So I’d like to preface this by saying that I haven’t always hated Wal-Mart. When I was nine and living down south, I loved the store! We had a ‘Super Wal-Mart’ and it’s even where my parents bought their groceries, got my hair cut and rented movies. It was 24 hours a day, and sometimes my night-shift working father would roll in there at 3am. He’d come home with cat food, Charlotte Hornets Ice Cream (vanilla with turquoise and purple chips), frozen waffles and motor oil. He claimed his was never the strangest cart he’d seen.
Hell, Wal-Mart even sponsored a coloring contest through their pharmacy WHICH I WON at the tender age of nine. The day I picked up my 20.00 gift card I spent it: on arts and crafts, a ‘Woman’s Day’ magazine for my mom and Flintstones vitamins. The latter were kept under lock and key by my paranoid mother thanks to a scary incident concerning a three year old me, an emptied bottle of consumed smurf vitamins and a call to poison control.
So when I moved back to New England in 8th grade I actually missed Wal-Mart (or maybe I just missed breakfasts consisting of Charlotte Hornets ice cream atop frozen waffles with chocolate syrup?). After about a decade, the Walton family expanded their empire to include us cold, northern brethren and they began popping up.
But it wasn’t the same.
In Virginia (where we had lived), everyone had shopped at Wal-Mart. On Sundays after church the aisles were full of families buying steaks and tires; Doritos and a fish tank (and fish!); 40lb bags of ‘Ol Roy dog food and an Easter Lily. I could go on.
In New England, Wal-Mart seemed to bring out the
redneck worst in everyone. At the opening of a local one, people rushed the entrance and a woman got trampled (not to death, but still…). On Thanksgiving Day, a former coworker camped out with a turkey sandwich at 1pm, so she could get a plasma screen TV for 99.99 when they opened their doors ELEVEN HOURS LATER. On another Black Friday someone fired shots in the air out of frustration. Like this was the Wild West (or that scene with Keanu Reeves in Point Break)!
When a brand new construction site unveiled their red bullseye logo a few years later it was like a beacon of hope and civility. I vowed to never enter another big blue box (unless I needed a bumper sticker of Calvin peeing on something or a Joel Osteen book).
“Where did you send it?” I asked the front desk lady at Rosie’s doctor amid her banshee shrieks.
“Wal-Mart,” she said flatly. She must’ve noticed my recoil so she
shamed explained, “I didn’t think you’d want to take your sick baby three towns over when we’ve got a perfectly good pharmacy less than a mile away.”
“Fine.” I grumbled. It wasn’t like Rosie had the plague; she had thrush (which is just about as gross-it’s a yeast infection… In your mouth!). Still, my baby was uncomfortable, and this was my first outing alone since having her via csection 3 weeks earlier.
I took my time on that mile long drive, hoping that when I waddled up to the pharmacy counter I could get the drugs and leave.
What I encountered upon arrival was anything but ease. Senior citizens in varying degrees of mobility milled about. Some were shopping, others sipped paper cups of coffee from the in-store Subway. One lady was arguing with a surly pharmacy technician about the cost of her medications. A large sign above the desk boasted ‘Free Generic Refills’ and this walking drugstore herself wanted to know why she couldn’t get her scrips gratis.
“Because they’re not generics,” the tech growled.
“Then just give me something that is,” the junkie bargained.
And so it went. About ten minutes into their interlude Rosie woke up and realized we weren’t in the safe confines of home and began to scrrrrreeeeeeaaaaam. I shushed and I rocked her, but soon she became inconsolable. I heard the word ‘next’ and i advanced to the counter.
I was blessed to get the surly tech, now even more angry after her interaction with her previous customer. I repeated my name and she checked her pile of pickups. Nothing. I asked for her to look again at the orders not yet filled while I called the doctors office. She returned with her hands up and the machine at their practice announced that they were on lunch.
“I’m sorry ma’am. I’m going to have to help the next person in line.”
By this point I am almost in tears (hormones). As I am wheeling away, this old broad with grim reaper hands reaches in the cart and into the carrier to stroke Rosie’s red cheek.
“She’s too young to be out like this,” the woman scolded in a sweet, grandmotherly voice. It took all I had not to push her down.
It was then I discovered that if I pushed the cart really fast Rosie quieted down. On my many trips around the store, I found myself encountering some strange sights;
Panties that look like daisy dukes
Patriotic silly shirts for men
(He went back to buy this)
And such great rollbacks! Go easy Wal-Mart, don’t give it away!!!
After nearly an hour of speed walking I got ahold of my doctor and the scrip was ready fifteen minutes later. As I left the store, exhausted and sore a greeter politely wished for me to come back soon. Just as politely and without much thought I replied,
“No thank you.” Which we all know means: