Sunday, December 21, 2014

Ode to my Walmart Assistant Manager at Christmas

My husband Mark gets yelled at for a living these days, otherwise known as being a Walmart assistant manager. He has the police on his cellphone speed dial so when a tirade crosses the line to verbal abuse or goes on so long it's disruptive to the store he can ask the customer to leave and remind them that once they're asked to leave and refuse they're trespassing, which is illegal. Then hit the button.

He's hit the button nearly every one of the 23 days he's worked a 10 or 12 hour shift in the last month, including Thanksgiving Day when he had several customers arrested for fighting and being unruly while his family at home had dessert and coffee and watched movies.

Needless to say, we try to keep our home a yelling-free zone but there was a bit of a tiff between he and I the other night and his eyes went wide with "No, not here too." It was a stupid argument over the coffee machine and he was too tired to cope and I was too frazzled from solo holiday preparations to calm so we went to separate corners for some restless sleep and regrouped the next night to debrief. And the gist of his stress is the getting yelled at. Like a cop or a child protection worker or a therapist or a nurse in a psychiatric hospital, he's asked to keep a cool head while being screamed at by intimidating adults
and it's exhausting.

"Want a Stress and Anger Free Christmas?"
If an item isn't in stock, many customers think Mark is to blame.It doesn't matter whether the item is large (say a 50 inch television) or small (yesterday it was a Frozen video).  Not being able to find what they're looking for is a frustration that throws some people over the edge and into a mindset where calling the nice guy running the store wearing a Jerry Garcia Christmas tie and a tired smile a "f***ing scumbag maggot" for not having a particular doll on hand makes sense.

Christmas madness, is what it is. Nothing that can be wrapped and set under a tree matters this much, people. I got a small dose yesterday when I went to the post office and almost got hit by three different cars, and then met two of my daughters at the mall to hand over some cash I owed one so she could shop. We all had near-misses in the mall lot, with other cars beeping and swerving and speeding to get to a particular parking spot, so they could get to a particular store, so they could get a particular item that would show someone they were loved.

I'm thinking there's a short-cut that would have saved quite a few car accidents yesterday. One involving directly telling that person you adore them and will cherish them every day of the year.

So here's my love letter to my hassled husband:

Mark A. Hayden
Assistant Store Manager
Walmart #5294
1365 Boston Post Rd.
Milford, CT 06460

Dear Mark,

I fell in love with you from the day I first spied you hustling up and down the frozen food aisle at the Waldbaum's where we worked. You had that cute flush to your cheeks from going in and out of the walk-in freezer with your U-boat, filling and refilling the display cases with food for customers who needed This-Kind-Of-Cool-Whip-Not-That-One and their very favorite flavor of Ben & Jerry's to soothe their aching souls. With your Harry Potter glasses that got steamed up when you left the freezer and your silly jokes and lovely compliments, you stole my heart and have kept it safe within yours all these years.

I knew then that you loved the algorithms and benchmarks and physical work and customer care involved in retail, even the times near Christmas that were manic and fraught. You have the energy level and the personality and intelligence to keep most of your employees and customers happy, and you do good in the process. You help our community with the donations from your store, thousands of dollars a year to groups and individuals who need help. I saw you on Thanksgiving this year, giving your personal cell phone number to a woman who'd been misled about where to get a wristband, saying you'd find her that netbook for that price, no matter what. She teared up and nodded and trusted you, as she should. You're a trustworthy guy, and true to your word.

As for the jerks who tee off on you and vent their frustrations with life? I'm sorry. You shouldn't have to deal with that but I also know that's retail. People get upset and it's your job to try to calm them down. You do it exceptionally well, as you do with our eight kids at home. We miss seeing you these days but as you said this morning, it's almost over. Christmas is coming, thank you baby Jesus.

Until then, I appreciate all you do for our family and countless other families out there to make our lives comfortable and our holidays special.

Love, Lisa

P.S. If you're a customer shopping over the next four days, or doing returns starting on Friday, please be nice to the employees, who are as frazzled as you. Same money pressures as you, same sick kids as you, but not free to vent their frustrations.

Be like them. Don't use a convenient excuse to justify bad behavior. Just smile, suck it up and go home to your families having done the best you could.

I'm not against presents. I've bought plenty for our family, and invested time and money and effort in trying to express something with each one.

But if you weren't able to find that perfect gift? You weren't looking in the right place. A kiss and "I love you" and "thanks for everything you do" are always right there, on your lips.

Merry Christmas.

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