Welfare Check

Illustration for article titled Welfare Check

How glad I am that that absolute heckscape known as 2020 is finally over! Whew! I don’t care if the year made the greatest novelty New Year’s eyeglasses of my lifetime! 2020? More like two-oh-two-NO! (No offense intended to anyone who had a great 2020.)

Yes, your old pal Jean survived 2020! And the five years before that, too, it should go without saying. Apparently there were a few Jeanketeers who were wondering what I’ve been doing since Trump was elected, or if anyone had even checked on me. Thanks for asking, I think? Frankly, I’m a little surprised that you don’t already know from my steady string of “A Room Of Jean’s Own” columns that I’ve been alive and kicking this whole time. Am I to infer that you overlooked such modern-classic Teas-tales as “Choco-LATE For Work Again,” “Just Try To Tear Me Away From My Fidget Spinner,” “Jean Ranks The Shades Of Pink,” and “Can You Dia-Beat That?” Then again, I don’t often get The Onion sent to me in the mail—in fact, I’m having a hard time even remembering the last time I saw a print copy—so I can’t say with complete certainty that all of these columns got published. No worries! As long as the kill-fee checks arrive in the mailbox, this gal ain’t complaining!

Speaking of checks, how about that stimulus moolah? Never thought I’d see the day when the government paid us pennies on the dollar to stay home during a pandemic! Maybe some of you consider it no more than a welfare check, but I choose to see it as well-deserved partial compensation for my selfless efforts to invigorate our local economy. Not to get all political (yecch!), but think of all the glitter lip balm and scented candle buys that would have collected dust on the store shelves if not for me. I don’t impulse shop as much these days because the Walmart is over an hour away from us (RIP Shopko Hometown, which will always be Pamida in my heart!). Plus, Hubby Rick warned me if I so much as I lay an eye on the Pioneer Woman aisle, he’ll drive off without me and I’ll catch the “China virus” on the Uber trip home. (Yes, he’s still an epic grouch, and yes, sheesh-o-rama! And no, he hasn’t died—another question Jeanketeers ask too (??).)

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It was pretty scary when we couldn’t pay our rent for a couple months. Eventually, even cars and trucks in a pandemic cry out for new tires, and Hubby Rick eventually went back to work at the tire center, company-mandated mask and all. (Boy, did he grumble about that!)

Jeanwhile, I was still grinding away at the Riverside Indoor Flea Market for my pal Fulgencio’s thrift-find stall ¡Basura Fabuloso! when the lockdowns began and the place closed. Of course it was horrifying, but can I also admit that I was a little relieved? Things were getting a little hot under the collar because Fulgencio was still cross at me about that big shipment of old, unsold Ben Franklin store stock that disappeared on my watch, or lack of watch, just days before. I figured, what was the harm of letting a few packed boxes sit out overnight in front of the locked stalls? The wheel of our hand truck was sticking, and I refuse to bend at the waist after 2 p.m. It’s a rule I have! Besides, every story I had heard about stuff being stolen from the flea market involved shoplifting by customers, and besides besides, who would swipe a whole case of 45-year-old pantyhose still in their original packaging, T-shirt iron-ons, and hairdo tape? Turns out, somebody! But when the flea market reopened in June, Fulgencio was so pleased and he never said anything when I showed up for work as usual. Whoo-hoo!

Everyone else working at the flea market is happy to be back, the ones who returned, that is. The milk-paint furniture stall? Gone. The booth that only sold license plates and iron doorstops? Gone. But the lady that sells fudge and that gritty Turkish delight is still around. (It would probably take, like, triple coronavirus wrapped in two tornadoes to get rid of her!) For all their relief, the vendors agree that despite the re-open, the customers seem grouchier too. It must be from all the stress we’ve been feeling. Still, nothing prepared me for this encounter with a real-life Karen lady!

I know, the smart Alecs and Alexises among you are asking, “But Jean, aren’t you a Karen lady?” Wash out your mouth with soap! (Preferably from my flea market bestie Jane’s goat’s-milk soap booth—she said if I mentioned it, she’d give me a nail brush!) Oh, I know all about the Karen ladies. But anyone who truly knows Jean Teasdale sees that I’m not an aggressive and confrontational sort. I guarantee you that if anyone ends up in defensive tears at the customer service counter, it’s me! And I always leave the manager-speaking-to to Hubby Rick. Now that I think about it, Rick doesn’t get much of anywhere either. Sure, he once got a free pizza delivered to our door by that pizzeria manager, but it also came with a punch in the eye. Not sure what Rick said to him on the phone to get that shiner, but it must have been a lulu!

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Anyway, there I was, minding my (well, Fulgencio’s) business, when this lady kind of sauntered into the stall and glared at me. I said, “Hi, can I help you?” in my perkiest voice, and instead of perking back, she says, “Shouldn’t someone clean that up?”

I didn’t know what she was referring to, and when I asked what it was, and she snorted and said “You don’t know? I almost fell on my heinie [I apologize for the vulgarity—Jean]. That violates health codes.”

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Before I could react, she added. “Someone could sue. Would you like to get sued?” I was stunned. No, I would not like to get sued! I was lucky enough to keep my job after that stolen boxes incident! Trembling a little, I craned my neck over the stall. After some scanning, I spotted a kind of pinkish-greenish smear on the floor that looked like frosting or spackle or something. When I took a closer look, I noticed that it was a big lump of Turkish delight! I guess someone disliked the taste of it and just dropped it on the floor. (That happens once in a while.)

“Clean that up,” she barked. I gulped. “I’m truly sorry about that,” I replied, flustered. “I’ll go get the custodian.” “What’s wrong with you doing it?” she demanded without a pause. “You’re right here. Take care of it yourself.”

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I balked a little. “That stuff is not from my stall, and I’d really rather not,” I said. That’s when she asked me for a phone number to call whoever oversees the whole flea market. Yes, she wanted to speak to the manager! Well, I kind of froze. I don’t know what it is about these Karen ladies, but they’re so fearsome and commanding! I was hypnotized. Her face was all stone. For a split second, it seemed to turn into my mother’s face. (And of course all this time, several of my fellow stall operators are looking on, totally frozen, not saying a word or getting involved, including the Turkish delight lady!)

Somehow through the panic, I remembered that there was a mop and bucket in the customer bathroom a few yards away. I bolted over there, hauled out the mop and bucket and the caution sign shaped like a little kid, and started swabbing furiously at the goo. Unfortunately, the water in the bucket was already gray and dirty, and I was just making a bigger mess. I know this, because I heard the Karen lady say “You’re just making a bigger mess.” I told her I’d go get some cleaner, but I didn’t see any in the bathroom, so I just jerked some hand soap into my hand, ran back to the mess, and squeezed it onto the floor. Well, I don’t need to go into more detail. Except that I was so determined to mop that mess clean that I didn’t notice her walk away. Boy, is it hard to breathe out of a mask when you’re hyperventilating. But ends up I left her at a loss for words. Pretty unique for a Karen lady situation! As far as I know, she never spoke to the manager. I think his name is Jeff. (I will find out for the next column.)

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Incidentally, I didn’t pick up on it until later that the Karen lady wasn’t wearing a mask. It’s flea-market policy, and I always feel sheepish asking someone to put one on. I know some people go off on how it violates their rights, but in truth, I’m the least political person in the world. Start talking about that stuff to me, and I can’t guarantee I won’t loudly chant “MmmBop,” my go-to unwanted-thought-expelling happy tune. But some hazards are hard for us essential flea-market workers to avoid!

Anyway, let’s all wish for a better 2021! Hopefully they will develop a vaccine for grouchiness, too—some people could really use it!

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