CALAIS – She said she’s sassy and loves to flirt, and at 92 years old, Esther Darling is the darling of Wal-Mart.
She has worked at the store for the past 10 years.
“I can’t die because I haven’t been to Hong Kong yet,” she said during a recent interview.
Store manager Charlie Bradford drew a chuckle from Darling when asked if she was his oldest employee. “She’s my most mature employee,” he said.
Darling has a sparkle in her eyes that looks like a thousand points of light. And she has a laugh that is absolutely infectious.
When Wal-Mart opened its store on South Street a decade ago, Darling applied. She was hired over much younger candidates.
“I sold myself. That’s how you get anything. You show enthusiasm,” she said. “They hire you.”
An admitted flirt, Darling’s eyes danced as she recalled those interviews with store staff. “We used to flirt in our days, we were not risque, we were flirters, but that’s as far as it went,” she said. “Wink at somebody and keep on going.” She confessed she flirted with the Wal-Mart staffer who had interviewed her.
She works three days a week as the fitting room attendant. She is one of four. “I’m not any more important than any of them,” she said.
Born in Milltown, New Brunswick, she has two children. She entered the work force in her 50s.
Stylish in her dress, Darling has a philosophy about looking good. “If you dress up and stand on the side of the road, traffic stops for you, a semi will stop for you,” she said matter-of-factly. “Same way if you go in a store and your hands are covered with diamonds. You get better service than if you hadn’t any rings on.”
But if you go into Wal-Mart and ask her opinion, be prepared to get the truth. Darling tells it like it is.
“If she [a customer] has broad stripes on and she weighs 300 pounds, I am not going to tell her she looks good in it,” Darling said. “Would you?”
And customers go looking for her. She said that one time she was elsewhere in the store when a woman went into the dressing room to try on some clothes. When the woman came out, Darling was back at her post, so the woman went back into the dressing room put the clothes on again and asked Darling what she thought.
Although most men and women her age have retired, Darling explained why she continues to work.
“I love to squander money,” she said. “I like to buy things mostly for other people, I do.” She said she also likes to use her money to help people. “Spending it makes me happy. I’m a saver, too.”
Darling said Wal-Mart has been a great place to work, and she has repeat customers.
“A lot of people come and say, ‘Where’s [Esther] Darling? I can’t shop unless she’s here.’ That’s a lot of baloney, but maybe I had helped [them] with something,” she said.
Darling has an opinion about almost everything, including her favorite actor, Robert Redford.
“I saw him in a movie the other day, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, he’s handsome,'” she said. “He’s almost 60, no, 70, he’s 68. He’s no right to get that old.”
Several years ago she had her picture taken with James Garner. “Tom Cruise doesn’t appeal to me,” she added.
A conservationalist and environmentalist, she supports several national organizations that help the world’s ecosystem.
On Oct. 4 eight years from now, Darling will celebrate her 100th birthday. She said she didn’t know if she would still be at Wal-Mart.
“I may be in Austria,” she said with a smile.