Loretta Ross

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Tag: Walmart

Yering

Every now and again someone on Twitter will talk about coming up with character names.  Most of my names, honestly, get pulled out of thin air.  But it occurred to me today that I do have one very minor character in the book I’m currently writing whose name has a story behind it.  On the off chance that anyone’s interested in that story, here it is:

As everyone who knows me knows, my day job is in the produce department at Walmart.  Part of that involves stocking fruits and vegetable and part of it involves getting rid of the boxes they came in.  One thing I really do like about Walmart is that, at least in my department, we throw very little away.  We donate almost-out-of-date food to the local food pantry, compost things that are too far gone to donate, and recycle just about everything else.  Part of that process — the oldest part, in fact — involves a huge metal monster of a squisher machine called the cardboard baler.

On the front of our cardboard baler there is a metal plate with the name of the company that produced it and three more names on the line beneath it.  Like this:

Manufacturer

Vernon, Al   *  Clearfield, Pa  *  Yering, Nv

And I know you all see this and immediately understand exactly what it says.  But for MONTHS, every time I took cardboard back, I would read this sign and think, “I understand Al Vernon and Pa Clearfield, but what kind of a name is Nv Yering?!?”

So, while working on this current book, I had a minor character who needed a name.  I was thinking about the character while I was crushing cardboard and so was born Firefighter/Paramedic Yering.

I haven’t said as much in the MS, but his first name’s Nv. 😉

Charlie

The first customer I attached a name to was a sweet-natured, white-haired gentleman in a Korean Veterans baseball cap.  It was probably only my second or third day working in the produce department, right next to the door, that I heard Cecil, our people greeter, address him as “Charlie”.  He responded with a big, warm smile and they stood and talked for several minutes before he went on to do his shopping.

Our Cecil, I should mention, is a lady and, oddly, not the only female named Cecil in this small town.  She is a singular character, well-loved by customers and coworkers alike.  Cecil and her family have lived here for years and she knows everyone in town and everything that happens.

The gentleman in the Korean Veterans cap came in almost every day.  For the next six years, I never failed to greet him with a cheerful, “hi, Charlie!” and he always responded with a big, warm smile and stopped to pass the time of day.

Then one day, a couple of years ago, he was chatting with Cecil as I sorted through some fruit displays nearby.    When he left to continue his shopping, Cecil wandered over to me and said, “he’s the nicest man!  You know, I always call him Charlie and he always answers me.”

This gave me pause.  “Isn’t that his name?” I asked.

“Oh, no.  His name’s Marvin.  I just always call him Charlie.  I don’t know why.”

This is the point for an emoticon.  This one:  o.0

“Cecil!” I said.  “For six years now I’ve been calling that man Charlie because you called him Charlie!  Why didn’t you ever tell me that wasn’t his real name?”

Cecil wasn’t bothered.  “I don’t know,” she said.  “I just call him that.  It’s okay, though.  He always answers.”

The next time Marvin (as I now knew him to be) came in, I explained to him that I’d just learned I’d been calling him the wrong name and apologized.  “I thought that was your name because I heard Cecil use it.”

He just laughed.  “Yeah, she always calls me that.  I don’t know why.”

“Well, now that I know your real name,” I said, “I promise that I’ll call you by it.”

A couple of days later I saw him halfway across the department, looking at a produce display.

“Hi, Marvin!” I called out cheerfully.

… nothing …

I walked a little closer.  “Hi, Marvin!”

… still nothing …

I went right up next to him.  “Hey, Marvin!”

He wandered away.

I let him get halfway across the department.

“Hi, Charlie!”

He turned back to me with a big, friendly smile and a wave.

I’ve called him Charlie ever since.  It seems we’ve changed the poor man’s name.

Saving the Pink Sparkly Slipper

My dream job is to be a writer.  My day job, as I may have mentioned, takes place at Walmart in Warsaw, Missouri, and involves stocking produce.  It’s not as dismal as it sounds.  The people are mostly nice and frequently entertaining. It’s always fun to people watch, and once in a while you can even find something to be proud of.  One accomplishment that I look back on fondly, years later, is the night that a co-worker and I Saved The Pink Sparkly Slipper.

This happened, as I said, several years ago — long enough ago that I can no longer remember exactly when these events took place nor recall the names of most of the people involved.  I do remember that it was a rainy evening, late in the spring, I think, or early in the fall.  I was working in the produce back room when an off-duty associate came in and asked me if I had a ladder she could use.  She was shopping with her middle-school-aged daughter and two of her daughter’s friends and one of the girls had lost her pink sparkly slipper on top of the “wet wall”.

The “wet wall” is the name of the big, open, refrigerated set of shelves that run the length of the produce department.  It’s called the “wet wall” because it contains misters to keep bulk vegetables moist.  Ours is about seven feet tall, some six feet deep and probably forty or fifty feet long. It is anchored to the floor by both electrical and plumbing connections and is completely immovable.  It backs up against the frozen food section, sitting back-to-back with a freezer unit that is just as long, just as deep and even taller.  Between the two lies a deep, narrow cleft.  The ends of the cleft are capped by smaller, but still massive, freezers and the space within is entirely inaccessible.

You can see where this is going.

You may be wondering, as I did, how the young lady managed to lose her she on top of this fixture.  I asked her that and she replied, quite reasonably, that she was just demonstrating how to kick a soccer ball.  Since I did have a ladder, at that point it seemed a minor problem.

The Pink Sparkly Slipper was not on top of the wet wall.  It wasn’t on top of the freezer unit and it wasn’t in the aisle on the other side.  The only place it could have gone was down in the metal canyon where it could not be reached.  Since climbing on either the wet wall or the freezer is strictly forbidden, there was no way to even see where it had landed.  It seemed the Pink Sparkly Slipper was gone for good.

The owner of the PSS took it hard.  One of the other girls lent her their shoes to console her and she went home weeping in the rain.

I felt terrible for her, and thought about it for the rest of that night and all through my shift the following day.  At that time there was an uncommonly tall young man named Matt who worked in our deli.  While helping one of the frozen foods associates fix a sign over one of the freezer end-caps, Matt discovered that, if he stood on a tall ladder and looked at just the right angle, he could actually see the Pink Sparkly Slipper.  He couldn’t come anywhere close to reaching it, but he could see it and we knew it was there.

After consulting with, well, just about everyone who was working or shopping that day, Matt and I hit upon a plan.  What we needed, we realized, was a fishing pole.

I had at my disposal a wooden mop handle, some lengths of wire, about the thickness of coat hanger wire, a rope we use to tie the freezer doors closed if there’s a power outage, a metal peg hook and duct tape.  (There is ALWAYS duct tape!)

I bent hooks into the ends of three lengths of wire and taped them together to form a grappling hook, then taped the grappling hook to one end of the rope.  The peg hook, I taped to the end of the mop handle, to act as a line guide, then I strung the rope through it and down the length of the handle, allowing me to push the rope out over the back of the wet wall and drop the grappling hook straight down.

In the last few minutes before the end of our shifts, Matt and I set up Operation Save The Pink Sparkly Slipper.  He put his ladder back at the end of the aisle, where he had a visual on the PSS.  Then he directed me in the placement of a second ladder, so that I was level with the target.  I dropped my grappling hook into the mechanical canyon and Matt guided me as I swung it down and towards the object of our rescue.

After all the preparation, it was ridiculously easy.  I caught the hook in the toe of the slipper on, probably, the second or third try and reeled it in.  We were outrageously pleased with ourselves and, going to the back of the store to clock out, we proceeded as if making a triumphal march, holding the PSS aloft and singing the theme to Rocky in that “da da DAH da” kind of way you do when you don’t actually know the words.  We turned the shoe over to management and they promised to give it to the off-duty associate so she could return it to its rightful owner.

Some time passed before I found out the whole of the story.

About a week before she found herself demonstrating soccer kicks in the produce department, the young lady in question had lost much more than a shoe.  Her beloved grandfather had suddenly passed away.  The Pink Sparkly Slippers were one of the last gifts he’d ever given her.

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