Saturday, October 6, 2012

The People of Walmart

"You know that orange VW van in the parking lot?" I asked my assistant, Felecia.

"Yeah, is that yours? I saw it and thought maybe it was yours and you were sleeping in the parking lot!" She was laughing.

I'm filling in at Walmart. Every day I park next to the VW van because it makes me happy. She'd seen my actual car too, with the magnets on the side for Justin's advertising business. 

It doesn't take long for the staff to figure out I'm a gypsy.

I dress up like a doctor. In corduroy skirts, sweaters and smart boots. I don't go as far as applying make up. But I wash my face and pull my hair back.

After a month and a half away from the clinic, I'm fresh and unburdened. Patient care comes naturally and I know I'm really making connections because my patients are open with me, and we're all laughing by the end.

The truth is I hate Walmart. I'm morally opposed to the place. When I returned to the states, my sister Molly used to ask me if it was ok if we went there. And it was. After four years overseas, I'd begun to understand why people liked shopping there. Everything under one roof, open 24 hours a day in some locations.

But I've gone back to my old ways, and I've personally banned the place due to their employment practices and their impact on the local community. I'm not sure how I feel about working alongside the optical shop there. But it's on a temporary basis and I need to keep my skills up to successfully pass the NC boards.

I decided that I wouldn't shop in Walmart the entire time I worked there. Then upgraded my challenge to not even set foot inside. And finally encompassed the whole shopping area surrounding the store (which includes any store you could ever dream of within about a ten block radius) to say that I am not going to buy anything except groceries.

Patients want to know what I'm doing there. When I tell them I live in the Outer Banks and just work when I want, it's met with usually acknowledgement of a good choice but sadness that I won't be there next time. The patients of Walmart are actually about half insured. Mostly black. Lots on Medicaid.  Only a few unemployed. Hard-working, basic people.

One woman who was about sixty with grey long hair and a heavily lined narrow face, asked me what I liked to read. I told her, "sustainability stuff, gardening, modern fiction, memoir." She kind of whispered, "Like Mother Earth News?" And when I nodded. "Are you a Hippie?"

I shrugged, "Maybe."

Then, "I took LSD!"

I didn't know what to say to that. Uhh thanks for sharing? I'm not that kind of hippie. But anyway. That's my patients. They spill everything.

Mostly I like the regular people who I see. I've yet to be mistreated by a patient, something which happened regularly by the retired military, ex-officer, NATO crowd.

My assistant is a sweet smart 25 year old from New Jersey. We keep the office peppy and it's actually even fun to be at work. Even if it's a Walmart. And I'm doing six days a week. It's only for a month, and then I'll be back to the Boonies of the Outer Banks for a while.

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