It’s a brave new world

With Ken gone to Chicago for a weekend of beer guzzling and air show veiwing with his eldest son, I rummaged through the sale fliers and percent off mailers that arrived at my house this week:  15% off at Kohl’s, $5.00 off at PetSmart, $5.00 off at the hardware store.  List in hand, I walked out the door at 10am into a sweltering, humidity-soaked August morning, jumped in my car and pointed it in the direction of what I have come to call The Black Hole of Shopping.   These days it’s almost impossible to tell one suburban enclave from the next because of their idential shopping areas which feature a few large box-shaped stores that sell everything you need, surrounded by smaller stores that specialize in things like shoes and hair care products and scapbooking supplies.  The smaller specialty stores are, themselves, surrounded by fast food joints and chain restaurants like Chili’s and Applebee’s.   If you were parachuted out of an airplane and landed in one of these black holes, you’d be hard-pressed to tell which part of the country you’d landed in.  “Hmmm, there’s a Home Depot next to a Michael’s – I could be Texas.  Or maybe this is Cincinatti…” 

After completing the errands to use up my coupons, there were still a few items I needed, so I headed for the mother of all big box stores, Walmart.  Like them or not, everybody eventually ends up at Walmart.  Yes, they’re responsible for the demise of many local businesses, and they’ve been sued for unfair labor practices worldwide.  But where else can the public go to quench their insatiable appetite for cheap goods imported from China?   And where else but Walmart can a person buy both a gallon of ice cream, and a trampoline?  You just can’t beat cheap variety like that, my friends.

It’s usually not my intention to hit Walmart at noon on a Saturday.  I like to get there around 9am, before the dregs of human society have awakened from their long night of boozing and fighting and stumble to the Wally World to replenish their supply of Pampers and Budweiser.  But I must admit, a busy Walmart is a fascinating study of people – the crippled, the maimed, the morbidly obese; those with all their teeth and those with only a couple; tired mothers with unruly children, and teenaged boys zombied out in front of the gaming displays.    And everywhere there is the clatter of shopping carts, because it is a rule that every Walmart shopping cart must have at least one wobbly, gimpy wheel that will make it seem as if you’re pushing your cart down a cobblestone street.  I’ve found the rattle affects my brain in a way that causes me to pick up and consider purchasing objects I have no use for and would normally have no interest in – ceramic figurines shaped like toadstools, or enormous wall clocks set in elaborate wrought-iron designs. 

Today’s gathering of afternoon shoppers were what I’d come to expect.  I passed one particularly strange looking female whose face looked as if she’d been in one too many bar fights.  Sure enough, I heard her mutter to her companion as I passed by “The next time I see that whore, I’m gonna kick..her..ass”, the threat uttered in a voice that sounded like a marinade of cigarettes and Wild Turkey.  She looked like she’d probably win, too.   Then there was the young couple who were arguing over the relative merits of various toothpastes – she in a too-tight shirt that displayed her ample body in a most unflattering way, he in a dirty tshirt and ballcap (worn backwards, of course).  “I told you not to buy that Colgate shit.   I gotta have the Crest cause it don’t hurt my teeth so much.”    Adding to this symphony of down-home, rural Missouri vernacular was a chorus of wailing children, and parents threatening to give them “a good whuppin’ when we get home if you don’t shut the hell up now.”   A voice on the loudspeaker droned out a list of items with newly rolled-back prices, the volume so low I wondered if it was actually some kind of subliminal advertising to “buy more, buy more.” 

The cart clattered ceaselessly, slowly driving me mad as I pushed through the throngs of poorly dressed amd gramatically-challenged citizens, my final goal in sight:   The check-out line.

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18 Responses to “It’s a brave new world”


  1. 1 Deb August 18, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    Oy, I hate shopping! I actually do avoid mal-wart, partially from an ethical standpoint and partially to save the few bits of sanity I have left.

    If it can only be gotten at mal-wart, I’ll do without. Your story made me shudder. I lived next door to a mal-wart for 3 years, actually facing the parking lot for 1 of those, and I think it damaged something inside me.

    For some reason, it reminds me of mister peace’s post about clowns. That kind of damage!

    Yikes! Clown damage! I do not like clowns. I buddied up with a gal when our kids were in HS soccer (the only other soccer mom I could actually stand to be around), but things changed a bit for me when I found out she clowned in her spare time. I never had the nerve to tell her how much they freak me out.

  2. 2 Bella August 19, 2007 at 12:32 am

    OB, I do believe that you have caught Walmart in all of its essence! My gawd, what a description, you really brought me to “that hole” that I fondly refer to as “WalFart”

    Every time I pull in, I say “Ugh, this hole!” funny, I keep going back though. Can’t beat those 2 cent roll backs.

    I think that can get away with the whole “price roll back” because 98% of their customers didn’t go past a 1st grade education – they do not realize they are only saving 4 cents on their entire purchase!

    “pushing your cart down a cobblestone street” — I just sat he lol at your description!

    Thank you. From one Walmart shopper to another, you made my night and I needed to laugh! You are truly awesome!

    Bella – Love it hate it, Walmart has an irresistable magnetism. A friend of mine often says that the act of simply pulling into the WM parking lots causes the song from Deliverance to play in her head! Thanks for the kudos – you made MY day.

  3. 3 pradapixie August 19, 2007 at 4:34 am

    eeeuuhhh yuck, the whole description made me shudder. We have Asda, owned by Wal-mart and to be avoided at all costs.
    We also have the delights of a couple of better supermarkets that almost make food shopping a pleasure, well at least for me, even if i do have to drive to the next town to do it!
    px

    The grocery section of WM is the worst (or best) for people viewing. The produce looks like sad and wilted, like it was trucked in 2 weeks ago and has never been touched, or that is has been pawed through and abandoned in favor of the canned versions!

  4. 4 V- August 19, 2007 at 7:16 am

    You’re cracking me up! Troy and I had to make a trip to Wally world a couple of weeks ago at time when I was really conscience of practice non-judgment – let me tell you it was a test! I told Troy when we got back to the car that I had never seen so many oxygen tanks in my life. I was in a hurry (never go to Wal-Mart in a hurry) and every aisle I turned down was blocked by one of those electric ride-on grocery carts with an obscenely obese person, who’s lap hung over the seat so far that you couldn’t see the floor, toting their tanks and filling their cart with Little Debbie Swiss Rolls. Yep, it was a test. One I did not pass with flying colors. I guess Wal-Mart brings out the worst in everyone.

    LMAO! I tried but failed to write a paragraph just like that yesterday. You captured a part of the Walmart “experience” that cannot go unsaid! I’m still smoking and had to get cigarettes so I got in the line with the cashier that stands right there next to the cartons. In front of me was a lady on an electric cart (emphysema?) buying smokes. Then 2 more people came tooling up on their scooters and got in line behind me. V, just fucking shoot me if it ever comes to that..

  5. 5 Simonne August 19, 2007 at 8:01 am

    Om my goodness!! This is all rather surreal! I keep hearing about Walmart on American TV shows etc but this, THIS has fianlly given me a clearer vision! Sounds suspiciously like our K-mart!

    Very much like Kmart! They went head to head here in the US until Walmart basically kicked KMart’s ass. Walmart is a much bigger version of Kmart, complete with grocery store, auto maintenance, photo developing and pharmaceuticals (in addition to all the other crap one could ever possibly want and need).

  6. 6 Anthony North August 19, 2007 at 10:30 am

    I think the point is, OB, it isn’t just anywhere in America. It’s fast becoming anywhere in the world. We’re beginning to live in a world of sameness, with diversity a thing of the past.
    Only problem is, nature – evolution even – needs diversity to survive. I can’t help thinking the more we become the same, the more we will stand still.

    Some say we’re in a state of de-evolution. The globalization of everything is disturbing, isn’t it? I think nature will act to right itself eventually, but it will take a very long time. In the meantime, the homogenization of society spins out of control, determined to make the places we live, the music we listen to, the TV shows we watch, and the consumer goods we consume the same for everyone. Great comment Anthony!

  7. 7 ss August 19, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    So I’m new to the blogging world, and I’ve been secretly observing the cirlce of godesses. I’ve been following the posts and getting to know each of you through your writing. I do not currently have a blog, but I am contemplating the idea of starting one soon. First of all, hats off to you ladies and the ideolgies you all, or I suppose, WE all seem to share. I think you each have a wonderful style of writing, and I couldn’t hold it in any longer, I just wanted to say to all of the godesses out there-YOU GO GIRLS!

    Wow! Thanks for the comments and welcome to the community! Since you’ve been reading awhile, you know how welcoming we are; we try to maintain a positive and supportive atmosphere around here and loooooove other bloggers. Let us know when (or if) you set up shop and we’ll come over for a visit!

  8. 8 anonymum August 20, 2007 at 5:20 am

    so now i have a vision of walmart in my mind that will never leave!! never having seen one i always wondered..now i wonder no more…
    i nearly choked with laughter reading this..a mouthful of (hot)tea ended up running out of my nose 😆

    Yes, it’s quite a place! EVERYBODY goes to Walmart – rich and poor alike. It’s the great equalizer of shopping.

  9. 9 poseidonsmuse August 20, 2007 at 9:41 am

    OB…Wow…! Brilliantly written post by the way. I love your satirical humour…[clapping hands!]. Your writing ability really shined in this post. You know…I watched the video – “Walmart, the High Cost of Low Prices”

    http://www.walmartmovie.com/

    and was utterly appalled at Walmart’s practices. I thought the movie was sensationalism (being the realist I am, I don’t like making assumptions until I get all the facts), until I brought the DVD to the front desk of the local video store. Poor guy (older gent) at the counter said “this is an excellent movie – I used to work there and this is exactly how they treat their staff…”

    He had a little time (video store was relatively quiet) to talk to me about his experience working there…I actually felt quite bad for him (he’s happier at his new job). I went home, watched the movie and haven’t set foot in a Walmart since (that was about 1.5 years ago). The human element of the movie really hit home with me.

    But, I am still guilty of visiting Box Store Hell, and I am sure that some of the business practices of these stores might even rival that of Walmarts (so I certainly can’t preach about my shopping ethics). With that said – good observation on the homogenization of shopping culture and the satirical observation of society in general. Places like this certainly breed a new breed of human …should be call them “Walmartians” or something like that!?

    Great post OB!

    Thanks! I did see the Walmart documentary; they certainly are a bad store. I try to go to Target for stuff, but decided on WM Saturday – sometimes the car just points itself in that direction! Besides, it’s a great sociological study. You just can’t get that kind of people variety at Target. There is a new musical (played at Fringefest in Minneapolis) called Walmartopia – where society has degenerated into a dystopian world where Walmart runs everything. I’ve been saying for years that that’s bound to happen. Walmartians – ha! That’s a good description!

  10. 10 joebec August 20, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    i seriously HATE (and by hate i mean love) walmart! and i’m so jealous that yours sells beer! mine don’t sell beer. freakin ripoff! i’m writing my congressman right now!

    We here in the great state of Missouri can buy not only beer at the Walmarts and grocery stores, but (brace yourself, it’s good) HARD LIQUOR. That’s right, you can get a fifth of Jack D AND pick up some tater tots at the same time! We’re serious about our booze here.

  11. 11 prisonmike August 20, 2007 at 1:13 pm

    I remember (maybe you do too) a store that out Whisky Tango’d Wal Mart by an order of magnitude.
    It was called Wild Woody’s – situated at the corner of I-70 and Noland Rd. Their logo was a huge pink pig with the placard “A Hog for Bargains” beneath.
    Wild Woody’s, when I started going there as a lad w/ my grandparents, didn’t even have concrete floors. Dirt baby! All merchandise was displayed in steel stock watering tanks in a system that defined the word random. A stocktank full of panties right next to a stocktank full of hammers right next to a stocktank full of venetian blinds, etc. My grandparents bought everything possible at WW’s including the aluminum siding for their house (pink, natch).
    For some reason, when I reached the age of reason (driver’s license), I still found myself going to WW’s occasionally. Now that it’s been gone 20+ years, I feel a small sense of loss. The crowd at WW’s was comprised mostly of carnival folk, trailer park types, and future COPS episode participants.
    Misty … watercolored … memories. Dammit! I told myself I wasn’t going to cry…

    My granddad (being the borderline bottom-dweller that he was) also went to Wild Woody’s (and a better name has never been invented than THAT, my friend) on a regular basis. He lived in the Belton ghetto, close to his brother, my uncle Harvey, who was a folk artist among folk artists. And when I saw folk artist I mean he collected junk and assembled it in his front yard and called it art. Harvey was also on the frequent shopper plan at Wild Woody’s. I remember fondly the last trip I made there with the family…my first cousin was visiting us from Florida and she showed me all the best shoplifting tricks right there at the Double W. I know whatcha mean, bro – memories.
    “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”

  12. 12 joebec August 20, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    i’m feelin the sudden need to arrange a visit…

    Yeah, it’s useless to deny that urge ya know.

  13. 13 Paul Baylay August 20, 2007 at 5:39 pm

    And you wonder why the whole world wants to visit the US… forget the Grand Canyon and all that jazz (unless they stick a Walmart there).. its about buying all that stuff you can also buy at home but it feels better when its all under one roof.

    Walmart did try to invade Germany but couldn’t get over the wall..

    Man, now THAT is a real shame! I’m surprised the Walton family hasn’t arranged some kind of retail coup on Germany though – imagine being able to buy your cranberry juice & vodka while you wait for the grease monkeys to lube your car! It’s just a little slice of heaven, Paul.

  14. 14 writerchick August 20, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    You cwack me up – and do you shop at my WalMart? I had no idea we were neighbors.

    About the most I can handle of these types of stores is KMart or Big Lots and only every once in a while. You’ll never see me at Home Depot, WalMart, Costco or any of the others. It just destroys my faith in my fellow man. Too depressing.

    WC

    I’m strangely drawn to the dark side of humankind…(evil laughs ripple out of my mouth) That’s how I know things can always be worse!

  15. 15 purefnevyl August 20, 2007 at 8:37 pm

    You hit on the highlights of the Great American Wal-Mart shopping experience. Although I am perplexed why you did not go into the best part of Wal-Mart Shopping. THE CHECKOUT. They make it so damned frustrating in dealing with some mentally challenged inbred hillbilly douchebag that is manning one of the three open registers among the 467 fucking available registers that you are forced to the god forsaken self checkout. Where every single freakin’ item either refuses to scan or spits out a grossly inflated price. Finally the damn contraption refuses to total your items and forces you to wait for the head moron, known as a CSM, to come and scratch their head/ass, who can tell the damned difference, and clear the damn thing.

    BTW, How can I help you today? 😉

    Ah, the checkout. That could be a whole post in itself! Scroll up to see my response to V’s comment about the check-out. However (considering I’ve had the exact same kind of things happen that you describe) that particular day, some kind of God-given miracle occurred and the whole process went pretty smoothly. The checkout is actually a choice between two Walmart evils: the underpaid “cashier”, and the somewhat better educated self-checkout machine.

  16. 16 Red August 20, 2007 at 9:24 pm

    I havent stepped foot in a WalMart in over 4 years .. I wonder why …

    Damn girl, I admire you fortitude! The miser in me simply cannot resist saving a couple of cents on a gallon jug of hearty burgandy wine…

  17. 17 ~m August 20, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    My wife must read this. I’ll send her the link tonight.
    Talk about connection.
    I never venture to Walmart simply because of the many unsavory characters you mentioned. You nailed them to a tee {should have been a tree}
    Yoiks!
    Great post . . .
    ~m

    Thanks! As I mentioned earlier, I’m strangely attracted to the dark side…

  18. 18 Pam August 21, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Michael was right–this post was hysterical and so true! Every time I shop there,I ask myself “What the hell am I doing here?” I usually answer myself too which is really scary.
    I can’t help but chuckle when you ask someone where they purchased a particular item and they respond by saying”I got it at Wallmarts!”Oh my God-I just can’t stand it.

    Oh hell yes! It’s not “official” unless you say Walmarts. At least that’s what a lot of the folks around here call it. Thanks for the visit! And come back soon, y’all!


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