L33T - And Other Words Of All Kinds

Good Advice
By L33T

The summer before I went away to college I got a job running a fireworks stand through a family friend. The hour-long drive to and from home every day didn't thrill me, but it was the best job offer I had at the time. My only other option was cleaning up the parking lot at the local Wal-Mart Supercenter for minimum wage. I went to the interview, but as soon as I saw the New Employee Training Room, I could tell that something was a tad odd. It was a large whitewashed room with computer consoles lining every wall. Each of the terminals was occupied by a head-phoned individual basking mindlessly in the soft glow of customer service and Wal-Mart history lessons. The first and only term that came to mind at that point was "brainwashed." I could just picture myself coming home after a few days of training.

"So," my father would say, "how was work today?"

“Samuel Walton built up the first Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Arkansas on May 9, 1950,” I would reply dreamily, as if discussing some long lost lover.

"Great," I could hear the sarcastic tone of my mother saying. "But do you have to wear your work uniform to the dinner table?"

"As a representative of Wal-Mart, I must always be ready to serve, mother."

My fear of becoming one of the mindless drones in Wal-Mart's arsenal was further solidified in the interview. The interviewer was a fifty-and-some-odd-years-old woman named Mallory (Knox, I believe). Recently released from an all-woman's prison in upstate Louisiana, Mallory was now a part of Wal-Mart's renowned Convict-Reform program and regarded the corporate giant as her own personal savior, Jesus Christ.

"There are just so many opportunities here," she cooed, her tar-stained teeth dimmed an even dirtier shade of green by the mellow lighting.

By mellow, of course, I mean lighting for the purpose of dazing first-timers into a sense of submission. The stupefying of interviewees makes it extremely easy to hire them onto a low-paying, thankless job. Needless to say, I felt myself being sucked into the mindless void that Mallory's every word served to create. Terms and phrases such as "torturous work" and "no room for advancement" seemed to pass straight through me, leaving me completely unaffected. By the time she was finished with her entrancing spiel, I was practically begging to sign on the dotted line. I was completely prepared to sell my entire soul to Wal-Mart for a measly $5.25 an hour with no benefits or sick-leave. Mallory smiled widely, as if to say, "Another one bites the dust." She informed me at this juncture that I had to pass a drug test before I could be allowed into "the family."

"It's no big deal," she said when she saw the disappointed look on my face. "Tomorrow morning, just go over to the drug-testing unit at around eight o'clock, get tested, and we'll have you all signed up by noon."

I nodded so emphatically I still suffer from the whiplash at times. Mallory put together the forms and handed them to me like they were some all-important, world-affecting documents.

"Now, remember," she said in her thick southern drawl, "you only have twenty four hours to be tested. After that time, Wal-Mart can't hire you for an entire year."

I smiled and shook her hand, fighting the urge to hug her like she was a surrogate mother who I'd never see again. As I walked out to the parking lot, protecting the drug forms from the light drizzle, the trance slowly began to wear off. A terrible fear slowly overtook my mind. What had I just done? Was I insane? If I went through with the drug test, I would end up being de-programmed, my mind reconstructed as yet another zombie in the Wal-Mart arsenal. I stood next to my car trembling with indecision. The effects of the mental serum called Mallory, while fading, still had a good grip on my subconscious. Looking down at the papers in my hand, my mind battled against itself over what to do. Finally, with a burst of energy, I threw the papers onto the wet, puddle-ridden ground, hopped into the car, threw it into gear and sped away as fast as I could, as if the papers were some demonic entity that would give chase, trying to consume my very soul.

That night, when I explained the whole thing to my father, he sat very quietly, nodding his head now and then in deep, contemplative thought. When I finally finished my tale of deception and personal redemption, he said something I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

"So... We don't get a discount at Wal-Mart?"

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