Wal-Mart is the store of stores; giant, globalized centers feeding the life blood of the United States (and in Mexico as Wal-Mex). Larger than an aircraft hanger, more displeasing to the eye than an Estonian landfill, and packed from floor to rafter with bulk purchases of savings and elderly employment, Wal-Mart is the Alpha and the Omega of modernized, soulless department stores. K-Mart and ShopKo act as if they are fearlessly crusading to bring about consumer savings in defiance of Wal-Mart’s will, but they both know that if they saw the true face of Wal-Mart, perched high among the clouds atop Mount Bentonville, they would both cease to be.
Wal-Mart also, though, has a bit of a reputation as being “low-brow” and kind of “laymeny”. It has more than once been said before, “only ugly people shop at Wal-Mart.” But this concerns me a good bit; as it is, I shop at Wal-Mart. Is this to saw I am lower than a common man; that I have earned little more than the right to wrestle with society’s lowliest in a coldly designed warehouse?
I had thought about this for quite some time, then the idea came to me to walk about my neighborhood Wal-Mart, peering down the aisles, not for great savings or low prices on the latest off-brand mop heads, but instead to study the people within. Also, I did need to pick up some milk and cereal.
I parked my car in the vast, featureless parking lot, filled mostly with late 1980′s models cars that were running on their last legs, or perhaps had been simply abandoned there. My silver Jetta looked precariously clean; I armed the alarm. “No Corvettes,” I noted. This was a dangerous absence that clearly decreased the likelihood of seeing beautiful people inside the Wals of wall-Mart.
I entered through the exit doors, which is common for a man with the renegade spirit of a rebel renegade who rebels. The greeter eyed me as if she knew of my intentions and viewed them as dubious. I grabbed a cart, and went from aisle to aisle, as if to be shopping, but more so I was viewing my comrade consumers. Beautiful people were very few and far between, but alas, they were present. I hardly saw a person that I viewed as a degenerate. I headed for the cereal aisle to pick up my goods.
In the aisle, with cereal towering high above the floor for what seemed like yards, I saw a mother shopping with her two children, also taking upon the task of purchasing cereal. The kids were begging to get Uncle Walton’s Very Own Choco-tastic Ultra-Flavor generic brand cereal, but she refused, and together they reconciled with Marshmallow Mateys. As the mother turned to get the cereal, one of her children grabbed a bag of Uncle Walton’s chocolate disaster and placed it in the cart, hoping she wouldn’t notice. At first she was angry, but then the innocence of her child’s debauchery must have touched her heart, and the three had a very close, sincere moment together. I forget what exactly happened after that; I was getting some Reese’s cereal at the time. But it had then struck me: ordinary people. It’s just ordinary people who shop at the Wal-Mart; it’s not all lowlife scum and mutated degenerates, it’s just mostly ordinary people. I felt relaxed, and at peace with the warehouse at last. I gathered my remaining goods and headed for the checkout.
My peace had been with me only a few minutes when it died as I arrived the checkout. There I gazed upon three… “people” who were also shopping at the Wal-Mart. They were physically repulsive, and had voices akin to dying crows, and said things a destitute Paris Hilton might say. As much as they horrified me, I could not look away. It was not like passing a terrible car accident from which you cannot look away; no, it was much worse than that. It was more like watching Hurricane Katrina news coverage in the summer of 2005. One who watched could scarcely forget they were seeing a tragedy that had killed thousands of people and displaced many thousands more; a storm that had torn apart families and ruined lives, scattering them across the country like a strong breeze that effortlessly tosses about piles of freshly raked leaves. A disaster that destroyed possessions, homes, relationships, and the reputation of FEMA. One could watch, with hourly freshness, a catastrophe filled with helpless victims, something the federal government apparently found to be hilarious. And with all the despair and death and ugliness of the situation, one could not look away, no matter the effort. Yes, bottle up that idea, and compress it down into three people standing together at the Wal-Mart checkout line, and you will know exactly what I am talking about.
These… these creatures were not like you or I, but beasts among men. They appeared like those seen in the movie The Hills Have Eyes. Or more like a cross between those in The Hills Have Eyes and Wrong Turn… and Swamp Thing… and a pile a rocks. And not a good looking pile of rocks either; a pile divided among pumice and volcanic ash. And perhaps a bit of limestone – their skin was a bit discolored. Yes, they were like the mutated, incestuous offspring between a pile of unhealthy looking rocks and a humanoid mass of vegetable matter who fights to protect his swamp home against the evil exploits of Anton Arcane.
I ran out of the store without paying for my goods. I realized, in terror, that my experiment had yielded the results I most feared: I would now have to shop at Target.