Clean up on isle five
April 20, 2006 7:27 AM   Subscribe

Where does the phrase "clean up on isle five" come from and what exactly does it mean?

I guess it's from a movie or something. Googling for it just turned up people quoting it.
posted by bloo to Writing & Language (28 answers total)
Makes me think of Mr. Mom
posted by loc-dogg at 7:28 AM on April 20, 2006

I believe it's "aisle five", no?
posted by Witty at 7:29 AM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: I feel kind of silly typing this, as I would think you already know it, and I apologize if you do, but it is a common announcement over grocery store loudspeakers. When I was a bag boy at the Winn Dixie, if a customer knocked over a jar of pickles, which were on aisle two of the store, the manager would get on the intercom system and say, "Baggers, we need a clean-up on aisle two". You would then go to the mop room, get the mop and a broom, sweep up the glass and pickles, and mop up the pickle juice, and put down a "Caution: Wet Floor" sign. Good times.

As to whether it was popularized by a movie or something, I do not know, but I think that is the origin.
posted by ND¢ at 7:35 AM on April 20, 2006

Best answer: I don't think there's a specific movie or other pop culture reference inherent in that phrase. It's just a general "somebody fucked up, lets deal with the aftermath while keeping a sense of humor" saying. I think Aisle Five is used because the two words sound good together. The long "I" sound in each word makes them fit together nicely.
posted by cosmicbandito at 7:38 AM on April 20, 2006

I agree with cosmicbandito, it's just a phrase that is meant to cover up embarrassment with a sense of humor. The only time I've ever used it was when I was in an actual grocery store and someone I was with (never me, of course) knocked something over.
posted by itchie at 7:42 AM on April 20, 2006

Definitely Mr. Mom.
posted by soundslikeobiwan at 7:53 AM on April 20, 2006

Response by poster: Well, I imagined that it's just a quite common announcement, but I've read it so often especially with aisle FIVE that there seems to be some movie or anything which popularized it.

But maybe there isn't.
posted by bloo at 8:06 AM on April 20, 2006

never thought it was specific to any particular aisle, myself.
posted by mdn at 8:13 AM on April 20, 2006

Mr. Mom, mentioned previously.
posted by O9scar at 8:21 AM on April 20, 2006

I think the phrase is actually *wet* cleanup - get the mops, not just the brooms you already have. But still, it suggest taking care of problems with a sense of humor.
posted by notsnot at 8:26 AM on April 20, 2006

aisle five: 22,100 matches
aisle seven: 2,090 matches
aisle one: 1,920 matches
aisle ten: 1,850 matches
aisle three: 895 matches
aisle four: 574 matches
aisle two: 535 matches
aisle six: 507 matches
aisle nine: 486 matches
aisle eight: 476 matches
aisle twelve: 422 matches
aisle eleven: 30 matches

Looks like there's definitely something special about aisle five...

I'm not convinced there wasn't a particular movie or TV show that's responsible for this. But it could also just be that "aisle five" sounds best; "five" is unambiguously a number (unlike one, two, four, six, or eight), and it has the same vowel sound as "aisle."
posted by staggernation at 8:27 AM on April 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

Ah, I see cosmicbandido already pointed out the assonance. But that doesn't explain why aisle nine isn't more popular...
posted by staggernation at 8:33 AM on April 20, 2006

That theory's very plausible on its face, but how do you explain the relative scarcity of the equally euphonious "aisle nine?"
posted by escabeche at 8:33 AM on April 20, 2006

maybe 'cause plenty of stores have less than 9 aisles?
posted by mdn at 8:40 AM on April 20, 2006

Now that the question has been answered, it's time for the bag-boy stories.

My first job was at a supermarket. I did a bit of bagging, cart-retrieving, you name it. My most feared thing was clean-ups, especially (I can recall this distinctly) aisle seven - the household cleaners - detergent aisle.

Soaps (shampoo, detergent) couldn't really be mopped, got stickly if you tried to squeegee them, attracted dirt like a magnet if you didn't get them completely cleaned up, etc.

Also, people would break ammonia bottles every week. Nothing beats a group of bagboys trying to hide out rather than be collared to clean up a big ammonia spill. It needed to be cleaned up ASAP, too, as customers would flee the area and soon the store if it got too bad.

Good times, good times.
posted by unixrat at 9:05 AM on April 20, 2006

I'm switching to lonely aisle eleven
posted by edgeways at 9:11 AM on April 20, 2006

Unixrat -- I'll see your detergent and raise you a case of Karo corn syrup. In glass containers. Sweet Jesus, it must've taken an afternoon to get that crap up.
posted by Atom12 at 9:46 AM on April 20, 2006

The "which aisle" question was addressed here as well.
posted by Eater at 9:54 AM on April 20, 2006

I cleaned up laundry detergent last week at my work. It's a cinch with something like this. My hands stunk of Fresh Rain for HOURS, though.
posted by Juliet Banana at 10:07 AM on April 20, 2006

As long as we're just swapping bag boy stories, baggers at my store had to clean the bathroom, and that was the worst. However, whenever you had to do it, you just grabbed a magazine and went in there and hung out for a couple of hours, then did a piss poor job about five minutes before you would have been missed. We hung out a lot in the mop room too.

I have also never stolen so much in my life as I did when I was a bog boy (can safely discuss because the statute of limitations has long since run on those crimes). Managers used to look the other way if we took home something that was damaged, so what did we do? Damage things, then tak 'em them home. The produce section and open candy counters were totally up for grabs, and we used to sneak twelve packs of Coors Light into the trash before we took the trash out for the night, and then when you got off work, you would just cruise around to the back of the store, and pull the bag of garbage out of the dumpster, and pull your twelve pack out of the garbage. Seems gross now, but those were some happy happy times.
posted by ND¢ at 10:09 AM on April 20, 2006

I got fired from my bag boy job, took a soda without paying. It sorta pissed me off because I saw the managers loading up their cars out the back door every weekend for their cookouts.

Karma can be a bitch, though. I noticed a newspaper story a few years later where a few of these guys had been busted for fraud. They had staff clipping coupons out of unsold newspapers and redeeming them for cash. They were caught due to their greed, as the normal coupon redemption rate is about 2%, this store's was about 60%.
posted by Marky at 10:33 AM on April 20, 2006

I was the lone male cashier at my grocery store gig, so they put me on register number one, owing to the fact that it was closest to the exit and therefore was the target of all our armed hold-ups. I was also expected to tackle any shoplifters who tried to make a run for it. Nice.

I was also never able to figure out why people who work in grocery stores are forced to wear slacks and a tie. I ruined dozens of shirts, ties and slacks at that job. It just seems asinine to wear nice clothes when stocking shelves...
posted by daveleck at 10:59 AM on April 20, 2006

As notsnot mentioned above, a common variant I've often heard is 'wet spill - aisle five'.
posted by daveleck at 11:06 AM on April 20, 2006

I'm very familiar with the term and though I havn't seen Mr. Mom I do recall this saying being quoted in another movie.

An action movie of some sort (Bruce Willis mayber?) where a bad guy robbing a grocery store is killed/wounded/beat up and left lying in the aisle.

The hero gives a wry smile and "clean up......"
posted by skinnydipp at 12:02 PM on April 20, 2006

Just wanted to draw your attention to this, from Eater's link:

The much neglected "Cleanup in Aisle 8" sounds like Rosie the Robot gone berserk: "Cleanup! Annihilate!"
posted by Squid Voltaire at 5:47 PM on April 20, 2006

I believe the "Clean up in Aisle 5" gag was in Mr. Mom and Gung Ho. They were both Michael Keaton movies, and I think the same actrees played the cashier in both moves. I just happened to catch these movies in the same week and noticed the repetition. Keaton's kids caused the clean-up in Mr. Mom, and I think a fight in the store was the source of the clean-up in Gung Ho.
posted by JDC8 at 9:25 AM on April 21, 2006

With no offense meant to the surprisingly populous sub-group of MeFi former bagboys, I think the line is often used to represent any thankless, menial job.
posted by AuntLisa at 9:41 AM on April 21, 2006

Wow...there's a movie called Cleanup on Aisle Five!
posted by edjusted at 8:34 PM on April 22, 2006

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