Thursday, October 23, 2014

I'd Rather Shop with Hillbillies

Yeahhh, I know. Wal-mart mistreats its employees, particularly part-timers(mainly by keeping them as part-timers: under 30 hours a week or thereabouts, so their health coverage is either more expensive or non-existent), and is thus not a business one would want to encourage by further patronage. And I have tried to avoid shopping there. To redirect those tiredass neural pathways in my brain that steer my vehicle out to Jejune Drive(I'm sorry, I meant to say Lejeune!)time and again. 
You can tell a lot about a business by the morale of its employees. And the workers I've observed(mainly the cashiers of course)are usually upbeat and seem fine with where they are. 

Then again, I've also noticed that they seem to be under the scrutiny of at least one supervisor somewhere off in the distance(like the cop hiding behind the billboard)-so as far as being upbeat, it may in some cases be genuine, but with Someone watching, you'd by God better be bright n' cheery. 

So why do I buy my groceries  there in the first place? Well, the stuff is inexpensive, and they are a one-stop-shop as far as something else you might need. It does have kind of a hillbilly clientele, but I don't bother them and they don't bother me. We coexist peaceably in the Wal-mart experience.

Okay, so partly out of social conscience and mostly out of convenience, I tried shopping at the relatively new Hyvee store. A full-line grocery store, they have a much better selection than Wal-mart could ever hope to. The staff are friendly and courteous. So what's wrong with Hyvee?

Nothing, as far as the store itself. I'm sure I'll shop there again for this or that. But what prevents Hyvee from becoming my New Bestest Buddy of grocery stores is their clientele. This particular store has two affluent neighborhoods which comprise much of its client base: State, Glenwood and Walnut  streets between Ash and Outer Park Drive to the east, and Leland Grove to the west. 

Maybe it's just me being oversensitive(that's been known to happen, unfortunately), but I've experienced judgment from people on two occasions in there. One was a guy ahead of me in the checkout line who sneered at my food selection(a lot of yogurt, some Special K protein drinks, and like that)and got this exhausted expression on his face. No words were exchanged, which is really just as well. I got his message loud and clear. 

The other was from a lady, late 40's-early 50's, kinda heavy-set and not too attractive. She and her equally porcine daughter are standing a couple feet from me in one of the grocery aisles, and I hear her tell her daughter, "lookit that little guy running around", whereupon they both sort of snickered. 

I gave them a blank (but still contemptuous) expression and just went about my business. Again, no words between us, but I had a few for the occasion. And oddly enough,  they were just as mean and judgmental(not to mention infantile) as hers: I may be a sawed-off little guy, but you're fat and ugly! And probably stupid to boot!  

And what would that really accomplish? Nothing, just maybe ruin her day. Plus, I'd have felt bad about it later. No, better to just suck it up. It didn't really ruin my day(for that matter, neither did the person disapproving of my food choices), but it did give me pause about where I shop. 

Like I said, I will go to Hyvee again soon. But I was turned off by those people, my fellow shoppers. Now I realize that you can run into snooty, self-important, judgmental folks anywhere, but I've never seen them in the store on Lejeune Drive. 

So my most recent trip was back out to good old Wal-mart. In front of me in the checkout line was- once again- a lady and her daughter. But unlike last time, there was no judgment, no supercilious sneer or whispered comment on my lack of height or anything else. From their speech, they were clearly not educated, and from their appearance and general deportment, probably didn't have much money to work with either. 

The lady was having some difficulty with her Link card, and the whole checkout process, and her daughter was looking just a little embarrassed. Unlike her Hyvee counterpart, this daughter was slender and cute! 

The message I got from her was that she was afraid of me judging them! So in that moment, I tried to be as non-judgmental in my heart as possible. I really wasn't judging them anyway, but found it kind of poignant that the shoe was on the other foot. Where I was concerned with others passing judgment on me, here's someone concerned with me judging them. 

I think of my years in the unemployment office, and the various folks--from all social and economic 'strata'--I've served. Strangely enough, the hardest ones to deal with were almost always the more educated, or well-to-do(a big lesson in working there, my first of many, was that rich folks are actually the most impacted by something like unemployment, simply because they have further to fall!). They had more of a sense of entitlement, and therefore more than a bit of indignation at having to be in a "welfare office". The clients I enjoyed the most were usually blue-collar types(though the trade Unions do have some arrogant folks), because of the lack of attitude. 

And that carries over into my experience outside the office. I also like to shop where there's little or no attitude. So for the time being, I'll still venture out to Wal-mart for the most part. They have some huge flaws(probably not unlike this piece), but a nicer clientele. At least to this client.