Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Confessions of a Wal-Mart Greeter

I know what the training program instructed us and I know what I am thinking, and I’m here to tell you that there’s a big difference between what’s going on in my mind and what’s coming out of my mouth.

We’re supposed to epitomize the Basic Beliefs; that we respect Wal-Mart customers, that we provide superior customer service, and that we are the front-line soldiers for the company. We even have the ten-foot rule that dictates that any customer that passes within ten feet of us should be assisted in a courteous manner. Saw it all in the videotaped role-plays and training exercises.

Guess what? I’m tired of wearing a smile when some big fat assed lady wants me to be so obsequious that it makes my teeth itch. I don’t care about building rapport with the customer. Half of them are cheap-assed imbeciles that are too ignorant to know what a scam Wal-Mart is in the first place.

Sometimes I don’t even want to touch them to put a smiley face sticker on – you don’t know where they’ve been, but it doesn’t smell good. Let’s face it – I don’t think very highly of them and they don’t have much respect for me. Wouldn’t we be better off if we had a more honest relationship? Then I could tell you that your snotty-nosed kids are getting mucous all over the toys (and by the way, if you work or shop in a Wal-Mart, better keep the Purell hand sanitizer close by), that it’s customary to wear something a bit nicer than a wife-beater tee shirt when you go shopping, or that there are ways to prevent hippo breath.

You think I look stupid in this goofy vest with the smiley face and the buttons plastered all over it? Look in the mirror pal – you look just as stupid if not more so. If I took a picture of every slob who walked in here in a day, I could fill a room with photo albums.

Does Wal-Mart really have to be the place that retirees go to work and then die? Was their full-time job before this not humiliating enough that they must now end their working life inside a Wal-Mart with a phony smile on their face and fallen arches on their feet? Is that really what you want your mother and father doing in their late 60s? Well, is it?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Vikings Are Coming

Spring: a time when a young man's fancy turns to explosives. An old man's fancy turns to balls of lead. Spring is the launch of reenactor season. Reenactors are men, and a few women, who love to relive the days of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and Civil War as a hobby.

Horses and gunpowder are the order of the day. Campfires and sleeping in tents are the order of the night. Mouth harps; fifes and drums; chaw; peeing on trees, wiping with poison ivy. Fun stuff. Redcoats and the Militiamen, Damn Yankees and the Johnny Rebs, fought on American soil. They were volunteers but many were drafted, arriving by foot, wagons, or on horseback. Now they are all volunteers, arriving by Winnebago, Ram Tough Dodge Pick-em-up trucks, or C-class Mercedes.

Picking a side is preordained. Your grandfather determined that by where he was born. No Pennsylvanians wear red coats and no Georgian will wear blue. Don't think the officers of your regiment or unit won't check out your lineage better than any thoroughbred horse.

As much as I like explosives in the woods, beans and pork bellies, and drinking from a tin cup, if I was going to be a reenactor, I would have to go with being a Viking. I would choose to be an Ericson. (Ericcson) like the phone people. Leif Ericson, Son of Eric the Red! ARRRR. Brother and spouse and father of the Thors. Thorvaldr, Thorsteinn, Thorgunna, and Thorkell. They romped all over Greenland, Iceland and the North Atlantic. Thors all over the place.

Thors founded Dublin. Word has it that one bad day Tykir was feeling particularly down because his name wasn't Thor. He wandered to the local pub inquiring about a book on suicide. The barmaid looks over her spectacles and says, "Bollocks to that Tykir, ye'ed noo be bringin' it back."

If one chooses to be a reenactor, why not choose to reenact the good life? Vikings pillaged and plundered. Like visiting a flea market in the summer. They were known for reciprocity: give and take. Vikings ate well. Lamb, veal, and potatoes. Their bellies were naturally round. Not like the Civil War reenactors who get their roundness from Budweiser. Vikings were required to carry a weapon. Similar to large audio speakers in cars today, the size and number determined status among a Viking's peers. Vikings built ships and screwed around on the ocean - or other large bodies of water, like fjords. Vikings like to be clean, they bathed once a week, on Saturday. laugardagur/laurdag/lørdag/lördag is Saturday in Vikingspeak. It means, "wash my back Thor."

Yeah, if I'm a reenactor, I'm a Viking.

Except I would be Minnesota in July.

Mark Van Patten writes a blog called Going Like Sixty and has been married to the same woman since 1968.

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“Parents are watching. Talk to you later.” There – that wasn’t so hard was it.

Does the text generation think we are so brain dead that we can’t figure out texting short-cuts? For crying out loud (4COL), we can be educated. We can use the Google to figure it out like W does. Did you know that 9 also means parent is watching and 99 means parent is no longer watching? URSAI (you are such an idiot).

We’ve gone from emoticons – those idiotic smiley face iterations that contribute nothing useful to our civilization – to cryptologic letter sequences that defy solution. And for what? So we can type fewer letters. The real barrier to boomers being able to text like their children is that we don’t have elf-sized thumbs. GMAB (give me a break)!

Before there was texting, we were best friends (BF) and maybe even BFF (best friends forever). Now, we are such good friends we can’t talk to each other in person or on the phone, because texting is such a superior form of communication? ISH (insert sarcasm here).

Now your kids and their friends text each in the backseat of the car so that you can’t eavesdrop on their conversations. All you hear is thumb clicking and iPod overflow from their earbuds. HWIT (how weird is that). In the interest of truth in texting, I just made that last one up. Turns out that all they are saying half the time is WAYD (what are you doing) and the other person says IDK WAYD (I don’t know, what are you doing).

Sadder still are the parents who try to keep up with their kids by trying to text them. It’s just pitiful to see them punching away at the tiny keys because they don’t know enough short-cuts. Writer Adam Gopnik relates in Through the Children's Gate that he thought LOL meant lots of love, and his adolescent son humored him for a long time until he told him that it meant laughing out loud. At least now they both have agreed to use it for lots of love. It’s a lot like telling your parents to stop yelling, BECAUSE THEY’RE TYPING EVERYTHING IN CAPS.

@TEOTD (at the end of the day), I’m waiting for speech recognition to become so efficient that I can speak to my cellphone and it will transcribe it and send the message for me. Better still, what if reads my mind and sends that message. OST (on second thought….made that one up too), maybe it’s better if what goes through my mind doesn’t get out there.

B4N (bye for now).

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept and at BoomSpeak. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.