Friday, December 17, 2004

Always a Bad Experience. Always.

If the Church is the heart of a community, then Wal-Mart is definitely the asshole. I’ve visited this mockery of an institution entirely too many times in the last couple of weeks, and each trip has brought me more and more disheartening realizations regarding this “super-store,” if anyone can truly be comfortable calling it that.

First off, let me just say that I prefer Target. I walk in that place and I’m immediately hit with a warm gust of store air that smells like clean linen and freshly baked cinnamon rolls. The orange carts are easy to control, and red-clad servants are waiting around every corner to cater to each and every customer’s beckon call. Furthermore, these servant-people all resemble attractive celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Freddy Prinze, Jr., and all of them speak in proper English accents. Most wear tuxedos. The floors are white enough to make Celine Dion jealous. Attendants at the checkout and customer service desks have their faces surgically repaired to be constantly smiling, and they are given small doses of ecstasy to insure blissful customer satisfaction. Their products are desirable, the fellow shoppers have all of their teeth, and the atmosphere as a whole could be likened to that of a very mild New Years Eve gathering in which you have only invited family and close friends.

However, Wal-Mart is like a giant Mardi-Gras celebration whose participants can’t afford beads, wear only clothing bearing the images of Looney Tune characters, and live exclusively in trailers. It’s also about 9 times the size of Target, and feels more like a flea market than a house of retail goods. Navigating through that place is like gallivanting aimlessly through the fruit markets of Agrabah. I’m always scared I’m going to take a wrong turn in “housewares” and end up just south of the New Jersey Turnpike. To take a deep breath is to inhale sweat, soil, and poverty. To use the public restrooms is to contract ringworm and syphilis. To control a shopping cart is to be Jesus Christ himself, because only the power of Christ could compel the demons out of those things. It's kind of like in Ghostbusters 2 when that pink slime gets all over inanimate objects and makes them move around when music plays. Stupid carts are possessed. And God FORBID you be looking for something minute; even the clerks have no idea where to help you find it. Actually, you’re lucky if you come across a clerk who’s WILLING to help you find it. Scratch that. You’re lucky if you come across a CLERK. They’re harder to find than Ruben Studdard’s genitals.

But nothing, NOTHING, is worse than trying to check out of Wal-Mart. Waiting in line to pay for your stuff feels remarkably similar to waiting in line for the Superman rollercoaster at Six Flags, except with the coaster, you’ve got something fun waiting for you at the end of the line; at Wally World, you get Ella May Buford, Shantiqua Jenkins, or Ol’ Miss Daisy Merriweather. Any way you flip this picture it’s ugly. My most recent experience had me in the “express lane” for about 25 minutes, while an 80-year old woman scanned products at the approximate speed of soil creep. Like a fool, I assumed that the “express lane” would be much faster than the lanes filled with middle-aged woman, each toting 3 carts full of crap. But thanks to Betty White, I watched two-thirds of the store’s inventory get run through surrounding registers before I even got to the damn conveyor belt. I felt like I wanted to punch the old woman, which I know is an awful thing (and more likely than not, a crime. I'm actually probably going to hell just for considering it), but shopping should not be so frustrating. Is Wal-Mart so hard on help that they are forced to hire from the area’s nursing homes? Do they just tell these poor geriatrics that it’s a field trip for arts and crafts time, then stick them in front of an alien piece of computer equipment that makes about as much sense to them as rap music? Or am I just unaware of the fact that affirmative action extends senior citizens? What ever happened to giving old people the jobs they could handle, like mopping or emptying garbage cans? I don’t mean to degrade these people, but this situation seems to work wonderfully at McDonald’s.

Actually, old men are pretty good as Wal-Mart greeters. For some reason, I see the Wal-Mart producers having a casting call for the next group of greeters. And, I see this happening every couple of months because the average life expectancy of the job is right around 3-4 months. Not because it’s dangerous but because the men who do it are usually considered legally dead before being hired, anyway. These casting calls are probably a lot of fun. I think it would make a great reality television show, maybe hosted by Larry the Cable guy. They could call it “Nice to Greet You.” Someone should be writing this down.

But I digress. Wal-Mart makes me irate. There’s no such thing as an in-and-out trip with that place. It takes a fortnight just to wait in line and pay. The atmosphere is dank, anything you touch is dingy, and you always have this feeling that the Walton Estate is watching you like Big Brother. What a maddening shopping experience.

And you know, Target always has low prices, too. Always.

***

Quotes of the Day

Female Student: “When I was little, my dad would make me watch Chucky movies as punishment because he knew how scared I was.”
Me: “That’s horrible!”
Female Student: “Yeah… and then that night, after I was done watching the movie, he made me sleep with my brother’s My Buddy doll.”

A group of ridiculously-dressed Spanish students stopped in my room towards the end of second block, requesting a picture of their wild garments. Apparently, they had to do a presentation in which they identified each of their articles of clothing in Spanish. Playing along, I got out the camera, held it up, and said, “Okay, now say ‘queso!’” The three Spanish students looked at each other confusedly, when finally one replied, “what’s that?”

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