I do my level best to avoid Walmart at all times, but it’s insidious. It’s like a cancer upon the landscape. Sometimes you just can’t find what you’re looking for anywhere else. When that happens, I take a deep breath, try to center myself, and head to that debauched temple of crass consumerism to do penance.
My stomach starts to knot up just by entering the parking lot. Hundreds of cars driving slowly back and forth, baaaaack and forth, their drivers already entering the hypnotic zone, yet still ready to get into a fist fight if someone gets to that golden parking space that’s 129 yards from the front entrance instead of 133 yards, like the other 3 spaces they passed by.
As I walk toward the sliding doors that seem to suck you inside like a whale eating krill, I see dozens of people leaving, their carts heaped high with God knows what, plus the ubiquitous trio of screaming children. (I don’t know what aisle they go to to obtain these snotty little urchins, but for some reason that I’ve yet to discern, they seem to be quite popular amongst the dregs of society.)
As each cart-wielding consumer is shot out of the building like an overloaded cannon, in my mind I hear, “Cha CHING!” because Walmart seems to be some sort of automatic money making machine. If every person who leaves has spent 100 dollars, let’s say, that’s, well…a crap load of money. And a lot of these places are open 24 hours. You’d think they’d be able to afford to pay and treat their employees a little better.
But wait, I haven’t even gone inside yet. After running the gauntlet of Girl Scout cookie sales, American Cancer Society fundraisers, and please-will-you-sign-my-petition people, you enter what I like to call the Holy Nave. It’s that little alcove where you get your carts, and nearly get run over by people who are desperately trying to free themselves from the trauma they’ve just experienced.
One time, I swear to you, I walked in and there was a girl shaving her legs in the Nave! Carts were swerving all around her, but no one seemed to be reacting other than that. I was stunned. I don’t know what it is about this place that makes people behave as if they are in their own homes. People have been caught sleeping in Walmart. There are entire web pages dedicated to crazy things people have seen and done (or want to do) at Walmart. One woman was somehow cooking up drugs, and had been doing it all day long before she was caught. I have no idea how THAT had been overlooked, but there you have it.
So, you get past the Nave, and you are assaulted from every angle by mounds and mounds of…stuff. Things you don’t need, never wanted, can’t even imagine a use for. But there they are. Buy me! Buy me! No! Buy ME! And then there’s the mass of people swarming over these mounds like termites on a mission. I try not to look in people’s carts, because it just pisses me off. People who are clearly not financially well off, piling up their carts with useless crap, everything from swimming pool noodles to crunchy onion sticks, being active participants in their own down-troddenness. (That’s a word I didn’t even know existed before today, but it’s apropos.)
I try to get the one thing I came for and get out as quickly as possible, but first I have to detour around the people having their family reunion in the center aisle, avoid the one acquaintance that I was hoping not to see, and then come to a grinding halt in the bottleneck that is known as the check out lane. It’s always about two miles long, and each lane seems to have either a wailing child or a fighting couple, or most likely a couple fighting because their child is wailing. I close my eyes and try to meditate, but I can feel my life force starting to be sucked out of me.
I finally deal with the long-suffering cashier and am grousing in my mind over the fact that I’ve forgotten my environmentally friendly grocery bags yet again, and God forbid Walmart offers you any option other than plastic bags because they’re just that powerful. Now everything seems to be a blur. I just have my eye on the exit.
As I drive away I wonder what type of ritual cleansing I can do to remove the spiritual stink of this experience from my very soul until the next time I am forced to do penance.