I do not get to the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market very often, but I am going to pay a visit (in all of its shiny chrome and steel glory) next week. It is truly a marvel to behold, but I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the old market down by the stadiums.
Every night for years, whether it was bitterly cold or sweltering hot, I would be armed with a list and tasked with procuring produce to be cut the next day. In the beginning, I was very green. I knew very little about produce (or even about driving a truck for that matter), yet found myself charged with both.
I remember having too many items and pallets to fit on my truck. I recall being finished early, but still waiting around until soft pretzels arrived at the restaurant at 2:00 am. I remember the stench of rotting produce on hot August evenings. Once I accidentally dumped a whole skid of tomatoes down one of the ramps and they rolled throughout the parking lot for what seemed like days (I think some are still making their way down Delaware Avenue). Everyone sped by on their ride-on pallet jacks and laughed. Everyone, that is, except Rob Ranieri of Brandywine Produce who stopped and helped me collect my cargo (thanks, Rob!).
Most of all, I remember how fun and exciting it was to be out and about in the pitch black with a colorful cast of characters. Every night was a new series of adventures. I was on my own and left to my own devices. It was me against the market, and although the market sometimes won, I’d like to think that, with a list completed and a truck full, I had a few wins, too.
I am many years removed from those funny, crazy evenings and yet, sometimes, I can’t help but miss the “the good old nights”.