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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Monday
Oct082012

They've Got Spirit, How About You?

I first heard the clapping in the bread aisle. I was confusedly inspecting the differences between the 100% Whole Wheat, 12 Grain and Healthy Multi-Grain bread products offered by the fine folks at Arnold. I assume they're fine folks. For all I know they've got nine-year-old Vietnemese kids locked in basements baking bread during seventeen hour shifts. But the bread is good and I can't police the universe. I've got enough blood on my brain what with worrying about all the cow, pig and chicken I'm not eating anymore. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

As if that array of bread isn't confusing enough they've got another bread option called Health Nut. Is Health Nut healthier than Healthy Multi-Grain? And does Healthy Multi-Grain have more grains than 12 Grain? But I read somewhere that you need to look for "whole grain" so is Whole Wheat better than both of them? In a bread face-off, who would win between Healthy Multi-Grain and Whole Wheat? Should purchasing a single loaf of bread really be this hard? Why is Arnold trying to hurt me?

This was what was running through my head while trying to keep Henry from fingering the confounding bread products and vaguely becoming aware of the fact that somewhere, within the bowels of our local Walmart, there was a lot of clapping going on. Not the random applause you'd find at your average spectating event, this was rhythmic clapping, like a gaggle of waiters surrounding your table at Applebee's and chanting happy birthday in a most embarrassing fashion. Which, I mean, seriously? Has anyone anywhere ever actually enjoyed being sung (sang?) to at a public restaurant? It should be banned in much the same way Christmas caroling should be outlawed. What do you do while being sung (sang?) to in this awkward manner? Look the singers in the eye? Sing along? Or just stand there, fake smile pasted on your face, staring at them like an idiot? Tell me, WHAT DO YOU DO during these agonizing occurrences? Me? I sense Christmas carolers on the horizon and we flip off the lights and hit the deck like any self-respecting people should. Nobody's home, move along, nothing to sing to here.

Where was I? Oh, Walmart. Yeah, so the clapping was rhythmic and, as I turned the corner into the frozen food section, I heard low chanting. My mind was still reeling from my bread purchase - I went with Healthy Multi-Grain because, DUH, it has the word "healthy" in the title - so I wasn't really paying attention yet, just noting that something strange was afoot in Walmart. Plus, let's be honest here, something strange being afoot in Walmart is pretty much the norm so you can understand why I wasn't yet fully dialed into what was going down in the produce section of the Lock Haven store.

The chanting grew louder as I tossed a box of fish sticks into my cart, pried Henry's fingers off the bread, dodged an oldster not doing a particularly good job controlling their motorized scooter and rounded the corner of the final aisle before being dumped out into the produce/bakery section. And there it was. There they were. The source of the chanting and clapping and, perhaps, THE greatest thing I've ever witnessed go down at Walmart and, people, you know that is saying a lot.

About fifty Walmart employees, clad in brown pants and their true blue Walmart flair-laden shirts, were gathered in a circle among the avocados, bananas and onions. Clapping and chanting. Chanting and clapping. Each clap coincided with whatever it was they were chanting.

I stopped, thinking that perhaps they were singing happy birthday to someone. And then I made out what they were chanting and couldn't believe my luck in happening upon such a scene.

W! A! L! M! A! R! T!

Faster now, a clap accentuating each shouted letter.

W! A! L! M! A! R! T!

Faster still.

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

Again.

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

And again! The employees in a joyous spelling frenzy now.

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

Like a professional cheerleader on the sidelines of an NFL game a gentleman I presumed to be a manager of some sorts as he wasn't wearing the requisite blue but a white shirt and tie shouted, "WHAT'S THAT SPELL?"

WALMART! Was the thunderous answer.

Again. WHAT'S THAT SPELL?

WALMART!

A fellow shopper walked past and we exchanged embarrassed smirks. The cheering increased until the people perusing pet food on the other side of the store likely heard the commotion and then all the excited Walmart employees erupted into one final roar that would rival any professional sporting team getting psyched before the big game - a veritable orgasm of Walmart spirit.

When it was all over the circle of workers began to disperse so I pretended to be interested in peaches as they walked past me. I secretly studied faces, trying to catch the eye of one of the participants, expecting to see an eye roll of embarrassment thrown my way but there was none. These people - elderly folks, middle-aged, kids who couldn't be more than nineteen - were seemingly genuinely stoked to be alive and working the early shift at Walmart on a Monday morning.

Well, I'll be damned, thought I. I guess I'm just a smug, cynical bastard, hating on some lovely people working hard for their money and excited about it. Still, although I really, really liked working at FOX news back in Salt Lake City I think a station cheer would've sent me running for the confines of the bathroom. I guess killjoy assholes like me could do with displaying a little more enthusiasm? Or are you hiding in the bathroom with me?

Nonetheless, inspired by their infectious enthusiasm I began to wonder if maybe Serge and I should start off every morning with a team cheer?

B! I! E! L! A! N! K! O!

And then maybe we could chest bump or something?

Or maybe just take a shot of hard liquor to brace ourselves for the day?

Anyway, that shit made my day. Not just the chant, but the fact that instead of the embarrassment I expected to exchange with employees leaving the meeting I was confronted with unabashed excitement at just being a part of a group, I guess. In fact, as they were all leaving, scattering to their respective posts throughout the store I witnessed the manager-looking guy do a double-take on the bin of pineapples a couple feet from me and happily chirp to no one in particular, "The pineapples are looking grrreat today!"

I mean, the exuberance at just being a part of the Walmart family was astounding. I don't think I was that cheerful when I actually was a cheerleader in ninth grade and dating a dude on the football team (I was later knocked up by the star receiver and then had a shameful abortion that everyone gossiped about, lest you think I'm bragging).

So yeah, the enthusiasm of the employees at my local Walmart is astounding. Astounding is the right word, I think. Either because it's nice to see people happy to be at work or because you're a smug fuck like me wondering who in the hell could muster up the excitement to chant about being at Walmart at nine o'clock on a Monday morning.

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

W!A!L!M!A!R!T!

Reader Comments (14)

I would have thought I had entered a parallel universe! It's great that they're so enthusiastic...but I would have been with you -- looking for the annoyed eye-roll as they dispersed!

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKristin

Was there a squiggly? I saw the cheer once from the overnight shift while I was waiting in line for the day after Thanksgiving door busters, and apparently the squiggly is an honor, and it comes with a dance. I have to say, it gave everyone there a little bit of joy in the middle of the night.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I totally love this. I want to witness this. And I am certain my husband would give me the smug fuck eye roll if I suggested the family chant, but DAMN, what a good idea, Monica! :)

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlydia

That is totally a thing, all over the country! My friend worked in a (Florida) WalMart back in high school (we graduated in 1995), and she was forced to participate in the cheerleading session. Note the use of my word, forced. She did not have an option. Lovely.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim Q

Actually my sister's family has a cheer that they do every night after grace before dinner. She has five kids so it makes more sense that if I did it with my singleton - but I have to tell you, as cheesy as it is, I love it. And my son (who is 17) won't miss it if we are visiting. In fact, he was once in the bathroom and walked in right as we finished and actually made us do it again. It's something along the lines of "oh I am so happy to be a part of this family" with a big group cheer! I am telling you - it's heaven. You should get a family cheer.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLove bug

I'm always fascinated when people are so happy and cheerful at their jobs, especially fast food and places like Walmart. At a Sonic in a tiny town in Oklahoma there are two guys - young, cute, redheaded, identical twins who have been there for at least eight years - who are the friendliest, most helpful people I've ever seen at any fast food place EVER, and when I worked near there and ate at that Sonic regularly (four years ago) I always tipped them very well because they were so damn cheerful. My sister says they are still there. Eight years working at a Sonic in the middle of nowhere and still happy about it - that's amazing to me.

Also I'm glad I'm not the only one who turns the lights off and hides from Christmas carolers!

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth B

I have also witnessed the cheering at Wal-Mart, and it embarrassed the shit out of me on behalf of those doing the cheering. I've witnessed the Target morning meeting more times than I can count, but they don't cheer there. One of the many reasons why Target is more my speed...

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz

This is why I keep coming back to your blog. Sometimes i forget to check it and then suddenly I remember and race over to see what you've got and how you put it down. I so needed a laugh today. Went over to you talube to find a visual and sure enough there were several instances of the Walmart cheer, and then some other stuff mixed in: http://youtu.be/tMCVIlOD9UY

Enthusiam is the life blood of any institutiion...and i am all for whatever keeps it going strong. Still I would have blushed during and after the one you witnessed at Walmart, I think the pineapple comment had everything to do with it.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

My husband is a manager at a Walmart distribution center and this cheer thing kills me... but like you said, he is so proud of it. He tells me that when the squiggly comes around to him, he does the best squiggly move ever! It is 100% creepy but still infectious. Another fun fact... they all do stretches together before shifts too. So yeah... Go Walmart!

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMeg W.

I was never more embarrassed than when we had to do the Wal-Mart cheer. I was the one rolling my and wanting to die as shoppers looked on. I was in trouble more than once for not fully participating.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily

It's all about the Flair!

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered Commentergina

Rest in openness, right? You never know when something is going to make your day. Glad the Walmart cheer made yours! oh, and i so enjoy your writing.

October 8, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGeri

Hilarious. I wonder what Henry thought.

October 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMartha

holy shit- that's creepy! I think I would have run for the door. It's like when people start chanting U-S-A at political events- i'm embarrassed and horrified for them.

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermrg

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