Monday, March 10, 2008

Monkee Business . . .

. . . on the Wal-Mart Radio Network!

On the off chance that there's anyone in North America besides Janet Reid who's never been in a Wal-Mart, allow me to explain. The gigantic Wal-mart corporation, which owns a huge chain of retail outlets under the Wal-Mart name and a huge chain of wholesale outlets under the Sam's Club name and a growing chain of grocery stores under the Neighborhood Market name also runs three communication networks to connect them all. There is a company intranet called The Wire*, The Wal-Mart Television Network, which supplies content (heavy on the advertising) for the televisions located throughout the stores, and the Wal-Mart Radio Network, which supplies the music and ads you can hear anytime you are out of range of one of the TVs.

Wal-Mart radio is arguably the strangest radio station in the world.

It is perfectly normal to hear a sequence of music such as this: Buddy Holly, Rod Stewart, Garth Brooks, Boy George, Jose Feliciano, Uncle Cracker, Sons of the Pioneers, Johnny Cash, Def Leppard and Judy Garland.

Lately, however, I've noticed a new trend. Somewhere in the animal cages that hold the radio programmers, there is a Monkees fan. I'm something of a Monkees fan myself from back in the day**, otherwise I probably wouldn't have noticed. But for the past several weeks, almost every day I work, I hear at least one obscure Monkees song. I'm not talking Daydream Believer, Pleasant Valley Sunday or Last Train to Clarksville here. Yesterday I heard Mary, Mary. The day before that (well, the last day I worked before that) it was Sweet Young Thing and the day before that was Take a Giant Step Outside Your Mind. In the past couple of months I've heard She, Valerie, On The Day We Fall In Love, Auntie Grizzelda and I'm Gonna Buy Me A Dog.

It's so weird being at work and suddenly hearing these old songs, like a blast from the past. Some of them I haven't heard, I don't think, since I wore out the last of my Monkees cassette tapes twenty years ago! I'm not complaining! I still like the Monkees and I'm enjoying the novelty of hearing them again, and the variety. (Wal-Mart television is mind-bogglingly repetitive! You get the same segments about every three minutes. I can now talk like Paula Deen. This is not something I learned voluntarily!) The only bad thing is that every time I hear one (I'm still waiting for Zam and Zor, Going Down, Shades of Grey and Western Union) I want to run and tell someone.

And nobody ever understands.

*Janet Reid says I should watch The Wire for some great writing, but so far all I'm seeing is cleaning guides and official dress codes.

**Back in the day being the late 1980s, when The Monkees was on Nick at Nite in reruns, not in the mid 1960s. Contrary to what my nephews think, I'm not that old!

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Serpentine's Bite

Well, $60 something in lost wages plus $60 in car parts equals . . . erg. Math is bad.

I started to work at my normal time this morning, got as far as the bottom of my driveway and my serpentine belt fell off. I shouldn't complain. As it is, I was close enough to muscle the car back up the hill. If it had waited a few more miles I could have easily wound up stranded in the middle of nowhere.

The first thing I had to do was call in, which is something I hate. Funny thing, though. Today my manager didn't seem to give a damn. That worries me a little. I suspect it has nothing do with me, though. The rumor mill says that he's in for some serious trouble over something that I'm not involved with, so maybe he was just curt over the phone because I interrupted him in the middle of getting fired or something.

Anyway, with that taken care of I still had the little problem of getting my car fixed. I called around and finally caught two of my nephews just as they got off work. They drove out, looked it over, made "tut tut" sounds (you know? The ones that mean "this is going to cost you a lot more than you thought it would") and then started taking my car apart. It wasn't the belt: The belt wasn't that bad, although as long as we have it off we'd ought to go ahead and replace it now. What was bad was the tensioner pulley, a little thingie way down at the bottom of the engine. Taking it off involved removing the antifreeze overflow thingie (thingie is a technical term), pulling the right front tire, using six different wrenches from above and below, complaining about front-wheel-drive cars, and swearing a lot.

Once the bad part was off we had to go into Clinton to get a new one. The boys thought it was really funny watching me try to hoist myself into Joe's enormous truck. They actually called me old! I'm only three years older than Joe is! I wasn't having trouble because I'm "old"!

I was having trouble because I'm short.

Anyway, by the time we had the new part it was too dark to put it on, so Mark's coming out in the morning to do it so I can go to work and find out if anybody missed me while I was gone.

If they didn't, I might have to cry. If they did, I'll just wait and cry come next payday.


In today's world it's very important to be careful not only of what you say but of how you say it. One misplaced syllable or unguarded inflection and the most innocent comment can be completely misconstrued. Take yesterday at work, for example.

I was just wandering around the produce department with my little cart, stocking the fruit displays when a man whom I know only very slightly came in and just such a misunderstanding occurred. What I said was, "hi, how are you?"

What he apparently heard was, "tell me all about your wife's explosive diarreah."

People, trust me. This is not something I am ever, ever, ever going to ask.


I am not unsympathetic. If you or one of your loved ones is sick, then naturally I wish you well. I just don't need the details! Now, I could understand what was going on. Here was a man who is used to being cared for and cossetted by his wife and suddenly he found himself in the position of caretaker. Not only that, but the role had led him out of the safe confines of his living room into the scary wilds of a great big, huge, gigantic, incredibly-small-town Wal-Mart almost-but-not-quite Supercenter. He wanted recognition of this fact. He wanted to be patted on the head and told that he's a Good Boy. I can do that! The conversation goes like this:

Me: Hi, how are you?
Him: I'm good, but my wife's sick.
Me: Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that.
Him: Well, I'm taking care of her. I came to get her some medicine and things.
Me: Aren't you a nice husband!
Him: Yeah. What aisle's the chicken soup in?

And then I tell him and he finishes his shopping and I stock my fruit and that's IT! If he absolutely can't help himself he can ask me for directions to Pepto Bismal instead of chicken soup or even, if he MUST, Immodium AD.

I'd really rather he not ask about the Immodium AD, but doing so won't make me be mean to him in my blog. But that is the very LIMIT to what I am willing to be told about any infirmities suffered by himself or his family or anyone whose existence he is aware of.

I do not need to hear that she is "spewing out both ends like a volcano"! I do not need to know about the plastic trash bag she has to carry with her or that she "can't get off the pot without leaving a trail to help her find her way back"!

The banana girl does not want to know!

I do not discuss such things with my nearest and dearest*. If you are a relative stranger to me** then not only do we not need to talk about this, but the term "spewing like a volcano" should not ever, under any circumstances, enter any conversation we might ever have with the sole exception of if we are in fact talking about an honest-to-God actual volcano.

Is all that perfectly clear?

*The small handful of people I can stand.
**Even stranger than my relatives.