Weekly Wal-Mart Waltz

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Let’s face it: I’m only calling this a “Weekly Wal-Mart Waltz” because it sounds nice with all of those “W”’s. I mean there’s nothing less waltz-like than turning down a Wal-Mart aisle on a Sunday morning. Waltzes are so soothing and melodic. You know: Bom bom bom bom…. bombom bombom while shopping in Wal-Mart on a Sunday is more like squealing brakes as you skid aimlessly in an ice storm, shattering a store window on the way to crashing into the middle of a Black Friday door buster sale.

Two main problems I have:

1) Wal-mart’s aisles keep getting narrower while we, the clientele, do not.

2) Personal Shoppers. I love you when you’re cashiers, shelf stockers, “associates” but not when you’re schlepping those bright blue plastic, double-wide monstrosities around the already over-crowded store looking like you just robbed an IKEA.

The key to Wal-Mart shopping sanity (if such a thing exists) is to arrive early. Especially if you’re shopping on a weekend. Especially especially if you’re there on a Sunday. The downside about being there after church lets out: You could go to reach for something on a shelf and accidentally suffocate between two humongous hats. The upside: Hopefully people still have that post-church service glow and treat each other with more patience and respect. If not, well, I can usually outrun people in dress shoes.

But switching your schedule isn’t always problem-free either. I find myself running into neighbors I have nothing to say to and it’s hard to hide behind your shopping cart when there are only 20 other customers in the store. It’s not that they’re bad people. It’s just that you’ve heard of “drug-free” neighborhoods and “neighborhood watch” neighborhoods. Well we’re kind of what you’d call a “Hi-Goodbye” neighborhood. We’re not big talkers. We’re big wavers. We all get along fine. Not as friends exactly. More like drive-by acquaintances. I know what vehicles everybody drives and what my neighbors all look like from the waist up. It’s not that I’m trying to avoid seeing them in a store. It’s just that sometimes, embarrassing as it is to say, I don’t recognize them standing up. Then when I finally get past the frantic mental “Who is this person?! Who is this person?! I know I know this!” phase, I get stuck on being mesmerized by how tall they really are…or aren’t. I have flashbacks to my dating days when I would meet a guy somewhere where we were both sitting down (call it “a bar”if you must) and he seemed to be a good size and then he’d stand up and I realized that he had really short legs and that his sitting height was all there was. (Says the mammoth 5’ 2 1/4”. woman.)

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Then one time we turned into the bread aisle and the lone shopper in the entire aisle was my daughter’s Science teacher. The second the woman spotted her, she opened her arms wide: “Nice to see you outside of school! Come give me a hug!” So now, my daughter has dough-a-phobia- an unnatural fear of bread. Every time we need something down that aisle she’ll wait at the end cap, sending in one of her siblings first to make sure the coast is clear like they do with police dogs checking for booby traps. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to convince her that this woman really does have a life beyond teaching her Science and hanging out in the bread aisle.

But ultimately Wal-Mart always wins in the end. It’s weird. Besides apparently deciding for us what items we need to buy and in what sizes, quantities etc, they also have control over our personal Karma. You do everything right. You get to the store pre-10 am, tranquilly free float your way through the store, barely ever seeing the other 20 shoppers strewn around the cavernous floor plan. Then, just as you’re nearly home-free, so full of yourself for dodging the Wal-Mart Sunday shopping mob bullet, you find yourself standing behind the other 20 shoppers in the only open check-out line.

Hey listen: I really appreciate you stopping by. I hope you feel even just a little bit better than you did when you got here. If you’d like more laughs at life’s expense, sign on to my newsletter, check-out my books etc etc… all on my homepage. http://laughingisconceivable.com

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