Every two weeks, when I get paid, I wake up on Saturday morning and face the ordeal that is Wal-Mart. I detest Wal-Mart but at present I buy all my staple goods there because I feed a lot of people and its what I can afford to do. Andn its great for that. I don’t like the fact that they are known for mistreating their employees, particularly women. I don’t like the fact that they made their original reputation as being the “American made” store but more than half of what they sell is made in China. But you can buy stuff you use all the time for less money than anywhere else; that I like and need. So I make a massive list, check my coupons and head for the store. As I am trolling around the parking lot I am amazed at how crowded it is. It is always like that unless it is the middle of the night when all the meth addicts can’t sleep and need sugar. And around and around you go. Then you can’t go by because people are waiting to get a spot closest to the door; even thought the spot they are waiting for involves people who still have 400 bags to unload into the SUV and two kids to strap in. On the day that inspired this blog I completed my shopping. I came out to the parking lot, unloaded my groceries into my car noting as I did so that there was a very large SUV standing in the middle of the way, entirely blocking me from backing out. So I put my cart away, got in my car, putting on my seat belt, turning on the car, putting it in reverse. And there I sat, for a solid five minutes whiile big SUV waited to save themselves 20 steps. The “obesity problem” has been back on the news a lot because it is summer, the season of the swim suit crash diet hysteria; as if you could lose fifty pounds between May and July. Now refocus and imagine you are in Wal-Mart. Think of the people you are seeing there; imagine the foods in their carts. How many of them are huge? Downright obese? How many of them are wearing clothes at least a size too small? How many of them are wearing spandex, making you want to turn away because you didn’t want to know that much about them? How many of their children are frighteningly fat? Now… how many of them have fresh food in their carts… not many, huh? How many have fresh vegetables or fruit? You get an idea of the state of American health by seeing how much frozen, boxed, bagged and canned food you see on the conveyor at the checkout. If we only eat frozen, processed, fried food, and we can’t walk a few extra steps from the car to the door, no wonder we are so fat.
At work, at home, I am around people who embody the worst of the new American work ethic. Where I work is fundamentally a call center. Unlike many call centers we are internal and have other departments of people who are not call reps. But our sales reps are telephone sales people. They don’t think so, however. They apparently think they are special in many ways. We implemented a new phone system that is capable of tracking the work of each rep and each area, each department. Of course everyone hates this new system becuase it is demonstrating the extent to which they spend work time time . . . not working. The reps don’t like this because . . . now they have to work. All those extra cigarette breaks, not so much. All that time on the cell phone, not so much. All the extra time spent not on the phone, not so much. It is strange to me that people come to work expecting not to work. If you are working, who cares if the phone tracks how much you work, there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. Idle or entitled? So after a hard day of listening to the employees complain about having to work for their paychecks, I come home. And I find my father’s caregiver in the familiar spot . . . the sofa in front of the television. When I am getting ready for work there is always a push on the first arrival to clean up whatever dishes my teenager has left in the sink from the night before. After that come long hours of nothing as my dad doesn’t get up until 10 or 11 most days. Cigarettes and television mostly I think. Then maybe a trip to the bank, my dad’s tennis lesson, the post office. Back to more cigarettes and tv. I laid out the job when I hired everyone. Told them I had expectations beyond watching my dad watch tv since there was so little to do. Then I made the occasional suggestion. Sometimes followed sometimes not. Then I made a list, put it on a little whiteboard. Mostly ignored. Its not all bad. It is more a matter of doing what the person likes and nothing else, and a matter of not doing things well. But after all, how hard is it to wipe the cabinets down? Or wash a toilet or run a damp mop over a bare floor? The highlights are the time I spend every day putting things back where they belong (how long do you have to be aorund til you know where things go?) or when it seems an imposition to request that the tv volume be lowered or that we might be able to use our sofa. But these are my expectations, not my dad’s. He is fine with all of it as long as they leave him alone, drive him where he wants to go and clean up after him; and it is ultimately his call but… who expects to be paid for a full day of tv watching? Idle or entitled?