Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Passive incompetence is one thing, but aggressive Nazi hostility on the corporate level is something else again.

Well, THAT was a needlessly dramatic cliffhanger disappearance, wasn't it? Ha! I'm telling you guys, the hardest thing to do is to find time to write when Kid Gleemonex isn't in school ... anyway. To continue. 

That Time I Met One of Satan's Many Manifestations On Earth: Part Two of Two

So the airport was the pokiest little goddamn thing (I actually called it "hilarious" in one of my interviews -- oopsie), and not in a fun way -- just in a bare-bones, beige 80s ehh whatever this is good enough for the likes of you kind of way. I stepped out of there into, like, an oven. A hot, wet oven. Started sweating immediately, lugging my little rolly bag out across seven miles of asphalt to get my rental car. Then with the AC on full blast, I followed the printed directions to the hotel. I was expecting some sort of segue into a town-like situation, but this was the middle of nowhere, and the trees and grass and whatnot looked a lot like the surrounds of Cowburg, Texass, where I'm from, so that was nice. I drove along two-lane country roads for awhile before finally finding signs of life -- the places you could just tell were the Good (aka white) Neighborhoods (how you know: They had vaguely British-sounding names, like The Duckston Manors At Whingely Wood). Then, closer in, the usual smaller houses, schools, fast-food joints. Got to the hotel, unloaded all my junk and headed back out for food -- nothing but chains available in any direction (except one intriguing-looking smokehouse joint whose sign piously announced outside that it's "Always closed on Sundays!" because Jesus).

So the next morning, I dress in what would be the thing to wear to an interview at my current place of employment -- a sort of dressy casual, brand-appropriate dark skinny jeans, cute flats (pregnant, couldn't deal with heels), cowl-neck shell top and jacket. I even wore makeup, bought in desperation at The Walmart in town Sunday night (because it's been so long since I wore makeup that I actually could not find any of mine in my house before I left). Bonus, what I'm wearing hides my thickened middle.

First interview of seven is at 7:45 in the goddamned morning (who DOES that?). I get up early -- way early, cause I'm on California time, and sofa king tired I almost bag the whole thing right there. Follow directions ... and twice drive right past the goddamned global headquarters of the corporation that "employs" more people than any other entity on planet Earth except the fucking CHINESE ARMY.* I'm expecting something big, distinctive; what it is is, a low three-story red brick bunker, almost windowless,** with only one small sign indicating what evil lies within.

I go inside, check in and get an ID photo (my kid found it the other day -- I could not possibly look more ghoulish, it's hilarious). Then I sit down and wait in what looks a lot like my junior high's east hallway -- vinyl flooring, fluorescent lighting -- with rows of cheap plastic stackable chairs all facing the same way like at the DMV or county court, "History of Walmart" photos all over the walls, and several televisions blaring -- all tuned to Fox TV. My sense of being dangerously, delusionally out of place increases.

The recruiter gal shows up, and she's as nice as she was on the phone. Her face is on and she appears not to notice Fox TV's histrionics as we chat about how my flights were and how hot it is already. She takes me through into the main building and y'all. Y'ALL.

OK, maybe it's worse for me because the building where I currently work -- in the global HQ of a specialty fashion retailer, in San Francisco -- is so lovely: all huge airy spaces, extremely expensive and famous modern art all over the place, marble and glass and hushed pleasantness, views from all 15 floors of the bay and the city. But I think by any standards, this place is fucking TERRIBLE.

It's a windowless, tube-lit acoustic-tile-ceilinged hangar divided into a warren of cubicles, separated by 7-foot-high walls covered in that awful material that's like a Delta airplane carpet from 1979, all of it a terrible blue that is indescribably disheartening -- it's not even that sad blue the Russians used to use; it's worse. It's like -- Morale-Crusher Blueisssh. Signs (Accounting, Communications, Cafeteria, Department of Paying Women Less Than Men, etc.) hang from the ceiling on chains -- plastic rectangles with the words pressed on them in white, the cheapest crappiest signage it would ever be possible to find in a graphic designer's worst PCP-laced nightmare. And the fucking TVs blaring Fox news were at every "lounge" area all over the goddamned place -- truly amazing cultural programming, inescapable like Orwell's telescreens, teaching everyone how to be goodthinkful and be doubleplusgood workers, I guess. It really set my nerves on edge in the worst way.

So. My first interview is with yet another HR screener, who informs me that actually they want about 25% of time here in Bentonville, and I'm like yeahhhh well we'll see about that, and she says that for a time she actually commuted like that from somewhere else (Chicago?), and it was "kind of nice, because although I missed my family, it was me-time." Mkay. Then I finally meet my direct manager -- a young woman about my age, whom I really hit it off with. We had a great talk, I had great answers to all her questions, a few ideas, some good questions of my own. I'm thinking this one is a winner.

I am escorted by HR Greeter Gal and a clearly junior HR Trainee Gal to some guy who has his own office (exactly like the cubes, but with a door and a ceiling, and still no window). He has some Yankees paraphernalia scattered around, so in the "getting to know you" bit at the end, I work in my own Yankee fandom, mentioning that I got into them in the early 90s when they were awful, and blowin' his mind with my knowledge of players and stats and whatnot. Another winner.

My minders take me to two more people, who are kind of a blur to me, but whom I remember also seemed to like me. Then they escort me -- you notice, I'm being escorted everywhere? Partly because of the Brazil-style warren of utter confusion, and partly because Walmart's corporate ethos seems to include the proviso that everyone is a potential criminal -- to lunch with the lady who would be my grandboss, a woman about 60 whose dress and manner remind one a little of Ann Richards. She's great, and but I can quickly tell that she brooks no nonsense -- as ever, but particularly contrasted with the everlasting roundabout shitshow of my current work environment, I have no problem with that, and could really see working well with her. She sits down first, though, and is the only one of my interviewers whom I catch getting a good look at my midsection -- and as a mother of four, I know she knows and then she knows that I know she knows. Ehhh, well.

But about this lunch -- in the cafeteria, which every one of my interviewers has mentioned as a great boon, a terrific perk of employment: It is a for real, straight up cafeteria, so much like the one in my junior high that I almost have a PTSD episode, wondering where to park my Dooney & Bourke purse before I get in the food line to make sure I get a seat with at least a second-tier group. Long cheap formica-topped picnic tables, fluorescent lighting, industrial tile floor, molded plastic chairs with metal feet. There are several stations -- grill area, salads, sandwiches, etc. But they're all kind of lame early 90s airport type food -- you can tell everything is premade and shipped in, frozen; the salad bar is like the one at K-Bob's where I worked in high school (iceberg lettuce, baco-bits, shredded cheddar, ranch and Thousand Island dressings). And again, maybe it's worse for me because of what I'm used to -- a cafe with a large landscaped terrace on the seventh floor, flooded with natural light, all blond wood and marble and little clusters of wooden tables, with a menu that has to compete with the offerings outside the building in one of the biggest foodie cities in the world; everything's organic, locally-sourced, seasonal, yada yada, and made by culinary school grads and chefs who take their game very, very seriously.

Plus, I hate eating in front of people like that -- where I'm supposed to talk and eat and there's a judgment component, you know what I mean? Also I was FUCKING STARVING, because of the baby and missing my usual second and third breakfasts due to interviews, so I was using all my self-control not to just cram that stupid ham sandwich in my face-hole like it was the last piece of food on New Caprica.

So after that, my minders took me to one more person, whom I do not remember at all, then fail to deliver me to Lucky #7 (the three of us wandered the rat maze of two different floors for nearly half an hour while they try to track down whoever it is, and finally I'm like, ladies: I gotta make like a tree and get outta here). I bail, with many thanks, and drive to that podunk airport like I'm catching the last chopper out of Saigon. My flight is delayed, as is the next one (if I'd've known I'd be at DFW for four and a half goddamned hours I'd've called my family to meet up for some Flamin' Nachos at Frontera Grill or whatever in Terminal D).

And all this -- the late flights, the people who just sat there and let a pregnant gal hoist her own bag into the overhead, the rubbery chicken at the airport TGI Fucknuts that almost made me puke, the weepy phone call to Mr. Gleemonex about the delays and how I would miss putting Kid Gleemonex to bed, the exhaustion, my extremely dangerous falling-asleep, post-midnight 1.5-hour drive home from SFO -- ALL OF THIS I laid squarely at the feet of Walmart as its particular and purposeful fault.

The lesson I learned was that no matter how much they're paying, it's not worth it to work somewhere so deeply, terribly morally wrong and against my own principles. Also I learned that environment can and does reflect and reinforce thought and behavior.

I had danced with the Devil, and felt lucky to have survived it.

------------------------------------
*This is the factual truth.
**Hunter S Thompson describes a hotel a lot like this in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 -- run by penny-pinching anhedonic Germans, with empty mini-bars and every view a wasteland of tarpaper roofs and dirty air vents.

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2 Comments:

Blogger francine said...

!!!

12:37 PM  
Blogger Larita paban said...

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1:32 AM  

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