Plum Crazy at Plum Crazy

I have a very dear friend who turned 50 this week. I will pause for the round of applause you are sure to give; or the sigh, depending on your own chronological status. On my way to his “Big Fat Greek 5oth Birthday Party” I decided to stop for a card. But not just any card, a man of such culture, such flavor, such colorful character needed a card from the African-American collection.

I went to Walmart in the heart of Southeast Raleigh. I often refer to this particular Wally World as Plum Crazy in homage to the deceased club because on any given visit you may see two to three patrons of the former establishment (only now they appear to be responsible adults with kids in tow, sober and well robed-present company included). This specific location sits on New Bern Avenue, which I’ve previously noted for having four fried chicken joints and runs parallel to Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard. Surely I can get my brother from another mother a card from the Black experience here!

Words cannot even express my disappointment with what I found. Actually, words probably can, but I’m not privy to what that word is right now.

18. Eighteen. Diez y ocho. Do you understand me? There were 18 cards in the ‘Ebony’ section. 18. And four had no mention of being ebony, no picture of an ebony man or woman, no African insignia, no nothing! And yeah….I meant that damn double negative. EIGHTEEN!

I was stunned, mesmerized,  as I began counting the other, mainstream cards in the Walmart that sits on New Bern Avenue, parallel to MLK Jr. Blvd.,  in Southeast Raleigh. I stopped at seventy-nine. I watched sister after sister pick up a card for her husband or father in honor of Father’s Day, jaw dropped.

Furthermore, there was no availability for the Spanish-speaking community who also populate this community. Where are their cards? Can they get a card that doesn’t have a white man on the front? Can their little girls give their daddies a card where the model looks like him?

I searched for the manager, knowing I was already late for Ken’s birthday party but too militant to let this moment pass and after minutes of no luck I decided to mention my frustration to the sales girl at the check out.

“Really, you should tell somebody.”

“I’m telling you.”

“I ain’t nobody. You should call Walmart.”

“We’re in Walmart.”

“Naw, like the real Walmart.”

“Where exactly is the real Walmart?”

I went on with her for a few minutes, half amused, half ashamed, completely annoyed but our banter calmed my demeanor and allowed me to move on. I took my card, which ended up reading like we were lovers more than friends and my duct tape, because every man over 50 needs duct tape in excess and made my way to the comfort of friends who feel like family and understand the need of African-American cards in the Walmart on New Bern Avenue in 27610, even if they may never need to buy one.

And when I’m done writing this post…I’m gonna write the real Walmart a letter about the fake one!

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Customer (Dis)Service, Cameron Village Style

For SC, who has her hands in the earth while she figures out her place in it, from SB.

I’m a basic girl. I find joy in the simple things; a friends and family discount, finding the perfect dress on clearance, a matching cocktail ring at 25% off…you know what these all have in common-SALE! Nothing turns me on more than swiping my card to spend less than what I should have (nevermind the inflation because we know it only cost $1.99 to make). I get a rush at looking at that last line on the receipt that reads ‘You saved $73.42’. Well actually, there is one thing…I would pay full price and then some for good customer service!

Trey of Teavanna in Triangle Towne Center knows this all too well. A few months ago I discovered Japanese Matcha and began making green tea lattes in the comfort of my own home. I’ve become quite the barista-with regard to green tea. I take special care to measure the temp of the milk and whisk from the outside in as taught to me by a tea guru. When I used the last of the mixture a few days ago, I was perplexed as to where I would get my supply. My original purchase was made at Tin Roof Teas in Cameron Village but on a second visit I walked around for about three minutes before leaving without recognition. The sales associate was absorbed in what appeared to be a textbook and far be it from me to intrude on someone’s work with work.

When I walked past Teavanna in search of the perfect dress, a matching cocktail ring and all at a friends and family discount, Trey must have sensed that my cupboard was in need of loose leaf tea. His exemplary customer service skills sent me home with much more than Japanese Matcha and although I had no intention of spending a fourth of what I totaled, it was completely worth it.

Back on track and a few stores later, I found myself in Dillard’s. Who can’t find an ensemble in Dillard’s, the friends and family discount is another story unless you are related to an employee of which I am not? I was still marveling over my experience with the young man at Teavanna when I caught the eye of the young sales girl putting away remnants from the dressing room, she quickly looked away. A few minutes later I stumbled upon her in conversation with two other women over the three missing dresses “The Versace, the Gucci and the Ralph Lauren but they can have that ugly ole’ thing.” She looked at me again. I didn’t even know Dilliard’s carried such labels but then again, I’m a simple girl.

Wait, is she suggesting that I’m a thief? Does she know I just spent over a hundred dollars on tea! This broad just looked at me again. Now her coworker is looking at me too; so I’m looking back at them and still-nothing. Not one eensy weensy word. I used to work in sales so I kinda know what I’m talking about when I say, the girl carrying four bags: one from the boutique tea shop, one from another anchor store and two from overpriced specialty shops is not the girl you don’t ask “Can I help you with something?” when you work on commission.  

After an eensy weensy word with the manager I headed elsewhere in search of a dress, earrings and a discount. I ended up in Cameron Village, because the name compels me even if the customer service enrages me and the parking (as discussed with @pinkpodster via twitter) infuriates me when there it was-a free space right in front of Fab’rik (cue harps, release the doves).

As soon as I walked in, the newly engaged sales clerk (whose name I won’t mention-just in case she has yet to tell some other poor soul that he is not the one) offered her perky assistance and three dresses later, we had the one! We also had a matching cocktail ring. And wouldn’t you know it-I already had a discount coupon card from a friend! The only thing that would have made that better would have been great customer service-which I got! Awesomsauce!! She-who-shall-not-be-named even gave me a great suggestion as to where to get some fabulous earrings to complete my look.

But in true Cameron Village fashion, CatBanjo delivered excellent customer disservice and I left empty-handed. I vowed years ago to never step foot in Ann Taylor ever again in life and the memory of Victoria’s Secret makes me want to vomit. I’ve had to check someone at nearly every eatery except Piccola Italia and K&W and Lee Spa Nails gets a 3 on a scale of 1-10 (but most nail salons do). Oh don’t even get me started on the banks! Now how you gonna have poor customer service when you’re holding my money for me? Riddle me that one blondie.

I was ready to give up on Cameron Village again when a sales girl, full of life and love made me give it another chance.

Carpool, Competency Exams and Other Morning Rants

If we are not engaged in a steamy, love affair that commits us to passionate sessions of inexplicable pleasure to which one must follow-up with, the morning after, a text that reads quite simply ‘Damn’-don’t call me prior to 9am. In fact, nor should you text me, email me, tweet me, facebook me or utilize any other source of communication. What do you possibly need to say outside of casual operating hours (9am-9pm). Of course if I started social networking at 7am, by all means, join me; but when I’m rushing to accomplish the morning chores after oversleeping, the last thing I want is an interrupting text.

If by chance I owe the company with which you are gainfully employed money and by luck of the draw my number flashes across your computer screen in the moment that I am lathering, lubricating or having breakfast with my children-understand that I will not be cooperative. You will receive me in all my sarcastic glory; it’s nothing against you, I’m just irritated and late and you are unintentionally getting on my nerves. FYI, we sit down as a family to have dinner; give me your cell number and I will call you back at a time that is most inconvenient for you. Oh and you called me-don’t put me on hold or ask me for my personal information!

Back to morning…

If you have found yourself utilizing my school transportation service, please be ready on time. I shouldn’t have to beep the horn more than once and wake up those who are fortunate enough to sleep in, especially when you know exactly what time this chariot pulls out. Oh, I’m not out there on time you say? Sit on the porch and enjoy the morning dew or engage in a morning meditation. By the way, your kid can fasten his own seatbelt and we don’t need to have a full-blown conversation as if I am not in a hurry to drop off these ‘chillins.  

Alas, we have arrived.

There should be a carpool competency exam. Seriously. How hard is it to pull up to the curb and then pull off? Very, for some. Typically, there are about three people waiting to open car doors and release children parents into seven hours of freedom. On the rare occasion that only one, lonesome school employee is present, parents freak out! What the what? Pull up to the curb and make your kid open his own damn door. You can’t possible expect the poor music teacher to open every door that pulls up, or maybe you do-this we would know if there was a competency exam!

The carpool line is not the time to ask your child’s teacher a question about their behavior, performance or the like. I have sat many mornings, witness to a parent-teacher conference with twenty cars in my rear. Come on people, that’s what email addresses and scheduled appointments are for. If I were a teacher, I would live in the principal’s office because I would be going off on crazy parents all day long! Which brings me to another idea, you should have to take a competency exam before you get your ovaries. When a girl is born, they should come in a box attached to the placenta and the hospital should lock them away until she can prove her ability to birth, nurture and rear a child. Save the drama over ‘what about the boys’, this is my tirade and I will rant how I choose.

Once your child has been ejected from your vehicle and your door closed, PULL OFF! Why the heck are you watching Susie walk into the building? It’s May! The school year is almost over, if Susie doesn’t know how to walk in by herself by now-you both need a competency exam. If for some strange reason you need to watch her walk in, be considerate of those who don’t care about whether their kid skips school or not and park your car.

I could go on and on with more morning rants but after carpool, I head to work and seeing as how I enjoy the spoils of my labor and have no secondary means of supporting myself and my sons, I better stop here.

Here’s to competency exams (raises coffee mug) and school buses.

What The Cotton Pickin’ Hell?

Today I awoke to the anticipating scream “It’s field trip day!” The hot cup of tea, a peace-offering for waking me up on my day of hookie and a token of appreciation for agreeing to chaperone his adventure, kept me from sending the offspring back to sleep. Verbally, of course; I do not resort to physical punishment for such trivial things. Now, had he spilled the hot tea on me…I woulda straight…

I digress.

I arrived at Historic Oakview (listed on the National Register of Historic Places) significantly early and took the time to catch up on some non-required reading. By the time the bus arrived I was oblivious to where we were and what the next few hours would entail. As soon as the fourth graders filed into single file line and marched up the hill, past the goats and horse stable, I was sure what we were in store for.

The first presenter went on for about thirty minutes about life on the farm around 1825. “This is the first building ever built on the land.” We stood in the ancient kitchen and the students made butter from cream, learned about fetching water and practiced doing laundry on a washboard. I remembered my grandmother using a washboard long after the introduction of the washing machine.

I pulled the young woman aside at the end of her message as the students sniffed through the herb garden and politely asked her a few questions about her work on the farm. Then I got to the point. Why isn’t this referred to as a plantation? She replied that plantations needed to have at least twenty slaves and 1000 acres, they only had 900 acres.

If sleeping with 100 men made me a ho, but I only slept with 90, what would I be?

“So you did have slaves?”

“Yes, but just ten.” Before I could reply, I caught the eye of my dependent and decided to drop it. He had already given me a lecture on approved behavior in the presence of his friends.

The second presenter was given the daunting task of delivering a message on cotton picking on the farm around 1860. She gave me an awkwardly forced smile as I entered the gin house and I wondered if the presenters had walkie-talkied each other like Joe Clark in Lean On Me (code black in the orange shirt, I repeat, code black in the orange shirt). “Who wants to be a cotton picker?” My soul shivered at hearing this question and the way the words sounded coming from her mouth. Of the twenty-five students, all minority, one elected not to be a cotton pickin’ cotton picker.

One.

“First I have to tell you about the five B’s to picking cotton.” Back-your back is going to hurt from all the bending. Bugs-mosquitoes, wasps, hornets, beetles, worms, spiders…there are all kinds of bugs in the fields. Burn-it is awfully hot and you are going to get sunburned because you have to spend long hours in the fields. Blood-there are thorns and seeds and hulls that cut your fingers and cause them to bleed and blister. Boring-it is so monotonous doing the same thing over and over again, day in and day out. “So who still wants to pick some cotton for me?”

Am I missing something here? Can I add a few B words to this lecture?

Beat-you are subjected to beatings if you do not comply with your work. Broke-this is not a paid position; you are not applying to be a farm hand but a slave. Bondage-need I say more. Black-look around at the pictures of the people picking the cotton and tell me what they all have in common.

When I tucked Cameron in bed tonight, I asked why he didn’t raise his hand to be a cotton picker.

“Didn’t Lincoln abolish slavery?”

“Yes, but you don’t have to be a slave to pick cotton. You can do whatever you want.”

“Exactly. And I do not want to pick cotton.”