Saturday, January 09, 2010

9 JAN 10: Crimson and White

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: You may find the following item humorous, serious, or a little of both - but we offer these thoughts from time to time, as we keep a seventh-day Sabbath.)

"This is the thing I hate the most about coming to Wal-Mart," said the man behind me in line.

"What's that?" I asked with a smile. "Paying for the things you want?"

"That's somewhat of a given, since we're shopping here." The man answered, without cracking a smile at all at what I said. That should have been a clue of what was coming -- or else my jokes really are that bad.

"They don't have enough cashiers," he said. "Must be a n****r managing this place."

Indeed we were standing in a lengthy Wal-Mart express lane. But I didn't realize workplace short-staffing was based on heredity and skin color. Considering United Parcel Service announced hundreds of management cuts Friday, perhaps the UPS chairman needs to check his family tree.

Earlier in the day I'd reviewed Philippians 4:8 in Bible study - only then to face a major challenge at my car. "I'm thankful for Wal-Mart today," I replied to the man. "I had a flat tire, that's under warranty to Wal-Mart. I decided to limp it over here, but I lost the tire somewhere around the 13th Street bridge." Yet I kept moving slowly to the Phenix City store - literally on a rim and a prayer.

"They told me I'd have to wait at least two hours," I continued, "but they went ahead and replaced the tire in less than one." And the Wal-Mart crew gave me the tire under warranty, even though there was no left front tire to show them. My rim left a mark that will last all the way until the next repaving of the parking lot.

"Praise the Lord," the man said after I told him what happened. So he knows how to praise, as well as he may know how to curse.

The conversation turned to the approaching Bowl Championship Series title game - and the man was surprised by how neutral I sounded about the Alabama-Texas game. "You must not like football," he concluded. No, I like it. And I'd like it better if Kansas went to bowl games more than two years at a time.

"In the Southeastern Conference, we play football," the man said firmly. Yes, I know that. Sometimes they even play it at Vanderbilt.

The man admitted he spent more than 20 years in Texas, in jobs such as teaching. But he grew weary of that, and longed to return to what he calls "Crimson Country." I didn't dare bring up Auburn, because who knows what he might have said then....

The conversation indicated to me this man was weary of a lot of things. He said we've lost many things in this country, such as caring and concern for other people. But then he fixed his eyes back on the checkout stand. "Noooo, don't start talking with her...." Some men simply need longer lunch hours.

Eventually my grocery cart and his handful of items neared the checkout line -- and I decided to do something provocative. "I'll be moving on out of your way, sir" - steering my cart away from the position in front of him, and around the back to another line. The man had convicted me, even though my 18 items were below the express lane limit of 20.

I decided to give this man what he wanted, since he'd talked about it so much. He was a verbal version of a "super speeder" on the highway. If he couldn't wait patiently in line, I'd pull over out of the way - much as my three-tired car had done on U.S. 280 heading to Wal-Mart. There's nothing like driving ten miles per hour to keep you humble.

The wait was only three or four additional minutes in the other non-express line - not much, considering my slow drive to the store had taken about 45. As I left with my groceries, I was thankful - thankful to the staff of the man whose picture is posted just inside the door: Wyley Brown. Phenix City, Alabama Wal-Mart manager. White man.

SCHEDULED SUNDAY: A book local libraries are supposed to have.... except they don't....

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