Saturday, February 23, 2008

New portal in service

Greetings to all my fellow Antique Iowans! As I begin my term as your new Chairman, I want to once again thank you for the honor of representing our group. And I offer heartfelt gratitude to the outgoing Chairman, Mr. Hiram Shedd, for helping the transition go forward with no bumps. I promise to continue his fine work in representing us before Wal-Mart, our common employer.

I will be getting to know all of you in the coming weeks. So, for now, I will just provide a few descriptive facts about myself and my time with Wal-Mart. Even though I am the youngest Chairman ever chosen by our group (a mere stripling, some still think), my birth date is the earliest on record. I was recruited by Wal-Mart at the Muscatine docks in early May of 1871. I was five months shy of eighteen at the time. Too young for employment, you observe? Yes, but not after inflating my age to nineteen on the application form. I don't advocate flimflam; but embellishing one's years was considered salesmanship – even viewed as a sign of gumption – by my generation, a generation chasing the gaudy future that beckoned after the Civil War. Now in my twenties and a proven full-time cashier on the express line, I trust that I may be excused for this harmless bluff that launched my career.

As far as I can ascertain, I have the distinction of being the last Antique Iowan ever recruited. If one can believe corporate gossip, Wal-Mart attempted an even earlier Iowa recruitment; but this was halted when recruiters inadvertently bumped into Abraham Lincoln, who was passing through Council Bluffs in 1859 to examine land that a Chicago attorney had pledged as collateral for a loan. This brush with temporal-historical disaster must have touched off an eruption of hysteria in the Wal-Mart boardroom. This much we know for sure: the Vice President for Retrospective Recruitment was summoned back to Bentonville and given the boot.

To avoid further dangers of tangling up time in bewildering paradoxes, Wal-Mart cancelled U.S. historical recruitment altogether. We all remember the outcome. Predictably, as the pool of entry-level workers declined year by year, hourly wages rose to compensate. This was cheered by us but abominated in the boardroom. Last summer things boiled over. Ignoring Wal-Mart's protests, the government commenced securing the border with Mexico in earnest, and immigration was choked off. Wal-Mart reacted decisively: historical recruitment would be resumed, but it had to be safe. History professors at the University of Colorado were showered with research grants to identify the least consequential people in the previous two millenia. The answer came back: the early Visigoths – that is, savage Teutonic hordes at the periphery of the Roman Empire, centuries before the sack of Rome. Wal-Mart hired some Visigothic language instructors, retooled its time portal, and last September turned the spigot on full blast.

The new time portal is shown in the photograph adorning the top of this newsletter. It is a fine and stately thing, much to be preferred over the cramped and somewhat intestinal time tube that conveyed all of us Antique Iowans to modern times. There is even, to my eyes, a suggestion of a steamboat's pilot-house in the architecture of the new portal's four towers. You may be puzzled about the strings of bright red globes in front of the portal. You ask, what can these balls signify? Are they part of the time travel mechanism? Do they warn of danger? Enough suspense – I will tell you. These red balls were added to mark off the boundaries of the arrival area after it was discovered that the Visigoths could not make sense of conventional signs. Placards with arrows were just so much geometric gibberish to them.

This communication problem was discovered during the first Roman Empire recruiting cycle, when several Visigoth youths wandered off into the neighboring condominiums. A yappy terrier was bisected by a broadsword, straining community relations. Wal-Mart's fix was to hand out cards with red polka dots before every time trip and instruct the Visigoths to congregate amidst similar red balls upon arrival. Problem solved. No more havoc in the condominiums and no more terrier reparations demanded of Wal-Mart.

On a personal note, I must confess to having more than a cool, professional interest in our new Visigoth workers. I have recently become engaged to a Visigoth maiden named Fredegund, a statuesque beauty with golden braids, who is employed as a greeting card stacker at my southeast Denver Wal-Mart Supercenter. She is a splendid old-fashioned girl – who can skin a squirrel in the blink of an eye – refreshingly unlike the 21st century gals, who are suited more for exhibition than household use.

Of course, one must be totally certain of one's resolve before attempting Visigoth matrimony. Visigoths adhere to strict principles. Jilting a Visigoth woman is a capital offense. Infidelity is a capital offense. Divorce, likewise. Actually, among the more conservative Visigoths, almost any transgression is a capital offense: displaying bad table manners, sneezing without asking Woden's blessing, failing to smartly hoist your tankard of mead when the chieftain makes a toast, and so forth. Fortunately, being raised in Iowa society of the 1850s and 1860s gave me a leg up in adapting to Visigoth culture. Visigoths, in many respects, are just Baptists with battle axes. Still, I had some nervous moments during my initial courtship with Miss Fredegund as we were being chaperoned by her cousin Sigeric son of Amalaric, who sat next to us on the couch and passed the time by dandling a war hammer on his knee. Sigeric (or "Siggy" as he is known by his buddies) is in line to be the assistant manager of the Home and Garden center of my Wal-Mart. He enjoys the work, and the proximity to hatchets and other useful implements is a comfort to him. Shoplifting has ceased to be a concern.

I will close this newletter with best wishes and our new slogan: "It's the 21st century. Let's make the best of it."