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Dear Corporate Walmart,

I know you probably won’t reply to my letter but that’s not going to prevent me from expressing a few concerns I have about a recent stint I had as a Walmart Lawn & Garden Seasonal Sales Associate. I know that I’m not the only one who has ever experienced concerns, I found that out easily by Googling “working at Walmart,” as you can see by the very first search result.

Firstly, I knew the chance I was taking before being hired, so I wasn’t going into this completely blindfolded. I knew I would probably not be making much over minimum wage ($7.35/hr here in PA), I also knew that as a L&G associate I would be lifting heavy bags of mulch, garden soil, landscaping timbers, etc. I knew there would be times when things would be hectic as early spring is a very busy time for gardeners looking to buy plants and other things needed for gardening.

Secondly, I realize there are some things associated with retail sales that all employees of any particular retail business have no control over, i.e., angry customers, shipments of goods arriving unexpected, cash registers freezing up, etc. Many things can go awry that are not expected. I’ve worked retail before so I know these types of things cannot be controlled by employees, there is no blame here, I’m making a point about working conditions that can or cannot be attributed to employee actions.

Third, and this is probably what you’re not going to like hearing about; low wages for work that one person shouldn’t be doing by themselves. For example, on some occasions during my employment I was the only sales associate in lawn and garden and two surrounding departments. Trying to find assistance for customers I couldn’t help (because I was helping two or more at the same time) was all but impossible. I had difficulty grasping Walmart’s work ethics, be they bad or good, and when I was told by a member of management that this was “the way our generation does things” it made it even more exasperating.

Lastly, I offer a word of thanks to you, Walmart, for hiring me in the first place. I honestly thought that as a lover of plants and people I’d be able to make a difference, and perhaps even change an attitude or two about how you’re viewed by a large majority of your customers. Unfortunately, that view is not a pleasant one. But as I stated earlier, I had an idea of how it might be before I was hired. I chose not to continue as an employee because I felt it was a detriment to my health, both physically and mentally.

On the day I decided to leave you asked if there were anything you could do to change my mind, and when I replied that I would consider staying if my pay were raised to between $10 – $15 an hour, you laughed. For me, and thousands of your employees, that’s not something to laugh about.

Sincerely,

TC Conner

Angie has a list, but does she garden?

A close friend of mine sent me a link to an Angie’s list article about what you could have done in the garden for $50, $500, and $5,000. The article says that in some regions of the country you might get a few bags of mulch spread for the first amount (not here); one of the things you might get for $500 is “irrigation troubleshooting, repair services or other miscellaneous landscaping work that takes around eight man hours;” and for $5,000 you can expect a redesigned and landscaped front walkway, or “a complete irrigation system in both the front and back yards, including a new timer, valves, heads and also the installation of 1,000 square feet of sod.” 

Those price quotes were for jobs in California, Texas, and Minnesota. Not a very wide region for comparison, so I decided to contact a few local landscaping companies here in my neck of the woods in western Pennsylvania. One place said they couldn’t offer anything for $50, which doesn’t really surprise me, considering the cost of a tank of gas these days. But $500 would cover the cost of weeding, cleaning and edging flower beds, and some light pruning. For $5,000 you could have a consultation for a new garden design, have it installed with the plants of your choice, and possibly add a water feature. I called three different landscaping companies, all offered the same basic services for those fees, based on what the customer needed to have done in their particular landscape.

I never gave much thought about the cost of gardening. It’s just something I do each spring. I don’t look at the price of a new shovel or plant because I don’t put a price on quality. However, while working as a lawn and garden sales associate at a local box store I discovered that many folks don’t seem to care about quality. And neither did the box store where I worked.  I couldn’t keep selling low quality plants to folks who I knew were on a limited budget, and still have a clear conscious afterwards. That was just too much for me to wrap my head around so I quit.

There are costs involved with most all things we do for recreation. And I expect to pay for quality garden plants, especially perennials, when I need them. But gardening isn’t really about the money, at least not for me. It could never be about that. It would be sacrilegious. Gardening is dirty work, lets keep it that way!

Gardening is dirty work, but the reward is worth it!

Gardening is dirty work, but the reward is worth it!

 

 

It’s not my cross to bear, or is it?

The Allman Brothers Band sang about it not being my cross to bear. But if not’s mine to bear, then whose is it?

It’s said that Gregg Allman wrote that song about an old girlfriend, and if you read the lyrics it’s quite evident that someone might have been asking too much of someone else. I don’t think I’ve ever been in such a relationship with either of my three wives (I’m twice divorced, just to be sure that none of you think I’m a polygamist). However, there are other relationships that more often than not require us to bear some sort of cross. I’m in one now, and it sucks! 

I posed a question on Facebook: Struggling and happy or miserable and rich? You can probably guess that answers ranged widely. Some folks believe you can be rich and happy, and I’m sure that’s true. But that’s not the point of my question. I’m wanting to know why it seems almost normal for some folks to accept the fact that it’s just the way it was meant to be – for them to struggle all their life, not being truly happy. I think I’ve accepted the cards I’ve been dealt, I’ve never folded, yet. The analogy is that you keep going forward, not backwards, as long as you get a chance to be dealt a new hand every so often. You stay in the game. 

Staying in the game is my plan. And doing so allows me to toss the cards I don’t need. I’m about to toss another one. I’ve been dealt a losing hand, but the luck of the draw keeps me honest. That and writing and music. A full house beats two of a kind, I’m calling that bluff!

Work: “The part of a day devoted to an occupation or undertaking”

If the definition of work is what the title of this post says it is then I’ve been working since I was about 12-years old. If defined differently – an occupation or career undertaken for at least eight hours of any given day – then you could say that I’ve not worked for the past 15 years or so. Until recently.

Family and close friends know about the new job I’m currently evaluating. I said evaluating because I’m still deciding on whether or not it’s something I want to do for the next however many years I’ll be around, or until I decide to retire, whichever comes first. I’m using the company’s 90 probationary period to evaluate whether or not I’ll stay around, and they’re using that same period to decide if I’m worth keeping around.

Working

Working

Had I started about 40 years ago, I’d be making a living (or just making it at living) as a full time musician, probably lead guitarist in some folk rock band. Several friends are still on that road; making the necessary turns, crossing the necessary bridges, just to keep doing what they love to do – make music.

Alas, some of us less fortunate musicians must supplement what little we make from working with income from other sources – “work.” Either way, it’s still a part of the day, or night, devoted to an occupation or undertaking. Although if your evaluation isn’t quite right, devotion to one job often gets replaced by apathy for the other.

A “real” job?

I used to have a “real” job during the 80s and 90s. I worked for a pipeline company, at one of their compressor stations. Natural gas would come into the station via several large diameter pipes, enter large natural gas compressor engines, it was then compressed and pressurized and then discharged to continue its journey north, or sometimes be injected into large underground storage facilities. I spent 15 years with that pipeline company, and then during the economic downturn of the mid 90s, 25 or so of us lost our jobs. You’ve heard the term – downsized, another word for being laid off, permanently.

And so began my journey of what is known as a “stay-at-home dad.” And I loved it! Once my two kids were in school, I decided that I’d go back to school myself and in 2006 I graduated from Slippery Rock University with a degree in English, Creative Writing. At the time I thought a degree in writing would be beneficial and I didn’t think I’d have any trouble finding a full-time job editing or writing about gardening and/or maybe music. I was wrong! It’s been a struggle ever since and I continue to think that I should have stuck with my first major – information technology.

But as we all know, what’s done is done and I can’t turn back the hands of time. Losing that job with the pipeline company was traumatic; it paid well, had great benefits, and had us on what we thought was the highway to the high life, or at least a solid means of buying or building a new house, paying off a new car or two, and saving enough money to put our kids through college.

17 years later and I’m still struggling. But I’m not complaining. I realize millions of folks are in worse shape than I’m in. I’ve always told my kids to never walk backwards, because more often than not you end up stepping in the same mess you just walked away from. It’s a  cliché but life is a journey, and you either hang on for the ride or get thrown off.

I started a new job recently, it involves people and plants – two things I love being around. I’ll reveal more details later, there’s a 90 day probationary period and I don’t want to announce anything permanent just yet. It’s been a while since I’ve had a “real” job, and readjusting is taking some time. But as my oldest son’s friend always says about tough chores: “It ain’t no hill for a climber.”

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Say it ain’t so, Stephen

TC Conner:

Ok, what about Paul Shaffer?

Originally posted on Mindful Digressions:

I’m sure you’ve heard the devastatingly tragic, heartbreaking, heartrending, gut wrenching, brain-twisting, finger-popping news by now. It’s all over the airwaves. It’s the top story on Fox News, where all of the on air personalities are experiencing non-stop orgasms.

I’ll have what they’re having.

As I sit here at my computer composing this post, I can barely contain my anguish. The tears that are streaming down my cheeks are literally flooding the floor beneath me. Literally, I tell you! I need to go change my socks.

colbert report bannerThis can’t be happening. But, alas it is. Stephen Colbert is leaving The Colbert Report and will be taking over The Late Show on CBS when David Letterman retires next year.

What?!?

I am not a religious person, but I watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report religiously. I get all the news I need from those two shows. Seriously!

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I Need A Vacation

TC Conner:

We all need a vacation, some more so than others.

Originally posted on Fish Of Gold:

I’m going on vacation. I’m going to show up at all of your houses with my dog. We’re going to eat up all of your potato chips and use up all of your hot water. I promise that I won’t overstay my welcome, not that I was welcomed in the first place. Expect me this evening.

Really, it’s 2014. Why don’t we have instant travel yet? Why does it take hours and hours just to get to the other side of my country? Where is my flying car? If we had instant travel, I would eat up your potato chips with glee. I would like to be here now:

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It would be really nice to sit outside on a spring evening drinking tea with some of you. I wonder what you’re like. Even those of you who post pictures of yourselves and vlogs, I wonder what you’re like. Videos don’t…

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