The wind insisted on stealing my enthusiasm this morning. My cat Güino had already sounded the alarm several times until I reluctantly got up. He’s lucky I’m able to overcome my fleeting urge to punt him into the next room. But I walked, cutting through neighborhoods, watching as endless security lights flashed on the houses of uncaring and slumbering folks. A dog ran up to me at one point, without barking, and I petted him, checking him for a collar. He accompanied me a block and then stopped. I gave him a few more rubs and off he went. We were friends for a few minutes. It was a mutual exchange of pleasantries, although he didn’t reply to my mutterings.
Feeling the urge to buy nonsensical items that I ‘needed,’ I went to the larger Wal-Mart on the west side of town. While it wasn’t quite a ghost town at that hour, I could hear echoes of Adam Lambert crooning. I needed a few trinkets for my yuletide project, the one I started yesterday, even as Dawn eyed me with suspicion, uncertain as to the intended scale of my efforts. Had she asked, I would have replied, “Think of the Eiffel Tower – only larger.”
I cut through the wide expanse of the store, observing workers hollering instructions and banter at one another. The night shift and the people inhabiting it have their own patois and rhythm. I wasn’t going to need any assistance, so I knew this visit was going to be stress-free. One of the reasons I feel like a rich man is that there was nothing in the store I couldn’t buy if I really wanted it. It sounds a little trite and dumb but I’ve come to believe it more forcefully.Once I got home, my wife might hit me with the rolling pin she hides under the couch, that’s true, but I could get it out of the store if I had the urge.
While standing near the Xmas aisles, I began to hear some terrible music. (As a Glee fan, I’m familiar with terrible music. There can be joy in music better suited to mask a garbage truck as it does its crushing. Brad Paisley fans can nod their head in agreement with this, too, as his voice sounds exactly like Tim McGraw would if someone punched him in the throat.) It grew louder and louder. I, of course, began to wonder what toothless cretin was shopping at that hour and what possessed him to believe anyone would want to hear that claptrapper music. Words became distinct. In the space of a few seconds, I heard the “N-word” 3 times, then “bitch,” followed by the even worse permutation of the same sentiment. Whoever the singer was, he was attempting to mimic George Carlin and insert every potential curse world imaginable into his lyrics.
It’s important to keep in mind that I am totally unaffected by profanity unless it is couched in denigration or anger. Words are just words, after all. Expecting to see a camo-wearing weirdo come around the corner undoubtedly amplified the surprise of the listener’s identity.
The music reached a crescendo and a male employee, pushing a cart, came ambling up at 1 mph. He had a music box in his cart, one which pulsated blue in rhythm with the alleged music. It was cacophonous and startling to see that the perpetrator was a Wal-Mart employee. He was walking so slowly that even a National Geographic slow-motion camera would not have been capable of catching his movements. He seemed to be in a catatonic state, listening deeply to the garbage emanating from his music device.
Despite the surprise, I bid the gentleman good morning. He looked at me, and continued on his way, without any acknowledgment. I stood at the endcap, observing him. About 20 feet away, another employee approached the first and passed him. I could see that he was shaking his head in disapproval after passing the employee with the bad music. I could still hear the music plainly as the somnambulist worker shuffled down the main aisle. Why I picked up my phone and took a picture as this employee passed, I’m not sure. When I hit ‘click,’ though, I was horrified to note that my flash went off – twice. Luckily, no one turned to glare menacingly at me. I’ll note though, given the employee’s apparent molasses feet, there’s no way he would have been able to catch me.
During checkout, the cashier and the younger man behind me in line had a great time one-upping each other’s crazy quips. It sounds a little unbelievable, but I think the young man was lonely. On a whim, I jokingly pretended to introduce the cashier to him, inventing a short, fake bio to accompany the introduction. They both laughed. I walked away, wondering if my impromptu introduction might have created new friends.
After finishing shopping, I found a female employee who seemed to be in charge. I asked for the manager. She, of course, asked me the reason and I told it was a sensitive issue and would be better suited to be only said once – and to the manager. She radioed in and after a minute, a tall gentleman approached, his face reflecting the dread of yet another customer interaction. Were I myself a manager, I think I would rather eat from the floor of a crowded bus station bathroom than field complaints or questions.
I introduced myself, as I didn’t want to make an anonymous complaint. It seemed like it was worth it for me to complain in full view of the consequences. After I told him what happened, his eyes widened a bit and he told me, “I’ve had this problem before. I will definitely take care of it.” He seemed both relieved and pleased that I had told him. Whatever this manager’s background, he listened closely, the single most important trait when a customer comes forward to say something, no matter how barking-crazy the person might be.
I won’t divulge the other details of the conversation, as it was sensitive. For those who might criticize me, it’s difficult to explain why I complained. There were a couple of details I omitted. I’m almost certain that the employee listening to the profanity-laden ‘music’ at high volume was going to be fired. I’m equally certain that he was already not only skating on thin ice but carrying an anvil on his shoulders while he did so. I requested that he not be fired – that a compromise solution was available. Whether the manager would heed my request was up to him and he seemed too familiar with the mentioned employee already.
As I exited the Wal-Mart parking lot, I considered putting the windows down and blaring some Brad Paisley music, just to torture anyone unlucky enough to be on the west side of town at that hour.