Immigrant’s Postcard: “Open to Close”

A series on my experiences as an immigrant to Canada

On my way back from a job interview, I wait for my bus to return home. Direction-challenged, I wonder if the stop is the right one for me. In a while, a short, curly-haired black lady arrives. She is wearing black goggles and greets me with a broad smile. I seize the opportunity and ask her if the bus I am waiting for will take me to the desired place. She confirms it will. A little later, she chirps,

“It’s going to rain!”

“It does look like that,” I say, coiling my hands inside the jacket’s pockets.

“But we can’t complain, can we,” she says with a thick accent, adding, “after all, God gave us a brilliant summer this year.”

I nod.

She points her fingers up and says, “That guy up there, he is very smart, you know. If he wanted, there would be blackout this very instant. So we got to respect his judgment.”

I continue nodding with a wan smile. Silence joins us soon.

Not for too long. The lady looks at me chirps again, “You going for work!”

It’s past lunch time. “No, I am going home!” I say with some emphasis.

She laughs and says, “You look so good, I thought you goin’ to work.” I feel a bit uncomfortable and notice, for the first time, her long, yellowed nails.

After learning that I am still looking for work, she has much to tell me.

“This is a bad time for new people to come in. There are no jobs,” she warns. I nod and try to maintain a neutral face.

“I’ll tell you what to do,” she reassures me and continues, “when you get on the bus, I will show you a new store they are constructing. You should apply there.”

This is followed by an insider’s lowdown. How they “don’t pay too well, only the minimum wages,” but how that is better than not having anything.

The bus comes, and my bus-stop friend takes the seat next to mine. True to her word, she points out to me the under-construction Wal-art.

“They have all kinds of shift–early morning, afternoon, all-night. So when you fill in your shift preferences, choose ‘open to close’. That way they will know you are really interested.”

People around us are looking at me; I am beginning to get annoyed, but keep up a smiling face. And the nods.

“And if at all they don’t take you for the counter, you can also opt for stocking. That means putting things on the shelves. Ya gotta take whatever comes your way,” my friend continues. I take in all the suggestions with total silence and utmost seriousness.

A few minutes later, we both get down at the same stop.

The chirping lady just says, “Well, good luck. Bye.”

I thank her quietly and say a little prayer for all of those like her–surviving on minimum wages, but not short of concern and hands-on tips for a new immigrant.

Occupy your city can wait. Occupy Wal-art first. Where it’s “Always Low Prices.” Of the employees even.



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