Sunday, November 18, 2012
It's Not About The Twinkies
I've heard all sorts of remarks since Friday. Most of them have something to do with the world being okay in the absence of Twinkies, welcome to a less obese America, less incidence of type-2 diabetes, things like that. I can understand how people see Hostess as a company that makes Twinkies and other such treats and their thinking that the world will be just fine in the absence of unnecessary junk food. It's a lot easier to think of Hostess in terms of Twinkies and Ding Dongs and not to think about the 18,000+ people who have lost their jobs.
I started shopping at the Wonder/Hostess Bakery Thriftshop in Provo over 20 years ago. I loved being able to get inexpensive bread, bagels, tortillas and even a few treats. (Remember my chocolate waxy donut obsession? Yeah.)
Over the years I got to know some of the people who worked at the 'Bread Store' (as we call it in our family). Most employees would come and go, but the one constant (minus a few years when she worked in another store location) was Peggy.
Peggy came to know what I would be looking for when I'd come in. She'd let me know when they had something fresher in the back room. She'd say things like, "Did you want wheat tortillas? I think we've got some in back" or "We'll probably get in some more of that bread you like on Monday." She'd ask how my pregnancies were going, how old my babies were getting to be and ask about my plans for the holidays. I'd ask her what she had been up to and thank her for her help, care and concern. Even though we never saw each other outside of the Bread Store, Peggy became a friend over the years - almost like family.
So the first thought I had last Friday after reading the news of Hostess closing its doors for good was what's going to happen to Peggy and everyone else at the Bread Store? I worried that it may have already closed that morning. I had to go and see her, see the store one more time.
I was amazed to see how many cars were there as I drove into the usually empty parking lot. The line wrapped all along the back of the store and people's carts were loaded. I walked to the back office and peeked in. There was Peggy. "Hi there!" she called to me in her usual friendly manner. She walked over and I asked, "How are you doing?" She told me that for now she was just staying busy. It was still such a shock to her that the place where she had worked for 26 years would abruptly be closing its doors. There were other regular customers there to say goodbye, so I wished her good luck and grabbed a couple loaves of bread and a box of chocolate Zingers (I bypassed the Twinkies and do not regret it) to purchase before leaving.
I could not stop thinking about my friends at the Bread Store for the rest of the day. Saturday morning I had to go back. I wasn't sure how to compensate for the loss I felt - it didn't seem rational to be so distraught over someone I only saw every couple of weeks when I'd go to buy bread. But it makes sense, really - 20 years of seeing someone that often, someone who took the time to ask how I was doing, someone who watched my family grow, how could I not feel sad about losing that small connection? I brought my camera.
Again, I walked to the back office and saw Peggy. I asked her if I could take her picture. She agreed, but only if I was in the photo with her.
"This is like losing members of my family," she said, giving me a hug. And then, as if validating her words, there was a constant stream of others who came bearing well-wishes. The people who knew Peggy like I did. The ones who came to say goodbye. The ones she knew well enough to say things like, "We've still got some fruitcake! It's right over here".
Or, "You missed out on the Twinkies, they were gone by noon yesterday".
I gave her another hug, wished her all the best, and walked to my car. "I'd say see you later, but I guess I won't. You take care!" she called after me.
That's why for me this is not about Twinkies. It's about people who are suddenly looking for a new job. It's about mothers and sisters and uncles and grandpas who find themselves in the unemployment line just in time for the holidays. It's about losing people who, in a simple and kind of crazy way, became like family.
It's about 18,000+ real people with real lives. Like Peggy.