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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hey, Where's My Smiley Face? (#21)

     I stopped at Walmart yesterday to buy a new iron. I figured it would most likely be made in China, be small and inefficient, and stop working before the month was out. But hey, it was only $8.99, and you can’t beat that price. 

     I normally don’t shop at Walmart because………… Let’s see; oh yeah. Now I remember. There’s usually not enough crack cocaine available in the world to allow me to futilely look for help, search for the item on my own, make my way through the one open checkout line, and survive a race to my car through hundreds of circling drivers, looking for parking spots within a quarter-mile of the store.

     Walking through the front doors for the first time in over two years, I noticed something wasn’t right, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I grabbed a shopping cart with only three working wheels, listened to the sounds of at least five or six different foreign languages, and almost bumped into a display of fruit. What? Walmart now sells fruit?

     I then realized what was wrong. There wasn’t a smiling, elderly gentleman, with a bright blue vest, and an endless supply of smiley faces, greeting me at the entrance!

     I then approached an employee stacking mangos and inquired, “Que paso con el portavoz oficial?” he replied, “Que ha estado desaparecido durante dos anos.” Sorry, years ago, I once shopped a lot at Walmart. I asked him what happened to the greeter, and he said, “They’ve been gone for more than two years.”

     A single tear ran down my face and dropped to the floor. I loved those Walmart greeters. Remember how they always met you with a friendly grin, would get you a cart with four perfect wheels, could unerringly direct you to any item in the store, and would give you a small yellow sticker with a smiling face on it, even if you were forty years old.

     Being a Walmart greeter was a tough and thankless job. Imagine working in your golden years for minimum wage and no benefits. Also imagine being required to be fluent in multiple languages, be on your feet all day, not have an aversion or be allergic to spandex, and wear a silly vest that says, “How may I help you.”

     Years ago, I was talking and joking with a greeter named Earl, who must have been ninety. He had been a greeter for over twenty years. I asked him the secret to his longevity as a greeter. He pointed to his ears, and then his eyes. I noticed at his advanced age he wasn’t wearing hearing aids or glasses. He then said he needs both, but takes them off after clocking in. I asked why? He said,

“Take a look around you for Heaven’s sake. This place looks like a circus freak show. How do you think I made it this long?”

     The sad thing about the end of Walmart greeters is, I have one less place to work after retirement. If I need to work to earn some extra cash, I’m down to fast-food worker, tour guide, or school bus driver.

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