For about 15 years now, I’ve used Microsoft Money to keep track of my checkbook, bills, etc. It satisfies the OCD in me to keep such meticulously detailed financial records. In Bill Pay I have a weekly gasoline purchase scheduled, and about 6 or 7 years ago, I set the average purchase at $12.00. I’ve since watched the actual amount paid go up and up, topping out at about $38.00 a couple of months ago, yet for some odd reason (especially in light of said OCD tendencies), I’ve never adjusted that average up from the old amount. Today I paid $14.00 to fill up my car, the first of many stops I made on my venture out to the local shops to purchase some necessary items.
In addition to being a bit OCD, I also have an aversion to Sundays. The whole day just strikes me as sad and depressing – it always has – and since shopping can be therapeutic, I save up my “fun” shopping for Sunday mornings. And by fun, I mean Wal-Mart – the best people watching place under one roof. It’s vital to get out there in the morning as opposed to the afternoon, when everyone else seems to go, and it’s even more important to time the trip to our local shops area (which I refer to as The Liberty Triangle because it’s like a soul-sucking vortex of consumerism) to be completed prior to 12:15, when the local Baptist Mega-Church lets out and hundreds of newly cleansed souls drive directly into the Triangle Area for lunch and shopping, causing traffic jams and general mayhem. I believe a recent church experience makes many of these Baptists feel invincible, and their driving reflects it.
Money’s tight these days and it’s evident even at WalMart. Instead of the usual hum and thrum of excited shoppers spending money aimlessly and happily, there was a palpable air of desperation today. Shoppers were grim-faced, peering at their lists of items, and steering ever-so-carefully down the aisles. A shopper stops in front of a needed item, prices are scrupulously checked. A selection is made, the item is carefully placed in the cart, and a sigh is brought forth after mentally recalculating the total dollar amount of the cart. Even the children, usually hyperactive and driven into a frenzy by the bounty of cheap goods from China, were subdued and well-behaved.
I was doing my own careful perusal of prices, mindful of the precarious state of the industry that currently provides me a living wage. In addition to my usual Sunday cheerlessness, I was feeling somewhat anxious and fretful and it seemed that everything I needed wasn’t quite available in the form or brand I required. I’d decided that I needed a little more color in my wardrobe, (as opposed to the black that currently permeates it – never mind that I look fabulous in black) and what I really wanted was a red turtleneck sweater. Not a ribbed sweater, mind you. My cleavage is a little too ample and the ribs tend to go all wavy instead of maintaining their perfectly upright vertical line on me. Not a good look. And it couldn’t be candy cane stripe red either; that primary shade of red is too perky and optimistic and seems to require a cheerfulness I don’t normally possess. What I really wanted was a deep, Cabernet red – wine red if you will – that didn’t require a smile as an accessory.
Like I said, what I really wanted and desired today was not going to avail itself to me. The reds available during the holiday season are of the primary color palatte only, especially if you’re shopping at WalMart, so I paid for my few belongings and headed to the car.
Time seems to expand inside WalMart. Two hours seems like one and before you know it, it’s way past the time when a safe escape from the Triangle on a Sunday morning can be made. Snapping out of my fugue state I started the car and headed out of the parking lot only to discover, to my horror, that The Baptists Had Already Invaded The Area and they were speeding down the main thoroughfare I needed to be on in order to make my escapt home. All the other cars also needing to make their escape were darting out during any semi-reasonable break in the flow and the entire process seemed to reek of recklessness and desperation: all of us non-churchgoing, wallet-clutching sinners in our lower-middle class cars insinuating ourselves amongst the shiny Cadillacs and Hummers of the mega-church elite. The haves versus the have nots. Our economy depicted in this traffic war. I resist the urge to stick my tongue out at the driver of the Hummer I pull out in front of – practically daring him to hit me.
I wonder if he’s also happy about the newly reduced price of gas. I decide he probably is.