Nine degrees

Yesterday, I got a call from Rita. I hadn’t heard from her since before The Election. The last I knew, she and husband J.L. were finalizing their plans to move up to Yellowknife, in the Canadian Northwest, in the event of a Romney victory. She called me from the Thief River Falls, Minnesota location of one of America’s largest discount Super Stores.

“I didn’t think they’d even have a ____-Mart in Thief River Falls,” I said. Then I thought for a moment as I remembered a conversation I’d had with her a year or two before.

“And speaking of which,” I went on, “why are you shopping there? Didn’t you tell me once that you were boycotting them because of their deplorable disregard for their workers? You know, low pay, no benefits for part timers, charges of racial and gender discrimination, and the big time issues you had with them about their foreign product sourcing, to say nothing of the way their cut rate pricing often undermines small local businesses and ravages communities.”

“Yeah, well,” she said. “That was then.”


“So we were living in Hialeah when I told you that. This is Minnesota and it’s getting cold. J.L and I need long-johns and parkas and mittens. And since we don’t have any money we need all the doorbuster deals we can find. This is the only place we can afford to shop.”

“I see,” I said, “sacrificing principals for material goods? Putting it on the backs of the workers? Do you know,” I told her, “that each one of those stores employs an average of 200 workers, and in terms of unpaid benefits costs the American taxpayer over four hundred thousand dollars per store, and…”

“Oh stuff it, Trop,” she said, suddenly sounding irritated. “I still care about the workers, but it’s going down to nine degrees tonight. That’s a nine without a zero after it for you Floridians – as in NINE FRIGGIN’ DEGREES, Trop.”

“That’s cold all right.”

“You have NO idea. So I don’t need you preaching to me about the American Worker, while you’re poolside at the Intercontinental with a Mai-tai in hand, tapping out your blog, or whatever else you write to make a living.”

“You know I’m not at the Intercontinental.”

“Yeah, I know,” she said, “but you may as well be. You’re not here in Minnesota, and it is friggin’ cold, and I’m pregnant, and Jeffry Louis hasn’t worked in…so long I can’t remember, and the Scion needs tires and Jesus I’m exhausted.”

“I can loan you a few bucks,” I said. “It couldn’t be too much for a set of tires for the Scion.”

Long silence…

“Westhammer, aisle 3.” I head the voice clearly. Then it came again: “Rita…off the cell,ok.”

“Who’s with you Rita,” I asked.

“It’s Jamie, I gotta go.”


“My manager.”

“Oh no, you didn’t.”

“It’s just until after the holidays, Trop. I gotta go…”

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