Across the Great Divide
Spazz gets hands-on with the super-wealthy
by Todd Smith
A wealthy woman came into the garden center where I work. It was early December, and she was shopping for evergreens, wreaths, garland and treetops with which to decorate her mansion for the holidays. Upon arrival, the woman played a game of retail fetch with my coworkers. She would point at an item, tell the staff how many she wanted and they’d scurry over and load it up for her. At the checkout counter, the woman griped about the cost while fishing around in her Hermés Birkin bag. Then she pulled out her black American Express card and snapped, “I would like all of this delivered right now.”
The woman filled out a sheet with her address and wrote out a detailed description of where she wanted certain things to be placed. Then she privately gave the manager the security code to her front gate. Within minutes of her departure, boss-man gave me the delivery sheet and security code and told me to load it up and take it out. All of our work trucks were in use that day save for a battered 1980s Ford Econoline van, the kind commonly used by punk bands and rapists. The creeper van had no side windows, no heat, no hubcaps and one windshield wiper. It was blue, but some working-class genius had decided to paint the roof white in an attempt to reflect the sun.
I loaded up “Big Blue” and drove over to the woman’s house in a Twin Cities enclave of unimaginable wealth. I punched the security code into the system, and to my horror the gate wouldn’t open. I tried three more times and the gate was still locked. Through steel bars, I could see flags that the woman set out to mark where she wanted things placed. I buzzed the intercom but no one answered. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a low dip in the far side of the steel fence. I knew what I had to do. Summoning every ounce of gumption I had, I gently tossed the product over the dip in the fence.
Before I scaled it, though, I paused to take stock of my situation: I was a bearded white male in his late 30s, clad in soiled work gear who rolled up in a van with no hubcaps and was about to break into one of the most expensive private residences in the Twin Cities all in an effort to please Cruella de Ville and not get my ass fired three weeks before Christmas. Good times. I’m more of a lummox than a lemur, and it took me forever to get over the fence. When I reached the top, the cuff of my pants got stuck around a point, holding me there for several minutes like a fat, Carhart -clad piñata. My pants eventually ripped and I thudded to the ground, brushed myself off and took a moment to look at the palatial surroundings.
We’ve all heard and read about our country’s great wealth divide. Rarely, though, do you actually see it. But there I stood, peeking behind the curtain in a super-rich version of the Land Of Oz: there were multiple stone patios, a tennis court, a pool, a pond, a putting green and a garage filled with six cars. And this wasn’t the woman’s only house: She had property in Florida and Europe, and a summer cabin up north. Looking over this 15,000-square-foot castle, I
thought, How much of the pie does one family of four really need while so many of us are searching for crumbs?
I got to work hauling the décor to the designated drop-o_ points, and on my last trip, I heard a side door open. I braced for the worst but was greeted by four older Hispanic women. One woman with a kind smile stepped forward and said, “You…have…code?” She pointed to the front gate. “No, I don’t,” I said laughing. They stared at me in silence. Then the woman said it again, “You…have…code?”
I wondered if these women felt like they were locked in the home that I had been locked out of. Using a good amount of clumsy pantomime, I conveyed to the women that I had climbed the fence to get in and that I would happily help them climb out. they stood, stone-faced,
and watched me climb back over the fence. As I drove off , I could see them retreating back into the titanic home. When I got back to the store, boss-man asked me how the delivery went.
“Perfect,” I said. “Not a hitch.”