And the road goes on forever...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

When Life Gets Down To Elements

Very early on, I hear the birds starting to chirp in the tree directly behind my bedroom through the open window. I never need an alarm. I am used to rising very early. I always leave the window open here, regardless of season. It puts me to sleep or grounds me to hear the ocean roar in the background of traffic noise and later when the highway is quiet, the whistle buoy. On damp mornings I even smell the ocean, while cozied under my covers.

By 5 a.m. I can tell if it is going to be foggy, rainy, or the rarity, sunny for the dawn, since I can see out my clerestory window to the distant eastern sky. I smell the coffee that has gone off a little earlier on automatic deployment, thank God. I trudge to the bathroom and my cat comes running from the front room to rub my legs and talk to me about how he wants his breakfast NOW, not when his automatic feeder goes off nearer to 6 a.m. He always sleeps with me but gets up even earlier about 4:30 a.m.

Blinky-eyed, I get the vanilla creamer packets and dump two into my cup and pour the coffee. Sometimes I hit the heater button but lately don’t have to. I jump up onto the step stool ottoman to flip on the cable internet modem and fire up my computer. While I wait for it to get online I change the cat water and pet him. With coffee in hand and computer running I settle back into the recliner and turn the heating pad on to warm up my sore back while I check email then go on to check Yahoo for news and weather and then onto several newspapers and fleetingly, blogs I try and follow. I write some emails and delay till the last minute rising from the chair to go to the bathroom for my shower and get-ready routine.

Usually, everyday, I try and vacuum and sweep; after all, I only have 400 square feet, how tough is that for a housekeeping routine? The cat is losing lots of hair lately and if I don’t vacuum daily it seems to build up in tufts throughout our domain. I make my lunch and clean out and replace the coffee stuff for its next automatic disgorgement. I water my deck plants; I make the bed; I shower and dress in my WalMart uniform (navy shirt, tan or denim pants). I take special care with my feet, delaying until the last second putting them into their shoe corral for the day. On the way out, I empty the garbage and am sure to grab my book for lunchtime reading.

I drive only about two miles down the highway, gazing at the bay all the time I can to see the nature of the water (tide out? tide in? winds blowing whitecaps already? how many boats? cloud cover? and mostly “why can’t I be out there right now on a boat?”) before I approach the final short quick turn to head eastwards towards WalMart where the bay drops away behind me. I pull over at the 7-Eleven to pick up E, the in-your-face-woman from L.A. that I now take to work every day. I found out she was walking over a mile as she doesn’t have a car and since I pass right by there I offered to bring her with me. Typical of her generation or her heritage as a tough Latina from L.A. she has yet to ever offer me a thank you for this service and savings to her feet. But it’s OK. I know my karma feels better for it. It gives me a connection to people I normally would have no connection to. I would not want her life.

We park way out in the North 40 employee area and walk into the grind together, where in minutes I will clock in like some automaton. My daytime life now is ruled by this time clock, which after swiping my bar coded name tag, gives me options to think for it since it doesn’t have quite as developed brain as myself: am I clocking in, am I clocking out; am I going to meal; am I back from meal? Meanwhile, someone has crossed some wires on all us new hires and we appear on the screen as “You are not scheduled to work today” which causes each of us to have to do numerous other steps including choosing a manager’s name for an override of the system, then typing in how long that mysterious manager has required us to work when we are not scheduled and ad infinitum. When it finally spits out its message “Badge accepted” we can breathe a smile of relief. By then I have also placed my fanny pack inside my locker, grabbed my back brace and wrapped it around myself and am off with the others to our morning meeting.

There we all gather with our supervisors and have roll call, a safety talk, a pep talk, a general talk of what’s about to be accomplished that day and divvying up of all us worker bees to each particular supervisor and then we do stretching exercises and finally the WalMart safety pledge followed by the WalMart cheer. I have heard tales that one can refuse to do the cheer but no one so far has done so. I often wonder if I could step outside my body what I would look like doing this so early in the morning—an aging woman, still tired to start her day, being asked to jump and throw up her arms like I am some 16 year old at a football game. I wonder what we must look like to the general public that passes by. I wonder if this is somehow part of the publicity problem WalMart has with the general public about its cult-like atmosphere? Frankly, the cheer sucks and I wish I could garner the balls to skip it. But in good WalMart fashion, wanting to keep my job, I cheer as one of the the loudest. (to be continued).