Monday, October 24, 2011


Last Friday, I was driving a friend to the Oakland Airport in the morning.  I got off at Hegenberger (no clue, but I always pronounce it "HEY-zhen-burr-zhey" like it is some classy french word).  The friend that I was driving, who was in the back seat like Miss Daisy, pointed to the Wal*Mart in East Oakland and noted a marching band parading around in the parking lot.  There was a huge group of people congregating outside in front of the entrance.  It made me laugh, and I assured her that I would come back and check things out after I dropped her off.

And I did.  Turns out it was a Grand Re-Opening of this Wal*mart.  There were tons of great cartoon characters in real-life form.  A preacher was praying.  Some city council people were there talking about how Wal*Mart has done all these great things for East Oakland.  (East Oakland is the rough side of Oakland.)  And a marching band.  My life is so random and awesome.

Then, they cut the ribbon, and we all piled inside.  It was really awkward, since 75% of the people there were employees.  20% were official people in business formal.  4% were in costume.  And then there was me.  As the employees walked in, they lined both sides of the aisle, like cheerleaders greeting football players onto the field for homecoming.  I actually needed something from Walmart:  green makeup and brown tights for my Halloween costume, so I thought this would be a ridiculous atmosphere for doing some mundane shopping.

All throughout the store were these characters, and little booths that each one manned giving away freebies.  Dora the Explorer was cutting Grand Re-opening cake.  The Coca Cola polar bear was making root beer floats.  Cowboy Twinkie was continuing to add to the obesity of our children.  So on and so on...

It actually took me back a decade.  If you knew me in high school, you knew that I was a very dedicated Wal*Mart employee.  Back when Wal*Mart actually had a star in between 'Wal' and 'Mart'.

I primarily pushed carts.  I also carried out big items.  And I emptied the full can return machines.  I actually loved it.  It still remains one of my top jobs ever.  It kept me in good shape, I got great sun, and I got to enjoy the continuous circus that is Wal*Mart employees and clientele.  We had a Grand Re-opening when I worked at the Monroe Wal*Mart on Telegraph in Michigan.  (It's since moved across the street and turned into a Supercenter.  So jealous.)  The Grand Re-opening was planned for a day that you probably remember:

September 11th, 2001.

No joke.  We worked for weeks to prepare.  Everyone was staffed almost like it was Black Friday.  Carts were allowed (for the first time ever) to take over some close parking spots as a holding spot for the mad rush of craziness that we were expecting.  And nobody came.

You saw footage of long lines at gas stations where people were freaking and getting gouged.  But, apparently, nobody was that worried about stocking up for impending doom.  Just gas?  Really?  A few people came, but at no point was there more than 1% customers and 99% employees in our huge, sparkling store.  At one point, I think I fell asleep on top of a row of carts out in the parking lot.  It had been a rough day.  They even sent me home early to 'spend time with my family'.

So, aside from NYC, and the twin towers, and terrorism, and one of my best high school friend's 16th birthday, September 11th will always be the Grand Re-opening of the Monroe Walmart.  I'll take that with me forever, too.  Thanks, East Oakland Wal*Mart Grand Re-opening, for reminding me of that.

Once, just once, I had to clean up poop in a bathroom.  It was everywhere.  It was like explosive peas.  It was not awesome,

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I've ever been inside a Wal-Mart that was void of customers, not even when I make random 2 in the morning shopping visits. o_O

    And that was freaky, how the grand re-opening happened to fall on September 11 and it paralleled to what you experienced.