Cold Comfort

So, for those fervent readers who may be new, I currently work third shift at my local WalMart in the produce section. I come in from 10pm-7am and my primary responsibility is to the 60 foot refrigerated section known as the “wet wall.” It is so called because certain sections are regularly misted. Some stores have a warning system, shoppers who may have their heads deep into the section closely examining the little green balls of death (otherwise known as Brussels Sprouts) are warned with a whimsical thunder clap that the mister is about to go off. No such warning at WalMart, at least not at my store. Screw you, produce shopper, you’re about to get misted.

I’m not sure why we don’t, but I have three theories:

  1. Such a thunderclap would be whimsical and fun, two things that the Devourers of Joy do not allow.
  2. Such a thunderclap would cost money to install and maintain, and a struggling new store like WalMart can’t afford such frivolities.
  3. The most likely reason, such a thunderclap would possibly keep shoppers from hearing WalMart TV (more on WMTV later).

At first I was disappointed that we didn’t have thunder in our department, then it occurred to me that it would probably get annoying after a while. However, this could be fixed by rotating a thunderclap with snippets of some of the following:

Yeah, I know, too much fun. DOJ would never allow it.

I mentioned WalMart TV earlier. As a part of the never ending onslaught of advertising they have videos all over the store, sometimes they have them set up on an end-cap advertising a specific item. For example they’ll have a display of Old Spice stuff with a TV playing an ad over and over where the Old Spice Guy says, “Hello ladies. Your man can never look as good as me but at least if you buy Old Spice shit he can smell like me.”

Well, there’s a WMTV screen right next to produce. The good news is that it doesn’t play one ad over and over again. The bad news is that it plays about 10 or so 5-10 second ads over and over again. Some of the associates claim that they can tune it out, but my ADHD self has never been able to tune out any TV anywhere. The really good news is that they reset WMTV at midnight, so sometimes the whole thing goes off but the sound always goes off until 7am, so I only have to hear it for two hours.

Here’s a picture I took of part of my wet wall and the blessed WMTV screen:

My job is to cull old fruit and veggies and fill the wall by 7am, as well as unload the produce and meat truck that comes during my shift, usually between 2am and 4am. The DOJ at my store are always telling me that the produce department is the first thing that people see when they come in the store. It’s the one department that all other departments are judged by. Thus, it is THE most important thing that the wall be full every morning.

Unless it isn’t. More than once, if the associate whose job it is to stock the “97 wall”  – which consists of lunch meat, Lunchables, bacon, etc. – doesn’t show up, they’ve had me do it. Apparently the entire store is judged by the produce section, but then if the customer is unable to purchase his head cheese then he forgets all about how wonderful the produce section looked.

One third shift manager that I will call Mr. Fabulous is notorious for this. He will tell me that he needs me to do the 97 wall and it should only take an hour…even though it’s not an area I’ve worked before. Then when it takes me three times that long he gets upset. So you’d think he wouldn’t do it again, but he does. Five or six times now I’ve done it, and I’m getting better, but it still seems like I’m being useless in two departments because while I’m fooling around with bologna and braunschweiger I’m not filling the wet wall.

4/15/11 Update: What did I tell you? I wrote the above sentence on April 14, 2011 and what did they do that night? Put me on the freaking 97 wall because the guy that was supposed to do it called in sick.

BTW, down here they don’t say that somebody “called in” they say they “called out.” I’ll probably write some hilarious stuff on this subject at a later date.

So that’s Mr. Fabulous. Mr. Fabulous is a tall, thin, reasonably good looking guy in his late 30s. He has five kids, and he will often tell you that he has five kids. If you are not doing the job the way he in his infinite wisdom thinks it should be done he will say, “You’re gonna make me lose my job, and I need my job. I have five kids.” It is, after all, all about him. He’s arrogant, but he knows he’s arrogant. I overheard him talking about somebody one time, he said that this person was arrogant: “I mean, I’m arrogant, but this guy…” I assume that this arrogance and cockiness is what has gotten him this far in his career, because it certainly isn’t his intellect or interpersonal skills. One night he called me in to the personnel office for a “chat.” Another manager, a woman, was there as well. Along with the usual things they rag us about, you’re not stocking fast enough, etc, he had a very unusual complaint:

On the above picture, see the rim at the bottom of the lower row? Well, Mr. Fabulous told me that I had been seen sitting on that rim while stocking that row, and that wasn’t OK because recently there had been a recall of eggs due to salmonella caused by contact with human feces. Yes, to my shock and horror I was informed that I had been seen sliding up and down the wet wall and deliberately spreading feces on it. Because of course I never bathe or even bother to wipe myself after making #2. Hell, sometimes if I don’t think I’ll make it to the men’s room I just drop trou and pinch one off into the cilantro. Is that wrong? Well, why doesn’t anybody tell me these things? This wasn’t covered in the Computer Based Learning modules I had to take. How’s an associate supposed to know that he’s not supposed to fertilize the entire produce department with his own feces?

Now, the funny thing is that I recall a conversation in front of the very same feces encrusted wet wall between myself, Mr. Fabulous, and another associate when Mr. Fabulous was relatively new to our store. You know what Mr. Fabulous did during that very conversation? He sat down on the rim of the wet wall while we were talking. Yes…the very feces spreading behavior that I was now being scolded about. Now, I should have had better sense than this, but I pointed out to him that I had seen him sitting on the wall. He gave me a look that indicated that he not only didn’t know what I was talking about but that I had just spoken that last sentence in Mesopotamian. To his credit, though, he didn’t deny it. He said, “Well, I shouldn’t have done that because…” and then he went on again with the eggs and the feces. All of this in front of the other female manager. I happened to glance over at her at one point during the whole feces spreading conversation. Her head was down and she was very focused on the pen she had in her hand. She was obviously trying to avoid laughing or getting embarrassed, or that is the most interesting pen in the world. Of course, since we had this conversation I have been very careful to keep all feces away from the wet wall. I’m a company man.

Well, Mr. Fabulous kinda hit the skids there for a bit. Shortly after we had our feces conversation he started getting really moody, then he disappeared for a couple of weeks. Turned out he was on leave and rumors were rampant (as they usually are) as to why. I thought he or somebody in his family was sick. When he came back all he said during our nightly meeting was that WalMart had given him some time off, and then he rather humbly said that if any of us prayed that he and his family could use some. He didn’t say why though.

The next few nights when he was working, a dark cloud had settled over him. He was practically catatonic. By this time the rumor consensus had been reached that he was having marital trouble and that a divorce was imminent. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, having been through both a divorce and a dark cloud. Then, in typical Mr. Fabulous fashion, he took all the good will and kind wishes that any of us might have had and flushed them away:

As I mentioned earlier, the third shift has a meeting at 10pm. The managers go over any announcements and give people their assignments for the night. I usually don’t get an assignment, but if they do hijack me and put me on the 97 wall, this is when I hear about it. Well, Mr. Fabulous had something he wanted to say in the meeting. He had become perturbed at the number of people who had been calling in lately, or showing up but not giving 110%, and he basically said that whatever problems or issues we were dealing with we needed to suck it up and leave them at home. Then he actually said, “I’m not going to go into what I’ve been going through, but I guarantee you that none of you are going through anything as bad as what I’m going through.”

Excuse me? Did I actually just hear that? You guaran-freaking-tee that nobody in that room is going through anything as bad as what you’re going through? You don’t know that. People in that room could have lost their children, spouses, they could have survived cancer or recovered from strokes. People in that room could have gone through shit that would make your eyeballs bleed.

OK, so your wife is leaving you. That’s tough. Is she taking the kids, all five of them? Are they going to be 2,268 miles away? Because if not then you’re still one (or five) up on me pal.

And who the hell has five kids these days? In spite of your plea for prayer that night, I’ve heard you say that you’re not particularly religious so you’re not a Catholic, a Mormon, or one of those Quiverfull people. OK, so your guys are strong swimmers, try strapping on a Trojan once in a while champ.

So Mr. Fabulous was Mopey Moperson for a while, and after his performance at that meeting it was hard to have any sympathy for him. Besides, not to take comfort in somebody else’s suffering but, if there is such a thing as karma, being a manager for a company like WalMart is like painting a bulls-eye on your back, grabbing your crotch, and yelling “Hey, karma this!!”

Anyway, don’t worry about Mr. Fabulous. He’s bounced back from his troubles and I’m proud to report that he didn’t learn a thing. He’s just as arrogant as ever. A while back he was bragging about what a player he is now that he’s single again: “There’s no better pickup line than, ‘I’m a single father with five kids.’ “

Now who’s the one spreading feces?

Art: Cold Comfort, originally uploaded by digger5x5.

4 thoughts on “Cold Comfort

  1. Crystal says:

    You are such a funny writer, Joe! Humor is not only a useful coping device but its also a valuable and rare writing skill. If you get in trouble at work for this blog, take it as a sign that words have power and you have the power tools.

  2. maybe walmartneedsnewpr.

    great post, joe!

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