Posts tagged ‘Wal-Mart’

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The Supreme Court of the United States. Washin...

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Two stories have made the news lately that involve women’s rights. The one step forward is Saudi Arabian women driving despite that country’s ban on women drivers. Despite the fact that there is not one civil, written law prohibiting women from driving, Saudi women who drive are jailed because of the ruling of conservative Muslim clerics. Some 40 women with international driver’s licenses took to the streets. Some were accompanied by their husbands and families. Some men even drove around in women’s headdress as “decoys.” The women took video and posted it on YouTube.

It’s somewhat disheartening that in a country that is so clearly guilty of misogyny on every conceivable level, the right to drive is where they are focusing their energies. However, every civil rights movement has to start somewhere. Rosa Parks began her people’s fight over the same issue: transportation.

The two steps back is the Supreme Court’s ruling on a class action suit against Walmart for sexual discrimination in its hiring practices. I’m not a big fan of class action lawsuits or of litigation in general. Our society is ruining itself and doing nothing but lining the pockets of lawyers in most of these cases. By the time the lawyers get their share the plaintiffs usually get a pittance. About the only good thing about them is that the perpetrators usually have to pay heavy, heavy fines. So, they think twice about doing that again.

In the Walmart case the plaintiffs point out specific instances of sexual discrimination and cite statistics. Only 33% of Walmart managers are women, while 70% of its employees are women. The court ruled that because Walmart has a policy against sexual discrimination and because hiring decisions are made on the local level, that, therefore, Walmart as a corporation isn’t guilty of sexism.

Wow! That’s interesting. So, apparently, Walmart has no responsibility for looking at these skewed numbers and wondering just why, exactly, that far more men than women are “qualified” to be managers. No one in their human resources department ever once questioned these statistics? Are we really saying as a country that we believe that men are innately more “qualified” to management 67% of the time? That’s not sexist. Of course not.

Not surprisingly, all 3 female justices were in the minority on the ruling. They get it. These blatant prejudices don’t suddenly cease to happen because we have a policy to address them. Sexism is pervasive across our society, and I’m sure that many men and many women, as well, are only subconsciously guilty. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be held accountable just the same. The only way that change is going to happen is if people in powerful positions factor in for their own cultural biases.

Just because a company or a country has a law against discrimination doesn’t mean that discrimination doesn’t still happen. Just because a corporation leaves its hiring practices to individual managers doesn’t mean that they aren’t responsible for making sure those hiring decisions adhere to the official company line. In this case, Walmart failed in its responsibility to ensure that its hiring practices are fair.

June 24, 2011 at 1:14 am 2 comments

Mini Makeover Weekend

Hair coloring

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My hair was getting to the point where I could not do anything with it any longer. I was pulling it into a ponytail every day. My sneakers (not the fancy shoes; those I only wear when I work out) needed to be replaced. I needed new contacts and glasses. Worst of all, I botched a haircolor job so badly that the top of my head was almost blonde while the rest of my hair was a medium/dark brown. It was time for a mini makeover.

So, after work on Friday I went to get a pair of those special sneakers that are supposed to work out your butt, etc. They were on sale for $20. Now I had heard that these shoes really didn’t do much beyond improving your posture, especially if you already walk heel to toe like you should. Well, bullshit, either that or my posture is really poor. I give myself a workout just walking around normally.

After I bought the special shoes I went to get my hair cut which magnified the hair color issue since I could see it more clearly in a large mirror, up close, with lots of light, and with my hair wet and parted. I looked like a skunk. The hairdresser told me my hair was too dark, and I needed to start moving toward a blonde shade so that it would blend in more with the gray. So, I got my hair cut and my brows waxed and then went to Wal-Mart and bought two boxes of something called light caramel brown. Naturally, I had to buy new makeup, too. I’m gradually going blonde. I just took the first step. The skunk issue is vastly improved.

I fixed my hair while watching John Cassevetes’ A Woman Under the Influence. I just got the DVD on my Netflix queue. I’m thinking about reviewing it in a blog entry later, but I’m going to view it with the commentary first.

I participated in Keep Austin Beautiful the next morning. We were three women picking up trash, armed with plastic gloves and large lawn trash bags. We found part of a dildo and three condoms! Woot!

Maybe I should have rethought wearing my new sneakers. An hour and a half of picking up trash over several city blocks in “special” shoes damn near killed me. An African Amercian gentleman in an SUV pulled up in the driveway of the yard where we were picking up trash.

He said, “I really admire what you’re doing. Would you like some water?”

Well, being polite, we declined, but then we rethought that and took him up on it. He gave us each a cold bottled water.

He said, “My granny lives here. Her birthday is today. She just turned 99. She walks to the Neighborhood Community Center everyday to spend time with her friends, and she picks up cans on her way. I don’t want you cleaning up any more trash in this yard. We got enough people inside to do that.” In truth, there wasn’t much trash to pick up. Granny’s yard was pretty tidy.

Granny lives in a very cute little manufactured house, fixed up with shutters and window boxes, a small front porch, and skirting. She has always lived in this neighborhood from the time that it was just a loose affiliation of black Americans who got land from a local black preacher. She has lived here since before it was a part of Austin, before the neighborhood had either running water or electricity. She came to the screen door and waved at us from the living room in her housedress.

One of the women in our small band said, “Wow. That was something. Don’t you bet that was a treat for her to see three white women picking up trash in her yard?”

I thought it probably was. The changes that woman has seen are extraordinary. She was born in 1912.

After the cleanup I went to Sonic and got a Chicago dog and some apple slices with caramel sauce. Then I went to bed and took a nap for three solid hours.

I got up and went grocery shopping. I bought only healthy food. Yay, me. Then I went to La Madeleine for a bowl of soup and later went to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

This morning I went to church with one of the Mr. Brewsters at a gay friendly church down south, and he asked me if I wanted to do the 5K for Gay Pride on June 1st, and I said, of course, I want to do the 5K for Gay Pride on June 1st. I’m doing my second 5K in another two weeks, one for the Austin State Hospital. If I keep up this exercise stuff I might not lose weight, but I will definitely amass a nice collection of t-shirts.

After Mr. Brewster dropped me off at home I went to the eye doctor’s. I got new contact lenses and paid for a new pair of glasses. I feel transformed. This is definitely one of those weekends when life is good.

April 10, 2011 at 11:12 pm Leave a comment

The Bet

A typical Wal-Mart discount department store i...

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Nobody is all good or all bad. Vern (a pseudonym), the guy from my last post, is a great case in point. I mentioned that I worked with Vern when I was in college, a guy who might have very likely prevented me from being raped. I worked with Vern for about two years, from the time I was 19 until the day I turned 21. In fact, the last time I saw Vern was on my 21st birthday.

For most of the time I knew Vern he had a girlfriend, which was one of the reasons that we didn’t date. Vern was 24 and had a girlfriend who was 17, a high school student in the little town he was from. This should have been a big clue as to Vern’s maturity level, but I excuse myself with the thought that I was young. I met her once. She was a little on the plump side with long curly hair and mall bangs, the kind of bangs that required three cans of hairspray a day and made you feel like greeting her with, “Hang Ten, Mama.” She wore enough makeup for the entire cast of Dynasty.

They supposedly broke up and during that time Vern did take me out on a dinner date once. Dinner was a thank you because I typed a paper for him for a ridiculously low sum of money; it might have been $0.  I don’t remember, but it is possible that I was either that kind or that pathetic. After the date he drove me home and kissed me on the cheek and mumbled something about me being like a sister to him and drove off.

Well, I knew I wasn’t like a sister to him. I have a brother, and he’s never once flirted with me or noticed my hair, my perfume or the way my ass looks in jeans. I promise you that never happened. So, that was a bold faced lie, and I didn’t know why he had lied, but I knew for certain that was the case.

Now to be clear about the nature of my relationship with Vern and all his guy friends, I was treated extra special carefully because everyone knew I was a virgin, a young Christian woman determined to save myself for marriage. As such, I was afforded an extra little layer of protection or reverence as a paragon of all that is good and holy. Vern made sure of that. They didn’t even cuss around me, unless you count the n-word, which was used liberally in my presence, in spite of my protests. The good old boy network had all grown up Southern Baptist, Bible thumping, NRA card-carrying clichés.

These guys weren’t particularly religious or God fearing. That was a cultural thing and not a spiritual thing. Vern himself admitted to me that he went to church camp every summer when he was in high school solely for the opportunity to have sex with girls in the woods.

You might wonder what we had in common to be friends. So, I’m thinking about that. Okay. I came up with something. We both thought Vern was ridiculously hot.

He was hands down the vainest man I’ve ever met. He could have been the subject of that Carly Simon song, except I think he was a little too young at the time it was written. He actually made peacocks look like they have self esteem issues. Yep. I hate to admit it. But that’s all that we had in common. We both thought Vern was hot.

This guy was not movie star handsome or anything; he was too short for that, for one thing. But he was rather good looking. We both were back then. We made for a cute uncouple. Everyone said so, and the chemistry was there. You either have the hots for someone or you don’t. Not much thought goes into it.

On my 21st birthday I had quit my job at the physical plant of State Mental Hospital University, where I worked with Vern, and interviewed for my first job in youth ministry. The interview itself was on my 21st birthday. It went well. I was supremely confident that I would get the position, and I did.

Vern was graduating the next day. I promised to drop by his place and let him know how the job interview went. He told me he had something for me.

Two really weird things happened the minute I came in the door. First, Vern had gone to the trouble of purchasing me a birthday card. This was suspect. He was not a Hallmark moment kind of guy. The second weird thing that happened is that every roommate cleared the apartment very quickly. Also highly suspect.

After providing me with the birthday card he quickly provided me with my birthday present. This was a kiss on the lips from Vern himself. The arrogance with which he declared his smooch to be a gift that was bestowed upon me actually made me laugh, but he was a little too stupid and full of himself to notice. If anything I’m sure he mistook my laughter for genuine happiness.

The kiss evolved into a neck rub and then he wanted me to give him a backrub in his bedroom. When I was in college everyone was always rubbing on everyone else; the hormone levels were so high that you took full advantage of any opportunity to touch someone of the opposite sex. The backrub thing was nothing new. We’d done it before, just not alone or on his bed.

But I’m not stupid. This was a poorly planned “seduction.” And I was supposed to be so grateful for his attention that I’d roll over and give it up. Like I said, I’m not stupid, but I did think he was hot and he was a pretty good kisser so I thought there really couldn’t be any harm in playing along for a little while, except that I insisted that as the birthday girl I was getting the backrub first.

Well, you know the backrub thing didn’t last long, but it didn’t progress far enough for any of my clothing to have been removed, when there’s a knock on the door. So, Vern gets up to answer it. No one is there.

“Goddamit!” he said, and then he used a term that I find so offensive that I won’t repeat it, but it rhymes with wiggerblocker.

I knew there was no point in correcting him so I didn’t bother. He came back to bed, and we picked up where we left off, which was really not any further than first base. All of maybe five minutes have gone by. Someone knocks on the door. He goes to the door. Again, no one is there.

I took this as my cue to leave, so I got up off the bed and grabbed my birthday card and my purse. I told him I was leaving, and he blocked my way by standing in front of the door. He asked me if I was really sure that I wanted to leave. The sudden interest in getting into my pants was rather like the scene of a wartime romance; I guess I was supposed to be impressed with the urgency to do it before he graduated and left. He kissed me again. I told him that I was sure I wanted to leave. I should have told him that I couldn’t have sex with someone who was like a brother to me.

The next day Vern went through with the graduation ceremony but actually lacked three credit hours from graduating. As far as I know he never made them up. I guess a degree wasn’t really necessary to become the assistant manager of a small town Wal-Mart.

The girlfriend that he was supposedly broken up with was actually his current girlfriend, was carrying his child and was expecting to get married any day. I think she was expecting to get married because they were actually engaged. They really had broken up for a bit; he just never bothered to tell me that they got back together.

I also found out that not only was Vern boinking his downstairs neighbor but he was also screwing an African American woman who worked in the school bursar’s office. That was really the icing on the cake for me, not that he had interracial relations; I didn’t give a shit about that. What was wrong with it was that I’d never knowingly met someone who was so prejudiced against black people in my life. I knew the special kind of contempt that he must have had for her, but he didn’t have any problem with using her for sex.

I never did find out who was knocking on the door. I suspected that it was one of the roommates I’d dated, but neither one of them would admit to it. It could have been one of the roommates or the woman from downstairs or one of her kids; Vern was fond of playing with them. Whoever it was probably knew that I was inside.

The last revelation I found out about Vern was that he’d had the nerve to bet money that I would give him my virginity. I think it was $50, if I remember correctly, which even if you adjust for inflation, seems like a pretty cheap price for premium cherry. If you think about it it would have made a pretty good return on his original investment of a Hallmark birthday card. It’s a real shame that didn’t work out for him.

December 27, 2010 at 11:49 pm 5 comments

The Tiny Barn

It’s that time of year again. The Mr. Brewsters usually have a cookie baking party soon. There is lots of cooking and baking going on. Mr. Brewster the Younger wanted me to show him how to make a pie crust from scratch to take to Thanksgiving dinner. And I was so pleased that I was able to do that.

My grandmother taught me how, and I’m glad she did ‘cause it is one of those things that is not as easy as simply following the directions, like baking bread from scratch. You have to get the moisture content just right.

First, you cut in the fat with the flour mixture until it looks like hundreds of little pale yellow peas. It’s like making streusel for the top of a coffee cake. You add the cold water a little bit at a time. Then you pick up the dough and shape it into two balls, and then patties, with your hands. Wrap it in plastic wrap. Refrigerate it. After the dough has chilled, flour the rolling pin and the waxed paper on the kitchen counter, and roll the dough into an ever-widening circle. It looks and sounds deceptively easy. It’s worth the trouble, though. The recipe I use is nothing fancy. You can find it on a box of Crisco.

(As an aside: I can also bake bread from scratch and make homemade cinnamon rolls. I will consider marriage proposals if you email me with your geographical location, make and model of your car, annual salary, and net worth of your stock portfolio. Maybe I’ll get back with you.)

This time of year always makes me think of trouble, well, and Jesus’ birth, which wasn’t anywhere near this time of year, but accuracy be damned! The trouble I’m thinking of is the rush to Christmas. Our Christmas trees are up in stores as soon as the Back to School season is over, and people crush each other in the rush for the latest, greatest and newest toy.

Yesterday, on Black Friday, Mr. Brewster the Younger and I were out doing a little running of errands at Wal-Mart and Garden Ridge, and some ass cut in front of us and almost swiped us. His bumper sticker said, “I Love BYU.” I can’t make this stuff up.

Our commercialism and materialism as a culture really kills me the rest of the year as well but especially at Christmas time. It seems like the message that we’re taught is not that Christmas is the birth of the baby who was the Savior of the world who taught us to practice love to all our fellow human beings. Instead, the message of Christmas is gluttony and greed.

Last year I was out with the Shy Guy. I don’t think it was this time of year. I think it was warmer. He needed to get something at Home Depot. I don’t recall what it was now. We got it and came out of the store, and in the parking lot there were a bunch of those storage sheds that people use to store their gardening tools and stuff in their yards. There was one that looked like a little red barn with a loft. There were windows and counter space. You could have easily fit a love seat and a television in there and put a mattress on the loft. All I really need is high-speed internet access, my MacBook Pro, and a cardboard box.

I told him I could very happily live there, in the storage shed. He looked at me in horror. I will attempt to “recreate” our conversation, if the conversation had lasted longer and were much funnier than it actually was and assuming that I could remember exact dialogue from a conversation I had with someone over a year ago. Just run with it. It’s called verisimilitude.

Gooseberry: We could live together in the tiny barn, and we could buy a Smart car.

Shy Guy: WE are not living anywhere together. But if you want to live in a storage shed, be my guest.

Gooseberry: I don’t think of it as a storage shed. It’s a tiny barn. Look at it. It’s so cute. There’s enough space in here to live comfortably.

Shy Guy: What would you do for air conditioning?

Gooseberry: A little window unit.

Shy Guy: How would you cook?

Gooseberry: There’s counter space. I could use a Crock Pot, one of those little ones that are made for one, and buy one of those tiny refrigerators, you know, the ones that people put in their cubicles at work. And maybe a microwave and a rotisserie oven, an electric skillet and an electric griddle. I bet I could even get all the tiny appliances in red to match my tiny barn.

Shy Guy: Where would you go to the bathroom?

Gooseberry: Oh. That is a tough one. Porta-pottie?

Shy Guy: Shower?

Gooseberry: I could use a garden hose. Of course, I’d probably have to buy my own plot of land with a little fence for privacy.

Shy Guy: The barbed wire wouldn’t provide you with much privacy.

Gooseberry: Why barbed wire?

Shy Guy: In keeping with your back to the land philosophy and the Tiny Barn architectural design, I think that you have to use a barbed wire fence. Aren’t you planning to keep livestock? Where will you put the chicken coop?

Well, obviously, the idea is still in its infancy and needs a lot of tweaking. I also thought about towing the Tiny Barn to a trailer park. Then you really have the bathroom issue because you definitely don’t have any privacy in a trailer park. You could shower in a health club, but what would you do when you needed to use the bathroom? The trailer park probably wouldn’t allow you to have a porta pottie.

Suddenly, it hit me. Yesterday, while I was shopping with Mr. Brewster the Younger, the solution suddenly came upon me. You know how you ALWAYS see RVs parked outside the Super Wal-Marts? Seriously, it’s like the Wal-Mart parking lot is the new KOA Campround. The old folks park in the parking lot, pop out the dining room and extend the awning and take out the folding canvas chairs and setup camp for the night. And obviously, no one at Wal-Mart cares.

If I get the tiny barn pulled to the Wal-Mart with a trailer, then I could park it outside the Home & Garden Center. I could use the public restrooms at the Wal-Mart and maybe shower and wash dishes and utensils using a garden hose. There’s the privacy issue again.  What was the name of that movie where Natalie Portman had her baby in a Wal-Mart? If Natalie Portman can have a baby in a Wal-Mart, then I can shack up in the tiny barn in the Wal-Mart parking lot.

Postscript: I am on the cusp of the tiny house movement. I am positively prescient.

November 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm 6 comments


Sunburn, photographed 2 days after a 5-hour su...

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As I write this I am in the middle of the peeling stage. It’s still miserable but not as unbearable as it once was. The problem is that I have pale skin, the kind of pale skin that just cries out for eugenics. I tan eventually, but it almost requires one bad burn a summer to make that happen. I’m not Irish, but most of my ancestry is German, Dutch, and English, so when God and his angels were passing out the melanin in heaven, I didn’t get much. Maybe one day, with the help of genetic engineering, people like me can be born with parasols that shoot out of our vertebrae at the first contact of direct sunlight. Or maybe one day they’ll just give us all stars to wear and put us on cattle trucks bound for Siberia or Finland.

On the day of the tubing trip I had meant to get my own sunblock. I went to Wal-Mart the night before and got everything I meant to get except sunblock. Then the next morning I was running late and knew the other group was waiting for us, so when Katina said she had sunblock that was good enough for me. It was 40+ sunblock, so it wasn’t lightweight stuff. I had already been a little burned a few weeks prior at a weekend pool excursion, but it had heeled. I figured I might just be alright.

We put on our sunblock in line for the tubes, and this, for me, was the first mistake. Sunblock should be put on in advance of direct contact with sunlight. The directions on the bottle usually read something like a half an hour in advance of going into sunlight. For people like me, this should translate to one application the night before and then another one an hour before you get in the sun; do not shower in between applications.

The second problem was when the sunblock that Katina purchased stopped coming out of the bottle. All of us got one application. That was it. It was one of those new fangled spray bottles, and it was hard to get it to come out. Eventually it didn’t come out at all, no matter how hard we pressed down on the trigger.

The good thing about floating down the river on tubes is that most of the time I was not in a position to burn my back, which meant I still got to sleep like a baby. When we got back I went to Wal-Mart first thing and bought my very own tube of 50+ sunscreen, a stick of the same stuff for my face, a bottle of aloe vera lotion, and a jar of Noxzema. I knew the sunburn was pretty bad. People stared at me as I shopped. A little Hispanic baby with plenty of melanin of her own, actually stared and pointed like I was a new and heretofore unseen race with actual red skin. You just thought Native Americans were red.

I took my stuff home and was looking forward to lathering myself in several applications of Noxzema when it occurred to me that I needed to call my parents to wish them a Happy Anniversary. My mother answered. My father was napping. My mother is a nurse. I mentioned my plans. She said I couldn’t do that. No lotion until my skin actually stopped radiating heat. Otherwise, I’d be trapping the heat in and cooking the skin. It works along the same principle as those clear plastic roasting bags they sell for baking turkeys. This would make things worse. She recommended cold water, cold showers, and ice.

Katina called the next day, probably to see if I was alright, or if the heat had literally baked me clear through. She recommended white vinegar. So, I made a trip to HEB. I bought an empty mister bottle like the kind you are supposed to use to iron clothes. I got a large bottle of distilled white vinegar. I also bought a bag of ice and the cheapest styrofoam cooler I could find. This I saved for after I went to bed. Then I misted myself all evening with white vinegar, which, apparently, if you look it up on the internet is a legitimate form of sunburn relief. It has analgesic properties. It reduces swelling. So, basting myself like a turkey for the next couple days until my skin finally stopped radiating heat, did actually help. The weird thing is that I did actually smell like salad the next day. I don’t think other people noticed, but in the middle of the day I would suddenly sniff vinegar.

I’ve been sunburned before. Unfortunately, I’ve been sunburned many times before, but never quite like this. It actually reminds me of the way we cook lobsters by boiling them alive. It almost makes me think about not eating lobsters anymore out of solidarity. But lobsters are so good, with melted butter. And you know those cheese herb biscuits you can get at Red Lobster? Mmmmmmm. Yeah, unfortunately I’m low on principle at the moment. Does anyone want to go to Red Lobster this weekend? Call me.

July 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

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