Welcome to Wal-Mart

May 17, 2007 at 1:30 am (Waxing Nostalgic)

I’m not in the mood to be in public today. Maybe I’ve been ‘out there’ too much lately. I just want to stay home, eat a bag of chocolate and sit in front of my brand new fan.

For those of you unfamiliar with my room, it warms up in late April and doesn’t cool down until mid-November. My old fan gave years of its best service, with a long dust-worm or two blowing out the front like a streamer. Last year I took it out to the yard, disassembled it, and lubed it like I was gonna have my way with it. It worked for a while, but I had to leave it running, or else when I restarted it, it would groan and howl like a dying dog. When I clicked it on this morning,it spun at approximately three RPM, and sounded like an old animal having its hemorrhoids scratched with a cactus. Time to break down and replace it.

I’d priced them recently at Freddy’s, about $20. I could sweat it out until a sale, but screw that! I pay good money to sweat at the gym; I don’t want to have to do that at home. So, with a bit of financial planning, I could pull it off.

It was time to pay rent as well, so might as well do it all at once. The bank was a quick hit. The lunch rush must be at lunch, the bank was empty. In & out, two minutes.

I crossed the parking lot to Wal-Mart, a good two blocks. It’s always like a tweaker anthill, but a few parking spaces were open. Maybe this wouldn’t be the usual twenty minutes in the checkout.

I was almost backed over by a parked car. It pulled up, parked, and sat there. When I walked behind, it suddenly had to back up three feet, and nearly earned a fist-sized dent in its top. I didn’t strike, but blurted an epithet at the unseen driver. Ass-a-hole!

Inside, I said hello to the three geezers manning the door. One offers me a shopping cart. I accept, as it’s the main form of self-defense in stores such as this. It buys me three or four feet of personal space.

My cart shakes like it has Parkinson’s. The right front wheel looks like it’s about to fall off, and it makes a racket. Screw it, I’m not in the mood to meet the greeters again, and this will hurry me up.

I look for an associate. A sales associate. Let’s see, they wear the blue smocks with the fucking smiley faces… There’s one, but she’s a couple of aisles over, heading the opposite direction. If Wal-Mart is the biggest employer in the state, there should be someone around…

There’s one. A gal about twenty. I get about ten feet away, and she takes off toward the front of the store. WTF? Grr… If they’d just label the goddamn aisles, I could find it myself.

There’s three more, in a flock. As I get close, they scatter like roaches when the lights come on. Did I wear my stinky shirt again? This is starting to piss me off.

I’m near the back of the store by now, rattling away, sunglasses hiding the burning glares aimed at anyone in blue. There’s an associate, talking to a yuppie gal with two little boys. They are in one of those carts that are built like a Cadillac, and shaped like a race car. She tells one of the boys, “I’m sorry Hunter. They’re all out. How about if we try another store? Is that okay with you?”

Hunter? My mind begins to roam. Hunter. She’s probably raising him on the Atkin’s Diet. The other one? She’s raising him vegan, and named him Gatherer. Mr Associate finishes answering her question, and starts to scurry off.

“HEY!!” Having had my fill of chasing associates, I start barking, snappish like my white trash brethren. (“‘Me first!”) He whips around, looking disappointed that he didn’t move quickly enough.

“Where can I find a small house fan?”

“Small house fan? Small house fan. Over behind automotive.” Poof! He is gone. At least I have a destination.

Lost amongst the fan belts, microwave ovens and racks of Spanish-labeled Pringles, I spot another associate. He’s not running away, and looks familiar. His hair is gone, and a goatee has replaced the strong chin I remember.

“Is that you, Darrell?”

He looks over. “Oh, hi there, Mister Olde English!!” He remembers me from a long time ago, when he ran a Quickie-Mart and I went in to buy a forty of Olde English. I was a bit pissed off at the time, and had gone around the corner and chugged it. He was impressed when I walked back in five minutes later, requesting my nickel deposit. The bottle was still cold. He mentions it every time he sees me, and he asks after my sister. I think he found her cute. But I digress; it’s hot at home…

I explain what I want. He points, “Three aisles, take a right.” He gets back to work immediately. It must be strict store policy- no chatting with the customers, and no friends
visiting. If you look like you know someone, you might get written up?

I wouldn’t last half a day in that environment.

The fans were right where he said, exactly what I wanted. And in black, not fucking beige! (Freddy’s only had beige.) Now the big question- price.

The boxes weren’t marked, but I found a tag underneath. $9.46! I look again, just to be sure. If I haul the goddamn thing all the way to the front and get charged more than $9.46, attorneys will be involved!

Feeling financially much freer, I go to the best part of Wal-Mart, the candy aisle. It’s time for chocolate, since I’m under budget. I didn’t find my object of desire, fun-sized Snickers Crunchers. (With chocolate milk, to die for!) After scoring a $3 disposable camera, ($2 with coupon,) I am ready to go.

On the way out, I see Darrell. I clap him on the shoulder. “Thanks, Darrell. You’ve redeemed my faith in Wal-Mart! Keep up the good work- you’ll own the place in no time!” He cringed a bit, but smiled and got back to work, or at least put on that appearance.

I made a brief stop for bargains at Albertson’s, which had the Honeywell 800 desk fan, in beige and black, for $14.99. They had fun-size Snickers Crunchers for$3.29. Kinda spendy, but I’m still under budget. A stop at Freddy’s for $2 worth of bread and potato salad, and I’m on my way to hibernation.

Waving a phallically-obnoxious loaf of French bread, carrying three grocery bags and a box full of plastic turbo-fan, my eight-year-old niece lets me into the house. After pinching my loaf, (apologies, I couldn’t resist that line…) she left my bread alone and got curious about the fan.

Immediately, I tore out the dying-dog fan, and deposited it into the hallway, where it can be retired, fixed, or used for target practice.

And now, instead of spending the rest of the day out and about, I’m going to remind myself why I pay to live somewhere. I’ve got a bag of candy, a huge stash of movies, a cool spot to sit, and enough munchies to last until gym time. I need to do laundry, as I might have a hot date tomorrow night. (!)

Until then, I’m gonna be like little Gatherer, and do my best to become a vegetable.

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