Customers at a Washington Township, New Jersey Wal-Mart store heard a voice come over the public address system and say "Attention Wal-Mart customers - all black people leave the store now."
I spent three years working in various retail outlets around NYC, including two supermarkets and a gift store. Now I won't compare my retail experience to digging up mines in Fallujah, but one thing's for certain:
Crazy sh*t happens inside stores.
I once saw a co-worker threaten to kill a customer after a charge of homophobia. The customer was a total jerk, but he did have a point: after all, my former colleague "J" did call that guy a "motherf*cking faggot."
And not only did "J" not lose his job, he got the rest of the night off! I should have been calling all the customers "motherf*cking faggots," even the old ladies!
I've seen co-workers get very drunk and/or high on the job, sometimes after having sex in the basement.
I've seen those same folks eating pints of Ben & Jerry's right in the frozen-food aisle, putting the half-eaten containers right back on the shelf.
I've also seen employees sneak expensive items into customers' shopping carts to inflate their shopping bills.
I've seen a famous actress try to negotiate the price of a cup of coffee.
I've been hit in the head with a turkey sandwich.
I've been called a fascist.
I've been asked to follow black people around the store.
I've been sprayed with stinky sewage.
I was once told by a manager that she was "disgusted by people with AIDS."
I've been sexually propositioned by old ladies.
And sometimes their husbands.
They may have been your grandparents.
And so on. And so on.
The point is, crazy things happen inside of stores. I don't excuse bigotry. But what happened at the Wal-Mart was more of a prank by a bored employee or mischievous customer than a sign of institutional racism. PA systems were simply designed from the ground up for making trouble:
The suspect is still at large, but I'm thinking it was a politically moderate 25-to-30 year-old man who likes the Colbert Report and was into Borat before Borat was big. If we see a 60 year-old guy in a white hood on the news as a result of this story, I'd be shocked.
But what is really driving me batty is the fact that this story is diverting attention from the real Wal-Mart news - that it fired a man for using legally-prescribed medical marijuana:
Joseph Casias, who was once named an "Associate of the Year" by Wal-Mart's Battle Creek, MI store, has been canned for using medical marijuana. Casias suffers from an inoperable brain tumor and sinus cancer.
According to law, Wal-Mart can fire an employee for failing a drug test - even in the case of those using medical marijuana.
This is the real story we should be talking about.
This guy isn't a junkie scoring smack in the Wal-Mart bathroom. He's a hard-working man with serious health problems, and he still wants to work.
Wal-Mart even objected to Casias receiving unemployment benefits before later changing its mind.
How f*cked up can you be Wal-Mart? You throw a top employee out on his butt for using medical marijuana to relieve the pain cause by his cancer - and then you try to take away his unemployment checks?
The whole situation reminds me of a quote from Clerks:
"What's your encore? Do you, like, anally rape my mother while pouring sugar in my gas tank?"My mother went through several bouts with leukemia, and I spent a good deal of my 20's inside Sloan Kettering hospital. I've seen a lot of people in serious pain - so much pain that they can barely talk, eat, or sleep without the use of painkillers. And that includes toddlers, the elderly, and everyone in between.
If they want a joint, let's give them one. Leave the judging to higher powers.
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