Sunday, September 18, 2016

I Confess That I Once Worked at Walmart


I belong to a Facebook group that is focused on the county where I grew up. Having left that area (for the second and last time) almost twenty years ago, I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on the current lack of job opportunities there. I don’t want to jump in on what is essentially a local debate about the pros and cons of building a new Walmart Supercenter in the largest city and closing the existing smaller store.

I confess that I worked part time at a Walmart store in that county for several years in the 1990s.

I was employed there while I (finally) finished the requirements for my bachelor’s degree. Working as a Walmart fabrics and crafts associate wasn’t my idea of a dream job, but employment opportunities were slim in the college town where I attended classes.

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of online complaints about Walmart. Two of the major complaints that got my attention were 1) Walmart jobs pay so little that employees often must apply for public assistance in order to support themselves and their families, and 2) Walmart jobs are “soul killing.”

I agree that low paying, associate level big-box store jobs generally are not great jobs for the long run. However, I think those jobs can be good temporary jobs for students or retirement jobs for people who want or need to keep working after retiring. And retail jobs worked for me as “interim jobs” three times while I looked for a better job.

Apparently, I was one of the more fortunate Walmart associates. Unlike some employees, I didn’t need any sort of public assistance while working there. Nope, not even food stamps. I had the resources to pay for my education, personal expenses, and share of the household expenses without help from anyone else.

I didn’t find the job to be soul killing, probably because I knew I wouldn’t be working at Walmart for almost forever. At that time, my hobby was making handcrafted beaded jewelry, so I was working in the department that was the best fit for me. I also had a rudimentary knowledge of sewing, thanks to a few years in 4-H and six months of home economics in the ninth grade. Although I sometimes had to deal with annoying customers, most of the time I enjoyed helping people with their craft or sewing projects.

I did find the job boring at times, usually on a Monday evening when business was slow. During those times, I tried to sneak over to the bargain fabric tables and reorganize the way too high displays of what seemed like a half-zillion bolts of material. That chore was a never-ending battle and a losing one, especially on the busy weekends. That’s when customers managed to destroy the displays within 15minutes after I had reorganized them.

Coworkers sometimes asked if I intended to apply for a full-time job at Walmart after graduating from college. I was tempted to laugh and say, “Are you crazy, why would I want to do that?” But I was brought up to be nice, so I explained that I was working toward a degree in English with concentrations in writing and literature, and I hoped to find a job where I could use my writing and editing skills.

Trouble was, I knew that job probably didn’t exist in the area where I currently lived.

And I was right. In order to find any job that was even remotely connected to my major, I had to move. I moved back to the Southwest, to a larger city where I had an employment history and where I knew I could find better opportunities.

After working as a document analyst/quality checker at the place I call The Zoo, I was hired as a staff assistant at a nonprofit organization. I was promoted to an editing position fifteen months later. I worked at that organization for almost eight years before I decided to retire from full-time brick and mortar employment.

In hindsight, working at Walmart wasn’t my best job, but it wasn’t my worst job, either.

Would I ever want to work at Walmart again? Honestly? No, but I was grateful to have that job when I needed it. And I met some very nice people there, both customers and co-workers.





Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Meet My Beach Buddy, Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy

If you go to the beach in Oceanside, California, you probably will see the man who walks along the Strand wearing a long, dark trench coat. Sometimes he splashes in the water; at other times, he sits on the rocks and lets the water splash him. Over the years, he’s become a local celebrity. His picture has appeared in Oceanside publications, including the Osider magazine and the OsideNews.com. Writers have written blog posts about him. And people often take photos or film videos of him and post them on the Internet.
I made his acquaintance on a Facebook group page in March 2015. I commented on a comment he had made about cats. Later, I learned that he was the fellow people call Trench Coat Man.
I’ve always been interested in interesting people, at times incurring my parents’ disapproval. After seeing a few pictures of him that were posted on the group page, I wanted to meet him. I saw him walking either on the beach or on the Strand three times before I got up the courage to approach him and introduce myself. I often tell people I ambushed him.
Over the past year we have become friends. A couple of times a week, we hang out at the beach, where I often use his camera to take photos and film videos of him. He posts both the photos and videos on the Facebook group page and also posts some of the videos on his YouTube channel.
When people ask me about him, I tell them he’s my beach buddy. He has been very kind to me, and I enjoy his company.
He may be considered a bit eccentric, but he’s also a very nice, humble, intelligent man who enjoys talking to people and making new friends. He’s not homeless, as people often assume. He has a home, a 1931 Model A Ford, and three sweet cats.
He has no intention of ending it all, either. But that’s what some individuals, mostly tourists, think he has in mind when they first see him sitting on the rocks or walking into the water. Sometimes concerned tourists talk to him or to the lifeguards instead of making assumptions. Sometimes tourists try to rescue him. Sometimes they just call 9-1-1. The lifeguards and the police officers stationed on the Strand know him well. When asked about him, they usually say “That’s Bruce. He's here every day. He’s okay.”
Oceanside residents like him and are respectful of him. Beachgoers enjoy talking with him on the Strand. People look forward to seeing the photos and videos he posts on the group page and on his YouTube channel, Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy.
He has his reasons for hanging out at the beach wearing a trench coat. One of the reasons is that his doctor told him either to cover up or to stop hanging out at the beach. You can ask him about his other reasons. Google Oceanside Trenchcoat Guy and go to his YouTube channel. Bruce likes meeting new friends, in person and online.