As long time readers of the blog, many of you will remember that Christin and I used to work at Wal-Mart at the same time. Collectively, we have so many interesting , borderline traumatizing Wal-Mart Stories just sitting on the back burner, waiting to be shared. This is one of them.
As long time readers of the blog, it will come as no surprise to you that interestingly enough, Christin and I happened to get fired from Wal-Mart on the exact same day. The reason we were wrongfully terminated will be saved for another time. This particular story picks up directly after we both were fired, again, on the same day.
As I am being escorted out of the store by a member of management, I am trying hard to plead my case. The challenge was making these idiots realize that they were just plain wrong in terminating me. I realize it sounds like I am making excuses, I assure you I am not. It was almost as if they had it planned all along.
My (now former) manager wanted to hear nothing. She was kinda a bitch that way. I mean at one point as were we walking down the aisle, I believe she was applying her lipstick. This is what I am dealing with.
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spot Christin in the Infant Department. She was zoning, looked at me, looked at my (now former) manager, and gave me the “What the hell” look.
I was working in my department just like any other day, when I looked up and saw Jen being escorted out by the bitchy assistant Manager who also happened to be name Jennifer. As we made eye contact, Jen screamed “They are firing us! Get ready you’re next! Meet me in the parking lot!”
I had no idea what was going on. Fired for what? I was a few months pregnant with my
2nd child and was having a terrible time with morning sickness, could that be why? I anxiously awaited for them to call me back to the office, which inevitable came 5 minutes later.
“Department Manager Christin, please come to the office” echoed through the store.
I slowly made my way back to the office.
5 minutes later I was also being escorted out of the building per company policy when one is getting fired for something utterly ridiculous.
Jen was waiting in the parking lot, sipping on her diet Dr Pepper.
“What the fuck just happened?” I said, trying to process the last 10 minutes of events.
Sitting in our respective cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot, wondering what the hell just
happened, both realizing the all-too true fact that we were now screwed, we headed over to Target. Not to apply for a job, but to have a mental breakdown in the parking lot.
Christin was a single mom, and newly pregnant. I had the boys. Joe was already working two jobs. The loss of my income would hit us hard. I was worried Joe would be mad, disappointed me. I knew I had to tell him, and decided to do so by taking the easy way out. With Christin sitting behind the drivers wheel, I mustered the courage to walk my now jobless ass to the pay phone. It just so happened it was his day off.
Jen ~ I have to tell you something, but you will get mad.
Joe ~ What’s wrong?
Jen ~ Well, Christin and I kinda got fired and I am sorry, I have no idea what to do!
Joe ~ Don’t worry about it, come home and we will figure it out.
I jumped back into Christin’s car. As she drove me to my car I told her how Joe seemed to be supportive. For me, that was one obstacle down. There would however be many more in my path.
Still in shock, I dropped Jen off at her car and drove home. I needed some time to think. About a month before, I had broken up with my boyfriend ( the baby’s dad), which resulted in him moving out. A week later, I found out I was pregnant. Timing has never been my thing. Clearly.
Later that afternoon, I called Jen over to the apartment.
“What are we going to do?”
“I don’t know. We need to come up with a plan,” Jen said. But first you need to tell Will (baby’s dad).
I called Will up and told him he needed to come to the apartment ASAP.
And for the first time, he actually listened.
After Joe assured me that everything will be fine, telling me he will pick up a second job if need be, I headed over to Christin’s apartment, which was just the next building over. Joe had done so much, I could not add to his already full plate. And Christin, she had her hands full. Being newly single, then newly pregnant, and now newly fired, and then there was me. I will be turning 30 in a few days (which ironically turned out to be the least of my worries) I was more newly pregnant than Christin (although despite popular belief, we did not plan it that way) and now we can add newly fired on our list of screw ups. I had to come up with a plan to help take the weight off of everyone’s shoulder.
I walked in Christin’s apartment and knew I had my work cut out for me. Quickly I made a pot of coffee for myself, while pouring her a glass of ice water.
“What are we going to do?” An irrational Christin asked.
“I do not know, I will come up with a plan. First things first, you need to call Will.
Half an hour later I am on my second cup of coffee watching Christin pace the carpet back and forth, back and forth. Will walks in the door.
“What’s going on?”
Hysterically, Christin gives him the rundown of the last four hours.
“Shit! What are you going to do?”
I give the guy a pass. He was in the apartment of his newly ex girlfriend who was barely into her pregnancy. I am not sure what the proper form of etiquette is in a situation like this, although I am certain “Oh Shit!” is not one of them.
Giving them their space, I silently sipped on my coffee while listening to their extremely awkward conversation.
“That’s it Will, we just need to get back together. You need to move back in ASAP!”
It was at this point that I spat my coffee all over my shirt.
“Christin, we are not getting back together. You need to calm down. In your heart you know that us getting back together would not work out.”
He treated her with kid gloves, which was exactly the right approach at this very moment.
Christin had made her way over to her treadmill of all places, a treadmill that made an excellent coat rack and had a complete break down. I will put aside the fact that this is the first time I had ever seen her on the damn thing, and chalk it up to pregnancy hormones.
“That’s it!” I said, “Will, go clean up the coffee I just spilled on the floor. Christin, you need to get yourself together. This is what we are going to do. Tomorrow, we will wake up at the same time we do every day. We will get dressed, making sure to look both professional and classy. We will take our kids to daycare and school just like we do every day. We will go to Wal-mart to pick up our final check. We will walk in there with our heads held high. We will not be embarrassed. We will get out of this. After Wal-Mart, we will make our way to the welfare office to see if we can qualify for any benefits to hold us over until we either find another job, or our unemployment kicks in, and we will do it all with a smile on our face.”
And that is exactly what we did the following morning.
If had not been for Jen, I would still be laying lifeless on my barely used treadmill. Luckily for me, she wouldn’t have allowed me to wallow in my self-pity for too long. I didn’t have a choice, I would follow her plan.
The next morning, I mustered up all the energy one would have after being fired, a single mom AND a few months pregnant, put on my Sunday best and walked out of my apartment feeling like a million bucks. We dropped our kids off at their respective schools and daycare, stopped at Starbucks to get our caffeine fixes and just like Thelma & Louise, we were on a mission.
We pulled up in the Wal-Mart parking lot, ready to rumble. We had three things to complete on our mission while we were here: 1) Pick up our checks 2) Talk to 2 specific people who could possibly get us our jobs back 3) Prove to the asshole(s) that got us fired in the first place, that we were untouchable.
Side by side, we walked in the store, heads held high, smiles on our face. As we were walking to the back, we got stopped about 10 times…”What happened? and “Where have you guys been? were the questions being asked. Unfortunately, Thelma and I didn’t have many answers ourselves, just yet. We made our way back to personnel where we picked up our checks, not before Jen announced “Have a nice day!” to the snakes in the office. We cashed our checks in the front while an employee that shall remain nameless came out of her UPC office, appearing to watch as we made our way out of the store.
The only time I became emotional while making that last trip to Wal-Mart to pick up our check, was in the parking lot. I had history there. This is the parking lot where Joe would walk me to my car on his last day of work. (He left on his own terms.) Joe had made me a cd and gave it to me right there in that very parking lot. The smoking section off to the right was the first time Joe and I spoke two words to each other. The beginning of “Us” began at that store. With me being such a sentimental sap, I had to hold it together for the sake of Christin.
As soon as Christin and I walked into the welfare office we knew we were out of our element. Both of us dressed to the nines, making sure we look professional enough to apply for welfare benefits. Guess what. Apparently the welfare office does not enforce a dress code. Nor do they care if you saunter in wearing last nights sleep attire. Who knew? All heads turned our way as we made our way to the front counter. Leaving the scent of Channel #5 lingering around us. Even the lady at the front counter had to stifle a laugh. Who could blame her? Christin and I looked like a couple of Park Avenue Bitches, and let me tell you, the welfare office was not the place to make a statement.
“Hi! Were are here to see what possible benefits we could qualify for. Not for long-term or anything, just temporary until we get back on our feet. Separately, we are together but not together, together.”
“Pick a number, fill out the paperwork, wait for your number to be called.”
Christin and I found seats together, sat down with clipboard in hand and started filling out the twenty papers that would soon let us know if we would qualify for food stamps.
“I do not know about this Jen, there has to be another way?”
“Do not worry it will be fine. We are in this together, just follow my lead.”
So…..imagine our surprise when they separated Christin and I.
As we were waiting for our number to be called, it took everything I had not to run out. My ego was telling me that I didn’t belong there, while Jen convinced me that we needed to be there. My number was called and then, they took me to a room in the back. Expecting Jen to come in behind me, I kept watching the door. She never came. Instead I was met with Pajama wearing folks that just looked like they rolled out of bed.
I pulled out my notebook and pen, then began taking notes. What did I need to do next? Who did I need to talk to? I scribbled everything down as the girl next to me took a nap. I was going to come out of this better than ever, right? An hour later, the class was over and we were excused.
I met Jen in the lobby.
“Ok, now what do we do?” I asked. “What’s the next step?”
I had no idea why Christin was called back and I wasn’t. All this time I had told her I would be there, and now look who was not there. I asked my lovely friend at the front counter why we were not called back together. She gave me the five second stare down, rolled her eyes, “Because the other girl is applying for rent assistance and you are applying for food assistance.”
Okay so she had a point. It’s not like there were any step by step instructions on how to do this. I took my seat, touched up my makeup, and before I knew it, I was called back.
My situation was a little bit different from Christin’s. Christin went back alone, where as I went back with a group of twenty. We were told to all take a seat around this large conference table. A lady who seemed to be in her late fifties entered the room and immediately started talking about the food stamp card, what can and cannot be purchased. Without missing a beat, I grabbed my notebook and pen from my oversized purse. I started to scribble down every single word that was being said. If I am going to do this, I am going to do it right, and take notes, and who knows if there will be a test at the end but if there was, surely I would pass, because it seems I was the only one taking notes.
At one point during the lecture, I lost my place within my notes. The speaker went from “Your benefits will be loaded on your card depending on the first letter of your last name.” To “If your card is lost or stolen, you must report it as soon as possible.”
Quickly and efficiently I raised my hand.
“Just one quick question, according to my notes I lost my place and I need to know what happens after the benefits are loaded on to the card.”
The entire room looks at me. Naturally I am pretty proud of myself for asking such an important question. The gentleman sitting beside me, who may have smelled like tequila looks at me, then looks at the speaker.
“Aw Man, is she for real?”
“Uh, yeah I am for real. This is pretty important stuff. Do we need to log in, do we need to have a grocery list prepared? What exactly happens after the benefits are loaded onto the card.”
In unison, the entire room shouted “YOU USE THE CARD!”
It gets better.
As the speaker was closing her final words, she asked “Are there any last questions?”
All twenty people look at me, expecting me to have a question.
“So my final question is, how does the tax returns work? What exactly needs to be reported and what doesn’t”
There was about a ten second silence before our speaker yelled “Class dismissed!”
I gathered up my notes while everyone else was fighting their way out the door. By the time I returned to the lobby, Christin was already waiting. She looks at me and asked “What’s the next step?”
Confidently as ever I said
“Our next step is getting our job back.”
Getting our jobs back was easier said than done. We did fight for our jobs in every way possible. We even filed an unlawful termination suit against Wal-Mart but had to retreat because of Jen’s high risk pregnancy. We did what we could and we lost. In the end, much more was gained than lost. We eventually found our true passions that had absolutely nothing to do with cranky customers and stocking shelves. It was truly the best thing that ever happened even if for a short time we had to swallow our pride and ask for help.
There is no doubt in my mind that if we continued the fight, we would have won against Wal-Mart. In the end, I chose the health of my baby over the stress of a lawsuit.
Christin and I may have lost the battle, but we did not lose the war.
That afternoon when Christin and I put on our armor, faced our fears, our insecurities, stereotypes, heading into the Welfare office, that was a beginning for us. A beginning to many more battles, many more wars, and many victories.
In the end, victory is ours.
Sidenote ~ I never did tell Joe about our morning apent at the Welfare office. He was very against it, just for our family, not for anyone else. One of these days I will write a blog on just how I managed to keep it a secret from him…you just can’t tell him.