3-12-2004 The Wal-mart 500

"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to first annual Wilkes-Barre Wal-mart 500. What a field we have for you. Starting aisle 3, Hazel O'Callahan. Hazel is a four time junior champion, and is known for her famous last second swoop and grab of the last three sets of plastic coat hangers at three for a dollar. In aisle 5, it's point's leader, Wanda Czykiewicz. Wanda is a threat to win it all every year and has big wins this year at Scranton and Allentown. And in aisle 7, it's Big Earl Coniglio. Earl has been making steady progress this season after finally learning how to shop like a woman. Man, I'm so excited I have goose bumps.

"The starter is taking his position. Here's the first announcement. **Plastic plants, 4 for a buck, aisle 17.** And they're off.

"And it's Hazel out in front, with Wanda close behind, and three cart lengths back is Big Earl. Around the $5.49 video rack they go dogging and weaving. Oh, my! Hazel just T-boned a baby carriage that suddenly emerged from the diaper aisle. She has spun out of control into the toddler rack, but seems unhurt. Wanda steams ahead with Big Earl gaining ground. Hazel is back up and underway. **Plungers, $0.69, aisle 4.** Hazel puts on the breaks and slides off back towards aisle 4, parting company with the pack. I'm not sure if the strategy will work fans-it's awfully early to be leaving the pack.

"Big Earl is only a cart length back folks, and closing fast. Wanda darts in front of him. Oh, Earl slams his cart into the back of Wanda's legs, and somehow she recovers. That's a move that Big Earl never would have made a year ago, but no more mister nice guy. And, it's Wanda first to the Plastic Plants. One, two, three, four and she is off, just as Earl hits the cart. **Clip on Reading Lamps, $1.99, aisle 8.**

"And Hazel swoops and comes out with a plunger. What a fluid move, she barely has to slow down folks. This isn't just any rookie folks. She tears down aisle 4 and hangs a hard left back towards aisle 8.

"Meanwhile Big Earl has caught up to Wanda. They are wheel to wheel as they pass aisle 13. **Bicycle Locks, $2.99, aisle 23.** Oh folks, a terrible announcement. Our contestants will literally have to criss-cross the entire store. Another swoop and grab by Hazel in aisle 8 and she has her Clip Light and is on her way. Earl and Wanda round the corner in aisle 4 with Big Earl a half-a-cart ahead. He hits the cart and grabs the plunger with Wanda close behind. They are side by side, wheel to wheel, what a duel.

"Hazel hangs a right up aisle 17 and using her famous swoop and grab she hits the Plastic Plants. Oh my!!! She dropped one on the floor!! She comes to a screeching halt and circles back to pick up the stray flower-the one that got away. Never have I seen this folks-it has to be a first. The swoop and grab actually faltered.

"Big Earl and Wanda are now at aisle 8, wheel to wheel. Wanda slams her cart into Big Earl; he swerves into the Toaster Ovens sending them flying and emerges from the mess. Wait, what's this? His front left wheel. Yes, it's wheel wobble. Look at that wheel go. Wanda the crafty old veteran has damaged his cart! What a move! Wanda dives into the Clip Lights and is on her way. She has to cross the entire store. Earl hit the Clip Lights, but you can see the frustration on his face. He is now at least seven cart lengths back!

"Heading into aisle 23 is Hazel. It appears she chose the right strategy early on. It was a good move by the rookie. Wanda is close by, but can she get there in time? Hazel heads down aisle 23, but will she try the swoop and grab? No, she slows down using a more conventional approach. Here comes Wanda, with Big Earl a few cart lengths back. Hazel has the Bike Lock and steams past Wanda. Big Earl is trying to block her. Left, right, left, she dodges back right just in time and glances off Big Earl. Wanda has her lock, and circles back as Big Earl hit the Lock cart.

"Hazel has clear sailing. Wow!! Look out!! She narrowly avoids a stock boy with a flatbed. Two in one race folks, but she handled that second one like a pro. Wanda closes in, but at the tape it's Hazel with the first big win of her career, followed by Wanda and Big Earl. Wow, what a race folks. You won't see that every day!! Let's go live to Dave who is standing by with the out of breath victor, Hazel. Dave.

"Yeah, Tony, I'm here with Hazel. Hazel, you must have thought your chances were not good after the baby carriage incident.

"Yeah, Dave. I couldn't believe it. Who would have thought a baby carriage that early in the race? But when that second announcement came out I had to hope I could get a better progression through the store, and as luck would have it, that's just what happened.

"Well, great race Hazel and congratulations on your first tour win. Back to you Tony.

"Thanks Dave. Well fans that's all from Wilkes-Barre. Wait, folks! We understand that Big Earl if filing a grievance against Wanda for forcing him into the Toaster Ovens. Well, folks stay tuned to this one. We'll see you next week from Philly!!"

It could happen. It would make one hell of a reality TV show.

Todd, Skrep, and the two Steves need to get it together. All the promises of working together have disappeared rather rapidly. I think that Todd is taking the lead and walking the talk. Skrep seems to have that deer caught in the headlights look. I think that the scrutiny of his hiring decisions has blindsided him. I like Steve Flood as a fiscal watchdog. We need a guy like that in charge of the money, and his questioning of everything should not be seen as complaining. It should be seen as what it is-a highlighting of each and every penny that flows through the courthouse. If folks want to think that is complaining, okay! But they should also be aware of the fact that Flood will at least do his job to the letter of the law, even if it exposes some painfully stupid spending or decisions. The other Steve-I really see no use for him. He continues to badger, yell, and announce his own defeat. I think it is time to get some new blood in there that will work with Todd and Skrep-someone that will ADD VALUE rather than adding Newspaper Headlines. How many times do we have to hear that he is the minority and can't do anything? Perhaps if he spent more time in discussions with his co-workers, brainstorming and generating ideas, he could add value. He might have some great, creative ideas. The sad thing is that we may never know.

Grade? How do you grade someone on 60 days? That isn't even a fiscal quarter. Can they both get an "E" for effort? Who knows? What I see is that things are changing and every day we are one step closer to something better. There are rumors of more businesses coming downtown. It looks like the parade will be a success and that measures are being taken to ensure a better parade for next year. Wow! There is something we haven't seen in eight years. Planning for the future.

I see street sweepers out. I see pothole (remember whole) crews. I think that this is just the start. Everyone-take a breath. In, out. In, out. Slowly. Be at peace. Calm down. It won't happen overnight. It took eight years to spiral down. Relax. Mistakes will be made. But not the million dollar blunders of the past. Friends will be hired. Not good, but give them a chance. In, out. Breathe. Relax. There. Feel better?

Keep the Faith. Thanks to your Sprawl-mart pal that gave me the idea for my insane post.
Private Sector Dude.