Today, I became my mother. Again. It seems to happen a lot as I age. I don’t look like her, nor sound like her, nor share in any of her political or religious beliefs. I have my own path to follow. Still, every so often, something she would say creeps out of me and I am shocked, then thrilled, secretly, that she still rides around in me, and grateful to realize that again and again.
My mother was very conservative – in almost every way you can imagine. The worst word I ever heard her say was “…Bastards…,” something she usually reserved for watching Meet the Press or some other show with liberal-minded people on it. I said that word today, several times, actually, but I wasn’t watching the tube or surfing the net to see what conservative jackass might piss me off. I was buying cat food.
Stef and I live in a small Oregon town. Walmart has a huge store here and does an equally huge business. I try not to shop there, not because I think the people who run it or work at it are bad people – they’re not. I object to how Walmart runs their business of paying their employees the minimum that they can get away with; so little, in fact, that those people must be on food stamps and the rest of America has to subsidize that huge gap which is – big surprise – money those people then spend at Walmart. Certainly, I can’t be the only one getting pretty sick of this. Plenty of American companies have realized that paying their employees a living wage creates a happier, healthier, and more dedicated work force. Why can’t Walmart step up to the plate and realize that this is not only the right thing to do, but a good business decision, as well?
I don’t doubt that there is lots the Walmart folks have done with some of their money which is good for the rest of society. In a trickle-down sort of way, I once was the recipient of a tiny portion of that largesse when I was first getting my TV show, BACK PAGE, off the ground, and again when the cowgirl musical I wrote, BUNKIN’ WITH YOU IN THE AFTERLIFE, was being produced, something I greatly appreciated. It was small potatoes in their world, I’m sure, but huge in mine. By the same token, I know people who have worked for Walmart for years. They have done well by the company and the company by them. All of that is good. But, jeepers, we are talking billions and billions of dollars that could be used to help keep people who are working full-time from having to be on the dole, you know? Why, as a nation, do we put up with this? I know we have all heard the saying, “Freedom isn’t free,” but, really, the free market shouldn’t be entirely free, either, for companies making that kind of profit.
So, how does this relate to cat food? I’ll tell you. There are a couple of stores here called Pet Mini-Mart, nice stores with just about anything you’d want for your pet. I like shopping there. The stores are clean, the people are friendly, the prices are competitive – plus, they give you this little punch card and when you spend enough that all of your little holes are punched out on that card, they scrape off a little gold circle and give you back, in cash, whatever it says on the card. It’s not much, usually, and it takes a while, like a slow-motion lottery, but I always feel like I’ve won something huge whenever they do that. Makes me strut around all puffed out like I’ve just finished first in the decathlon or some giant, impressive thing like that.
Today, I walked into the Pet Mini-Mart and announced, loudly, “I decided I’d rather spend my money with you than Walmart!” The staff all yelled, “Yay!” I grabbed some IAMs cat food for our mean cat, Bennie, and some pill pockets for Toby’s medicine. I checked out. The young lady punched my card. I said, “I don’t like shopping at Walmart because I don’t like how little they pay their employees.” Then, I muttered under my breath, “Bastards.” I headed toward the door. Suddenly, I remembered I needed cat litter for our mean cat, Bennie, so I went back and grabbed a jug of that stuff. I checked out again. The young lady punched my card. “Not only that,” I said, “since most Walmart employees have to subsidize their income with food stamps, you and I wind up paying for it – did you know that?” She said, “I did.” I muttered under my breath, “Bastards.” I headed toward the door when I remembered I needed some glucosamine chews for Toby’s knee, so I went back and grabbed a bottle of those. I checked out once more. The young lady punched my card. “Hey! she said, “Time to see what you’ve won!” And she began scraping on my card. She punched the register open, came out with a dollar and slapped it on the counter in front of me. “I bet Walmart won’t ever do that,” she said. I agreed, saying, “No, I can’t imagine that they would.” Then, I heard her mutter under her breath, “Bastards.”