So there I found myself, maybe thirty minutes ago....Okay maybe not exactly thirty minutes ago.
I had to write and then edit this diary immediately as I got home, and that included requisite break time, so the timeline might seem off right now...hey guy has to have some modicum of facilities right? Anyway, regardless I found myself standing in line at a big box store tonight; okay it was Walmart...Ok, ok I know right already, please flog me later and just keep reading ok?
So I found myself standing in line at Walmart at 12:00am with an item along with around forty other people. There were only two lanes open, so as you can imagine the line was pretty long. The crowd was pretty standard as most middle of the night retail purveyors. That said, I am not unfamiliar with Walmart in the middle of the night so let me give a quick rundown. So you find your typical Walmart midnight customers what with a parent picking up a last minute OTC medication, the late night drunk getting that last fifth for the night, the young couple picking up groceries for the next day, and the stray person who just needed a battery for their car. Indeed Walmart at midnight is a wonderful snapshot into the heart of America.
So there I sat in line, and being the person I am...why not strike up conversation to pass the time? It should beat staring wasting time glaring into the soullessness of technology that is my smart phone right?
Join me after the *** for my experience and perhaps a chance I lit a fire into someone tonight....or morning depending on your place of residence.
So I am standing in line and I survey my field of vision. Behind me I see a man with paper plates, solo cups (forgive me, midwest folk will get that one dead on), and various party supplies; in front of me I see a couple with various sundries and groceries including things like turkey bacon and soy milk.
It sorta struck me then.
I am standing in the middle of America, what better chance to make connections and see what happens right?
So I strike up a conversation with the man behind me, we'll call him Solo Cup. Solo is there to get items for his daughters party. He is bemoaning the line length and really just wants to get out of there. I reply to him that this happens from time to time (again I know, I know shopping at Walmart is horrible but to my defense it is sometimes my only option), and that often at times during busy times management fails to properly plan staffing for demand. We joke and laugh and find some common ground on our life stations.
Even the rest of the line joins in to some degree, the gentleman behind Solo is there for a battery. Literally standing in the midst of the express lane with nothing more than a cart and a battery. However a teaching moment arises. The man behind Solo starts to bemoan the slowness of the line which invariably leads to him bemoaning of the staff staffing the lines.
Perhaps it was the lack of sleep from the passing of my wife's family Matriarch in the last week, perhaps it was just the anonymity of the moment, perhaps it was just my inner Norma Rae screaming... to be honest I don't know, but I felt compelled to say something.
I lit into him, and looking back on it perhaps I could have been just a tad more tempered; However I could not just let such a cockamamie idea stand. I laid into him how hard Walmart works its workers and how much labor they extract from their workforce and how because of the low wages; very often you standing there with your battery in the shopping cart, subsidize their life because they are forced into government dolls like food stamps, housing assistance, etc....
By the time I finished my soliloquy, my time for check out apparently came. Actually apparently it had come some time before I finished, just no one informed me that the entirety of line 1 and line 2 including the clerks had turned to listen to me.
I felt partially embarrassed, yet silently emboldened.
I turned to the clerk while paying for the item I had and uttered "I appreciate all that you do and am sorry for that. I guess management didn't plan on this and isn't helping you through the busy time." To which she replied "Yeah, they didn't plan on this and we haven't had a break in awhile". I grabbed my debit card and uttered to her "I'm sorry, hope your night gets better...and the word Union is dirty for some reason right?"
Her response shook me.
"Especially around here"
So I drove home, quick drive..maybe fifteen minutes, thinking about that last statement. I realized that indeed for some reason the word UNION has been demonized to the point of minimization. I questioned in my heart why it has for awhile now, why or why has something as American as UNION been dismissed? I contend that we need to recapture this word.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence,[note 1] promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.All of us are pretty familiar with the above. I learned this in the second grade and had it further cemented in my mind via my civics classes in middle school and high school. It's a pretty powerful opening to a powerful document. It quite literally lays the ground work for why we do what we do...even if it is misguided at times.
As I pulled into my garage, the preamble to the constitution stuck in my mind, especially the mention of the word union. And really, what is a union?
So it really stuck a stick in my craw when thinking of that Walmart worker this morning, or night depending on your time zone, uttering the statement "Especially around here"; with regarding to the word and talk of...Union
How can we live in a country where OUR FOUNDING DOCUMENTS literally lay out the utterance and acceptance of unions; indeed Unions fight for the working man and women. As I wrote before, my wife would not have had time to say goodbye to her grandmother had UNIONS not come before me to fight for workers rights.
It's high time we start to recapture the word of Union. Its time we start to resell the idea on the WHY unions are important, and how they protect the little person. This is ever more important in an age we find ourselves where teachers, fire fighters, police, public sector workers are under a barrage of attacks to undermine their protections.
Because honestly, I'd rather not my son's future Kindergarten teacher suffer the same working rules my cashier from Walmart tonight suffers under.
11:18 AM PT: Came home from taking my son to see Brave (Pixar slam dunks another one btw) and found this on the spotlight and wrecking ball. Thanks to the rangers and all. Happy fourth to everyone as well, lets not forget how hard so many people before us have fought to protect, save, and create this more perfect union we work towards.