So I found myself ending 2014 with a trip to Walmart. We needed some stuff, and Walmart has stuff. So I went to Walmart to get the stuff.
Now, I didn’t need much stuff, and the crowds at Walmart were unusually small, so my trip to and through Walmart was going off better than expected. See, I hate Walmart. I hate shopping at Walmart. I hate spending time in Walmart. I hate checking out at Walmart with one of two checkers available on most given dates and times and waiting in line at Walmart for 7 times longer than necessary. When I am in Walmart, my dislike for my fellow humanity reaches near-Biblical proportions. The wrath that fills my soul as I am cut off and run into by the carts of other shoppers makes me, for a brief moment, realize the kind of hatred that could have led Cain to kill his brother. This is what Walmart makes me become.
When shopping at Walmart, I always have my headphones on. I listen to music. I listen to music and pretend that I am not really at Walmart, but that I am performing on a grand stage in front of tens-of-thousands of screaming fans — fans who just happen to be wearing pajamas and have their 6 screaming toddlers with them.
I had gone to Walmart the previous week, and had a typical Walmart experience. As I pushed my cart full of over-expensive groceries (which were still 20% less than any other store in town, which is why I shop there) out to my car, a small boy with his smaller sister worked their way out of the store in front of me. The boy had his hand on his little sister’s head and he seemed to steer her. He would turn her head one way, and she would walk that way. He would turn her head another way and she would walk that way. Cute, right? Yeah, that’s what I thought, until they actually got outside the store.
When the brother and sister approached their minivan, the little girl, sliding across the snow-packed parking lot, exclaimed, “It’s f*@#ing slippery out here!” This small child couldn’t have been more than eight. “And it’s f*@#ing cold,” retorted her probably about 11-year-old brother.
Lovely. The parent or guardian of these kids was still checking out with her two carts of government subsidized groceries, so the kids were apparently comfortable talking like drunken sailors in the Walmart parking lot. None of my business. It doesn’t take a village, it takes decent parents, which these kids apparently didn’t have.
So the boy opens the back of the minivan and the thing is packed with foul-mouthed, white-trash, EBT-fed children. “Close the f*@#ing door, it’s G@%#$mned cold out there. What, do you have s#!t for brains?” The little girl climbs in through the back of the van. “F*@k you, a$$#@le”, yells the boy as he slams the back hatch behind his sister. He then goes to the side door to get in himself, but the pack of prepubescent condom-leakage inside the van has locked him out. He erupts in a tirade of expletives as I quickly load the rest of my groceries into the back of my car. I push my empty cart to a cart corral (something I’m sure the mother of the debris inside the minivan will not do; she will leave her two carts along side her van for he next person who parks in her spot to deal with, because that’s the sort of person she is) and walk back to my car. As I’m getting into my car, I notice a father and his little girl, hand-in-hand, walking behind the minivan with the boy, now bouncing on the back bumper, screaming “f-this” and “f-that”. The father picks up his little girl and speed walks past the rocking minivan. I can take no more. I get back out of my car.
“Hey!” I yell at the kid. He doesn’t seem to realize I’m yelling at him, as he continues to drop f-bombs directed at the spawn inside the van. I yell again, louder, “Hey, kid on the minivan, watch your mouth!”
He stops bouncing and jumps down from the bumper, looking at me. I’m in full-on rage mode, ready to fly across the parking lot and grab this little piece of garbage by the front of his shirt as soon as he gets mouthy with me. “What?” is all he says. He looks shocked.
“You’re big enough to use that kind of language, but you’re not big enough to realize when it’s not right to use that kind of language? There was a little girl behind you just now, and I’m sure she and her dad didn’t appreciate you talking like that. You need to watch your mouth!”
The kid is slinking along the side of the minivan as I’m scolding him, and the locked door has magically unlocked. As he’s sliding up into the van, he mutters, “Sorry.” He looked like he was going to cry. I should have felt triumphant, but I felt sad. I wanted to kick that kid’s parents in the groins more than I have ever wanted to… well… kick anyone in the groin. I honestly don’t think the kid realized that he was doing wrong, and that is the fault of his parents… or parent… whatever. Walmart draws this kind of drama like stinky poo attracts flies.
So, anywho, I’ve got that last trip to Walmart on my mind as I’m strolling through my adoring fans while they listen to my truly brilliant falsetto on “Payphone”. The trip is quick, and before you know it, I find one of the two available checkers ready to help me.
I leave my headphones on, but I mute the music so I can partake in any silly small talk the checker throws my way. I don’t recognize her. She must be new.
“Did you find everything, Hon,” she asks in the too-familiar manner of a truck stop waitress or a convenience store clerk.
“Yeah, I’m good,” I say.
The checker is young, probably early twenties, but she looks like she has some miles on her. Her dirty-blonde hair is back in a pony tail, which exposes her cheeks and their hint of acne scars. She isn’t an unattractive young lady, but she has that I-smoke-three-packs-a-day kind of look… and it rasps in her voice as well. The checker next door is a young guy, probably about the same age as my checker, and, seeing as he doesn’t have anyone to ring up, he comes over to
flirt with my checker help bag my stuff.
Now, I’m loading my stuff from the cart to the conveyor, not really listening to the small talk going on between the two checkers. I finish unloading my cart and catch the end of whatever they were talking about.
“You would never do anything like that, you’re too nice of a guy,” says my checker to the boy bagging my stuff. “I can’t imagine you doing anything bad.”
“Well, there was that one time I smoked,” said bag boy. “Remember, I told you about that.”
“Yeah, but that was just once, right?” asked my checker.
“Yeah, it was actually just one drag,” said bag boy.
“Don’t say ‘drag’,” said my checker. “People will think you smoked weed.”
“Mighta been weed,” smiled bag boy.
“No, you’re too nice of a guy to smoke weed,” said my checker. “Me, on the other hand, you name a drug and I bet I’ve done it.”
Suddenly, the girls appearance starts to make a little sense. She has been through some rough stuff.
“Meth?” asks bag boy.
“Yep, I did meth,” says my checker. “At one point, I was down to ninety pounds.”
“Wow,” says bag boy. “Is that why you were such a good stripper, because you were so skinny.”
“No,” replies my checker, “I was a good stripper because I had good upper and lower body strength. You have to have strong arms and legs to be a good stripper.”
My stuff bagged, my purchase paid, I left the two of them discussing meth addition and the ways of the stripper. You could have shoved a softball in my open mouth, I’m sure, because every guy knows that the real secret to any good stripper involves tight buns and… wow… did I just really hear that conversation?
I know some folks who work at Walmart who have worked there an awfully long time. They have risen through the ranks and are making pretty decent bank and they like their jobs. I don’t feel sorry for them. Most folks who work at Walmart, I feel sorry for. I think, “You could do so much more with your life than work at Walmart. There has to be more out there for you than this.” I don’t think I will feel this way again… ever.
I used to think of Walmart as the kind of place where people fell at the bottom of their career. I now realize that Walmart, for some people, may actually be a way to a better life. Who would have ever thought that Walmart would be the kind of place where a drug-addled stripper could begin to turn her life around? I wouldn’t have, if not for the conversation to which I was exposed.
God bless Walmart… but I still hate it…