve learned

When I was 18, I thought I knew it all. I hopped in my yellow Volkswagen with my friend, and we hit the road from Las Vegas (where I grew up) to Pocatello. I had a good college experience. I was a home economics major because I wanted to be an interior designer, but I became a mom instead.

I’ve experienced a lot of life, and one thing that keeps me going when I hit a bump in the road is that life is short, so you have to live it every day. You have to try to be happy and not let setbacks keep you from doing the things you want to do — no matter how your plans change.

I’ve learned that people can change in the craziest ways. I went through a heartbreaking divorce after being married for 35 years and working while grieving was hard, but people here comforted me and were kind to me. I have the best of friends here who are always looking out for me and they always check on me. My supportive family and coworkers have helped me through hard times in life.

Despite the hardships, I’ve learned to not take things personally and let water roll off a duck’s back, you know what I mean? You just got to keep on living.

After Hours

I realized I don’t need a spotlight or a ton of recognition because I just enjoy what I do. All of us campus employees work just as hard. I wouldn’t complain if we got rewarded with a relaxing cooking class or a break for tai chi on the SUB patio.

But I can’t complain about getting off work at 3 p.m. and getting Fridays off.

I don’t mind being at home and just doing my own thing, you know? I love a good, quiet evening at home doing some of my favorite crafts like crocheting and quilting.

If I had the opportunity to do something wild, I would sell my house and move to Chiang Mai, Thailand in a heartbeat. It’s a college town a little way outside of Bangkok. Or I’ll go to Ireland and look for the little leprechauns. Maybe one that looks like my little sock gnome.

 

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  • Molly

    Molly

    Content Writer