When did I become too good for Walmart? When did you become too good for Walmart? Was it a special day? Were there balloons, confetti, a ginormous party with girls in fancy dresses and stretch limos? Who are you anyway? Has anyone seen the Joneses lately?
When I was in my early twenties I was working at a bank. The men all dressed in suites and ties. Their shoes were shiny. They were groomed to a T! I prepared loan documents, audited loan files, and smiled on queue.
One particular day I was in a hurry. I was working on my bachelors degree and my infamous “make changes at the last minute a thousand times” boss had me running late. I was flying to the back door of the bank leading to the parking lot when I hear a voice from around the corner. The man (a very polished commercial banker) yelled my name and asked if I could “come here for a minute.” Not to be deterred from my mission, I yelled; “Sorry I can’t I’m late for class.” I started to push open the back door when my eagle ears (It’s a curse) overheard him say; “Class? You have no class.” Then of course came the bleached blond eruption of giggles.
I stopped dead in my tracks. Winded from his statement. I wanted to turn around, march down the hall and scream; “You’re one to talk about class. Your wife’s pregnant with your third child and you’re fucking the accountant at work.” But, I didn’t. Intuitively, I knew he was right. I finished pushing open the door and disappeared.
Class? I knew what he meant. White trash. Trailer trash. Southsider. I knew “class” was reserved for the wealthy. I was a poor girl making $7.50 an hour, putting myself through college, raising my older sister’s third daughter (My sweet bonus child), wearing clothes nice enough for the “good ole boys” bank but purchased on sale at Montgomery Ward. My car was barely hanging on. Hell, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it home or to work each day in that bucket of mess. You learn to swallow a lot of shit when you have a little one who needs food, clothes, and a roof over their head. They know this too. The inequities of power. Learning to be a snake charmer is a tough business. There are no wimps allowed here.
No, I had no class. I wasn’t polished. I didn’t spend time on manicures or pedicures. I really didn’t care if my shoes were shiny. My purses were cheap and I often shopped at Walmart. I came from blue collar workers. We weren’t high-falutent anything. Last time I checked they didn’t splash the social page with pictures of the cafeteria worker or metal shed builder and their four rag-tag kids. He was right. I had no class and I knew it. But, I did have two things going for me, I was smart and I was pretty and… that ALWAYS opens doors.
I’m not trying to be arrogant or self-absorbed here. I’m hardly model material. But, even as a young, naive girl it didn’t take long for me to figure out the job offers were coming from middle-aged white men looking for a trophy to adorn the front of their over-sized offices and pamper their over-sized egos. Those were the days before Twitter, Facebook, SnapChat and Ashely Madison. I don’t make the rules, folks. Nor do I sugar coat anything to appease the masses.
Then, something strange happened on this road called life. His little Neanderthal, knuckle scraper got herself an EDUMACATION! I’m not certain if this fact would make Mr. Dickweed (This is not his real name, of course, but it suits him so much better) beam with pride or shrill in pure terror (Oh, please, please let it be the latter).
I still field their calls, of course, but instead of making travel plans and working out their schedule, they call for my advice. They pay me money for my advice too. A whole lot more then $7.50 an hour. It’s a crazy gig. I now get to sit at the BIG kids table…the Boardroom (Oooh Aahhh). I get personal invites to social parties from the CEOs and the preachers who want to hold on to me as a donation source. We go to fancy restaurants. I can buy expensive purses and get my shoes shined if I want. Yes, sir, I am in. I MADE IT!
I have a little confession to make though. I’m a phony. A fraud. These are NOT my people. I know it. And, sometimes when I look around the table I see other phonies, other frauds. We’re kindred spirits. I sense them and they I.
The expensive purses leave me with twinges of guilt as I sit wondering if the cotton used in the clothing hanging on the racks at Walmart are really any different from those at Neiman Marcus (Stop your cussing, Carol! And all the prissy women faint) There is only so long one can feign interest in your clothing style, layering, or how much you paid for ANYTHING!
So what changed exactly? Their perception. That is all. I became something they could better utilize to their benefit. Otherwise, I am still that same girl standing at the back door of that bank. The truth is I’m not too good for Walmart. Walmart is too good for me.
You see, the girl in the sweats, tank top, hair frazzled who is not sure how she’s going to make it until her next paycheck, the one you throw a few bucks at and call it charity, the one you look at disapprovingly, disgustedly, or laugh at when you watch the “People of Walmart” videos…. well… those are MY people. I work hard each day trying to balance out the equities in their favor.
To all the Mr. Dickweeds out there, who so graciously helped me to hone my snake charming skills, to you I raise my glass and say, in my best Elvis impersonator voice; “Thank you. Thank you very much.”