One can only hope to experience the wealth of writing material available at their local Wal-Mart. I’m not talking about paper and pencils, but the people present, the customers and staff. The benefit of writing opinion is the freedom to express reality… striving to find humor in all situations. Because of limited memory, I’ll carry a notepad or send myself an e-mail via smart phone. I write as I see it. It may not be proper but it’s usually honest.
Wal-Mart is a modern melting pot, the Ellis Island of our time, the equalizer of America. Who you are outside of Wal-Mart means little once you cross the store’s threshold.
Under a Wal-Mart’s roof, you find the squeaky clean and the hygiene challenged. You see chubby people, skinny people and those in the middle of the curve. You see people with means and people without, the fortunate and the less fortunate. There are customers and staff who are gifted, talented and driven, as well as lazy, disaffected and ridiculously ignorant. Some may be handicapped, some healthy and some sick.
I speak from experience. Not only in East Windsor and Westfield, MA, but in the Midwest as well, in Sam’s Clubs, Super Centers and garden-variety Wal-Marts, bargains bring disparate members of society together.
We all choose, or not choose, to shop at Wal-Mart. Some boycott Wal-Mart because of corporate domination, others shop due to the affinity for and the necessity of lower-priced items.
A Wal-Mart on a late Friday evening is, at worst, a wonderfully unique experience. I have witnessed entire families shopping with tired, cranky pajama-clad children in tow. Upon walking in, I am greeted by a sign. Their trademarked yellow happy face sports a hand-drawn, permanent marker mustache.
An oblivious mother is reading a receipt while her 7-year-old lies face down on a shopping cart. His feet were dangling out of the rear and his head was hanging out of the front. Since his hair was longer than mine, I anticipated a hair-stuck-in-wheel fiasco. He seemed more interested in the wad of gum stuck under the cart.
A loving grandmother wears a faded Green Bay Packers sweatshirt. Her grandchild enjoys a bag of Fruity Pebbles and a Capri Sun juice box.
Teenaged girls, with their unflattering Revlon hair, parade in with midriff shirts and tight, low-waist jeans. They don’t seem to notice, or care, that their clothing is a few sizes too small. Stomachs, butts and arms jiggle, constrained by unflattering fabric.
The ladies working at the deli counter openly complain about their lack of breaks and the insensitivity of a superior. Just-finished customer horror stories linger above their heads, along with the distinct and unpleasant aroma of fried foods.
A woman stands in line reading The National Enquirer while eating popcorn chicken.
A man wearing slippers is repairing his car in the parking lot. His dedication is admirable. His plumber’s crack is an added bonus.
There’s a woman driving an electric shopping cart. Her oxygen tank is wedged on her lap, her front basket filled with Hungry Man dinners and a Hallmark sympathy card.
A broken jar of applesauce generates interest among unsupervised children. The aisle is riddled with miscreants, delinquents and possibly a future felon or two, with not a parent in sight.
The retired, fixed-income woman appears to be shopping for her habitually unemployed 40-something son. He eagerly adds items to the cart, much like a young child. His mother is visibly weathered by his endless demands.
A woman stands, refusing to abandon the hairstyle of her youth. Hair tightly pulled back…one ringlet on each side. In back were two hollow rolls of pinned hair. She is proud of her appearance; fresh make-up and clean clothing.
“Good Monkeys are Hard to Find, but Bad Monkeys are hard to Resist!” read her sweatshirt. What a rebel.
In the spacious automotive department, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” echoes through out the store. Out of respect, I look busy until the song is over.
The restroom reeks of a colon explosion. The scent of almost expended air fresheners linger. It’s enough to make you gag. Or go blind. I quickly retreat before the next unfortunate visitor believes I'm responsible.
After picking up a few items, I sprinted to the shortest line. In front of me stood a healthy gal in a faded Harley-Davidson hoodie. She argued with the cashier regarding the price of her two purchases; 30 pieces of identical, out-of-season candy and a vacuum-sealed pickle. I smile to myself, imagining this happy bargain hunter eating her latest purchase in an idling Ford Festiva.
Sometimes, the local police department occupies an office near the vending machines and “The Claw.”
The bright fluorescent lighting makes everything look standard and bland, homogenized and domestic. Yet, the clothing is made in China and the produce grows in South America.
I occasionally shop at Wal-Mart and I am one of the characters mentioned above. Wal-Mart has colorful shoppers with their own agendas, their own issues.
With the uncertainty of our economy, most count their pennies and say their prayers. If that means shopping in their pajamas or driving matching “his” and “her” motor carts, the sacrifice is visible, but understandable.
Where else can you find convenience, culture and humor, matched with everyday low prices?
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