The Glory Has Departed


Norma Boeckler, Artist-in-Residence

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Adventures in Retail

I avoided produce, which seemed to be a process of removing
old vegetables and fruit, all day long.


Teaching really slowed down in the fall, so I signed up online for Walmart work. I expected to have a month while that got that sorted out. I pressed the "apply" button and drove a mile to the SuperCenter to pick up a prescription. WalMart phoned to interview me a few minutes after I applied. They phoned again before I got back. When I returned the call, they asked to interview me that day and offered me a job at the interview. The next day two more stores were trying to interview me.

I grew up working at my father's donut shop, bakery, and coffee counter, so working the food business was nothing new. This store was a nearby Neighborhood Market, which is a combination of grocery story and general merchandise. I worked in both areas, but not in produce or in the delicatessen.

Much of my work was directing customers to the products they wanted. One elderly woman asked me to be her personal shopper, and I agreed. My favorites were the men bent over a hand-written list. "Your wife wrote that out for you?" The pain on their faces was so evident. One man said, "I am getting a migraine. Thanks for helping."  I sorted out the directions, identified the product, and took the suffering men to the food, lotion, or cleaning product. We had a lot of interesting conversations on the way.

We had a broad range of customers - medical staff, affluent, nearby young couples, and students. One was a retired WWII pilot. When I was in the cleaning products area, I discussed various solutions for their problems. In the bakery ingredients aisle, I talked about recipes and ingredients. Almost all the children were great with their mothers. Halloween was fun, with the children showing off their costumes. One little Batman got very fierce because I enjoyed his antics so much.

I had to stop a few children from running in a crowded store, with the do-nothing parents nearby. One mother said to her son, "Never let a stranger talk to you like that again!" My message to children
was simple, "A lot of elderly and handicapped people shop here. I don't want to see them hurt." The associates agreed with me.

More pastors should work retail, to learn how many people make a living. We had a pleasant working environment, with a lot of joking around when we had a chance. I was happy to visit with two of my best friends there when I showed up to take an early retirement.

I ended up with a Christmas vacation. I wanted time off and the online universities shut down for two weeks. The new year meant more classes, three PhD students to advise, and writing projects to finish or start. My wife Chris and I decided that the current hours were too much. Fewer hours made the pay marginal, and we can get along fine with the new work being offered.

One side-effect of the job was to get me in shape. I walked miles each day, lifted, sorted, stretched, and climbed the riser ladder to download products. The nearby gym charged $10 a month to exercise. I told associates, "Walmart pays us to ladder-climb, lift, stretch, and lose weight." I was able to keep up with associates in their 20s and out-lifted my supervisors (also younger), whose "oofs" were noticeable when we downloaded truck palettes. A truckload consists of many palettes, some of them produce and eggs, others the drygoods and merchandise. Imagine two 20 pound kittylitters in a cardboard box or four gallons of detergent in a box. Six gallons of water in a box weigh about 50 pounds, and we handled those all the time.

Every morning I made coffee and a big egg omelet for us at home. I realized that I could not make it through to lunch on toast or cereal. I lost 12 pounds while enjoying many different treats at work, which I shared in the associates lounge. No one wanted the lime-chipolte peanuts, but they enjoyed the classic vanilla wafers, chips, cookies, and other carbo-loads that I bought. I switched to better food at the end, fiber protein bars.

Mrs. Ichabod said, "You really know the layout now," and I often do the shopping. I found out how many exotic or new foods were available and brought them home to try. We loved having black-eyed peas for supper on New Year's Eve. I found more coconut products and various additions to cooking - wasabi sauce, various mustards, chipolte salt, lemon salt, and more.

I finished some coffee. Time to blog some more.